Some people really like a little charring on their foods. Consider that some foods, such as corn or any type of barbequed meat, are even intentionally burnt a little to boost taste. In fact, the food chain Famous Dave's has made a popular signature dish out of slightly burnt meats, aptly called "Burnt Ends." While the smoky flavors and photogenic grill marks are well and tasty, do they actually pose a cancer hazard?
When foods are cooked at high temperatures, chemical reactions alter the molecules in the foods. In particular, the National Cancer Institute lists two classes of chemicals formed when meat is cooked at high temperatures: Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These two chemicals are linked to DNA alterations and cancer in animal models.
Additionally, one other potentially hazardous chemical produced when food is charred is acrylamide. This multipurpose polymer, also present in tobacco smoke, is now being studied as a possible carcinogen.
So, while it may be tasty, perhaps we should limit the amount of "burnt ends" that we consume.