YES, burnt food can contain carcinogenic compounds like acrylamide, hydrocarbons and heterocyclic aromatic amines.
You can enjoy a nicely toasted slice of bread risk-free, but be careful not to burn it. Starchy foods that are cooked at a temperature higher than 120°C and with little humidity – like when you fry, bake or roast something – contain acrylamide. This carcinogenic substance is formed from the sugars and certain amino acids, such as asparagine, found in these foods. These chemicals trigger the Maillard reaction, which is what gives food like potato chips, fries, bread, cookies and coffee their golden color and distinctive flavor.
Overcooked meat can contain two types of potentially carcinogenic chemical substances: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAA). PAHs are created, for example, when meat is barbecued and fat drips into the fire or onto the heating element. These volatile toxins are then carried in the smoke and end up back on the meat. AAHs form when compounds in the meat, including creatine and amino acids, react to strong heat.
So whatever you’re eating, be sure it doesn’t burn!