10 Science-Based Tips for Grilling Healthier

Required Explanation

Grilling is a time-honored American pastime. Grilling is a popular method to socialize and enjoy delicious cuisine with loved ones. There are some interesting details concerning the operation of our nation's favorite cooking item that are worth knowing whether you're a novice griller or have been using one for years:

  • 63% of grill owners use their grill or smoker at least once a month during the winter. 
  • 75% of people have one in their home.

The idea that grilled meat is harmless is widespread. The reality is that grilling your food increases your risk of getting Salmonella or Listeria because of the high temperatures used. Cooking meat to an internal temperature of 145-160 degrees Fahrenheit kills pathogens that cause foodborne diseases including Salmonella and Listeria. Overcooking causes steaks and hamburgers to become tougher by a few degrees, therefore it's crucial to stop cooking at exactly the right period.

Meat temperature during cooking may be affected by a number of variables. It's crucial to remember, for instance, that when grilling a fatty cut of meat, the interior temperature will be different than when grilling a lean cut. Using a probe to check the temperature is the most accurate approach to ensure your food is cooked to perfection every time.

Okay, it's true that cooking may make food safer. There is, however, a fine line between being safe and being dangerous, as is the case with most things. When meats, particularly those from big animals, are cooked at high temperatures, harmful carcinogens called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) may develop. High-temperature, prolonged cooking of beef is carcinogenic to humans. The long-term consumption of high levels of HCAs and PAHs has been linked by certain studies to an increased risk of cancer.

HCAs are created during the grilling, broiling, or frying of meat or fish. They are also created when meat is left out for too long or when it is kept at high temperatures for too long. It's not only meat that contains HCAs. Vegetables, fruits, spices, and other natural flavorings are other sources. When meat fats and juices fall onto a hot surface, sparking a fire and producing smoke, PAHs are produced. Smoke includes PAHs, which coat the meat's outside.

The smoke and flames created when juices drip down onto the coals exposes your food to known cancer-causing substances


It's important to note that some studies have shown results that lend credence to the hypothesis that the potentially carcinogenic chemicals in grilled meat could not be associated to cancer risk. Population studies have not proven a definite association between HCA and PAH exposure from cooked meats and cancer in people, despite the fact that high levels of PAHs in red meat have been linked to genes associated with pancreatic, breast, and colorectal cancers.

On the other hand, if you are concerned about the wellbeing of your loved ones, it is prudent to err on the side of caution. Follow these scientifically-backed guidelines to cut down on the HCAs and PAHs in your food:

  1. Keep meat away from open flames and hot metal surfaces (6, 7).
  2. Avoid prolonged cooking times at high temperatures (6).
  3. The use of a microwave oven to cook meat prior to exposure to high temperatures is also substantially reducing the formation of HCAs (heterocyclic amines) by reducing the length of time that meat must be in contact with high heat (7).
  4. Turning meat over on a high heat source will significantly reduce HCA formation compared to leaving the meat on the heat source without flipping it often (7).
  5. Remove charred portions of meat (6).
  6. Refrain from using gravy made from meat drippings (6).
  7. Choose leaner meat (1, 3).
  8. Use fruit juice, spices, herbs and tea to marinate (8. 9).
  9. Prefer apple, alder or maple woods in your charcoal or pellet grills (9).
  10. Wrap the meat in aluminum foil or banana leaves (9).


  1. Amanda J. Cross, Rashmi Sinha. 2004. Meat-Related Mutagens/Carcinogens in the Etiology of Colorectal Cancer
  2. Hafiz Rehan Nadeem, Saeed Akhtar, Tariq Ismail, Piero Sestili, Jose Manuel Lorenzo, Muhammad Modassar Ali Nawaz Ranjha, Leonie Jooste, Christophe Hano, Rana Muhammad Aadil. 2021. Heterocyclic Aromatic Amines in Meat: Formation, Isolation, Risk Assessment, and Inhibitory Effect of Plant Extracts.
  3. Joon-Goo Lee, Su-Yeon Kim, Jung-Sik Moon, Sheen-Hee Kim, Dong-Hyun Kang, Hae-Jung Yoon. 2016. Effects of grilling procedures on levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in grilled meats.
  4. S.Y.Chung, Ramesh R.Yettella, J.S.Kim, K.Kwon, M.C.Kim, David B.Min. 2011. Effects of grilling and roasting on the levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in beef and pork.
  5. W.Lijinsky, A.E.Ross. 1967. Production of carcinogenic polynuclear hydrocarbons in the cooking of food.
  6. R. Sinha, N. Rothman, C. P. Salmon, M. G. Knize, E. D. Brown, C. A. Swanson, D. Rhodes, S.Rossi, J. S. Felton, O.A.Levander. 1998. Heterocyclic amine content in beef cooked by different methods to varying degrees of doneness and gravy made from meat drippings.
  7. Mark G. Knize, James S. Felton. 2005. Formation and Human Risk of Carcinogenic Heterocyclic Amines Formed from Natural Precursors in Meat.
  8. J. S. Smith, F. Ameri, P. Gadgil. 2008. Effect of Marinades on the Formation of Heterocyclic Amines in Grilled Beef Steaks.
  9. Ogouyôm Herbert Iko Afé, Caroline Douny, Yénoukounmè Euloge Kpoclou, Ahmed Igout, Jacques Mahillon, Victor Anihouvi, Djidjoho Joseph Hounhouigan, Marie-Louise Scippo. 2020. Insight about methods used for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons reduction in smoked or grilled fishery and meat products for future re-engineering: A systematic review.

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