It's officially July! July is a great month for swimming in the pool, hanging out with friends, tanning in the sun, and eating delicious bar-be-que! If you're bbqing with family for the long weekend or just love a freshly grilled burger, here's some information for you on the chemistry of barbeque!
What makes the meat taste so good? There's a reaction call the "Maillard reaction" that is responsible for this. Sugars and amino acids, the little things that make up proteins, in the meat react under the intense conditions of the grill. Temperature, acidity, and type of meat all effect the products of this reaction.
Why does it also taste and smell smoky? This is pretty straightforward – it is from whatever you are burning, so quite possibly charcoal. Different benzene compounds are produced by the burning of charcoal and give this smoky taste (benzene ring – 6 carbons, C, connected in a ring with other stuff attached).
What are carcinogens? When the meat is cooking, some of the fat melts and drops onto the hot charcoal. What is formed by this can turn into a carcinogen, or a a substance capable of causing cancer. This is why you most likely shouldn't eat your meat too burnt or blackened/charred.
Enjoy your barbeque knowing why it tastes so amazing, and even what pieces to avoid a little bit!