Is there a healthier way of grilling than you use right now? Or can you make some changes to your grilling method to make it safer and healthier?
Is there a healthier way of grilling than you use right now? Or can you make some changes to your grilling method to make it safer and healthier?

For years, health experts have regarded grilling as one of the safest ways to prepare food, since the fat drips away during cooking. You also don't get extra calories in the form of excess oils or heavy sauces. 

But is there a healthier way of grilling than you use right now? Or can you make some changes to your grilling method to make it safer and healthier?

Start with a clean grill

Often, the leftover charcoal from last time or char buildup from burning charcoal sticks to the grill. This can transfer to your food if you do not clean the grill properly before preparing food. 

Clean your grill with a wire brush. Then, use a cloth or newspaper to wipe the grill down completely. Doing this will make sure that there are no bristles from the grill-cleaning brush on the grill. 

Before you grill, make sure your grill is clean and does not have any signs of char from the last time you used it.

Watch for open flame

When you expose poultry or protein-rich foods to open flame, heterocyclic amines are produced. If fat drips and burns on the grill, it creates smoke containing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. 

Both of these chemicals are associated with certain types of cancers. You should reduce the open flame and smoke formation to eliminate your risk of developing these cancers. Some ways to do this are: 

  • Cook for a long time at a low temperature. 
  • Use foil with holes to line the grill. 
  • Fill a spray bottle with water. Use it to manage any flare-ups.

Marinate your food

If you marinate your food for some time before grilling it, you can prevent the formation of many cancer-causing chemicals. Some people like to make their own marinade recipes. They not only improve the food's taste but also keep the grilling method safe. 

If you prefer using bottled marinades instead, opt for something that does not have too much salt. Most marinades also contain flavonoids. These compounds lower the formation of cancer-causing agents and reduce the risks posed by char. 

If you want to use the marinade to baste the meat on the grill, set aside a small amount before you marinate the meat. 

Don't use the same liquid in which you marinate the meat. The raw juices from the marinade will mix with your cooked food. That's always a recipe for disaster. 


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Avoid cross-contamination

Cross-contamination takes place when you let cooked and uncooked food mix. The bacteria from uncooked meat or other food items can be passed on to cooked items. Keep your prepared foods away from raw meat. 

Use different cutting boards for both and handle them with separate utensils. Make sure to wash your hands when you are working with these ingredients. You should also wash your utensils and tools to rule out the risk of contamination.

Grill your fruits and veggies

The most common ingredient on the grilling menu is meat. But it doesn't have to be. You can also grill vegetables and fruits. When you grill fresh produce, it gets an interesting flavor and texture. 

For example, you can cut zucchini into thin or thick strips as you prefer. Spray some olive oil on them. Sprinkle black pepper and oregano for taste. Then, grill the strips and enjoy with whatever side you prefer.

Grill to a safe temperature

Using the right grilling temperature is the key to preventing food-borne diseases. Undercooked meat and vegetables can make you sick, especially with food poisoning. You should cook your food at safe grilling temperatures to avoid this. 

  • Poultry: 165 F
  • Beef and Pork: 160 F
  • Steak: 145 F
  • Fish and Seafood: 145 F

Prevent charring

Every healthy grilling method involves getting rid of the char or preventing it in the first place. Char contains certain chemicals called heterocyclic amines or HCAs. These chemicals are mutagenic. It means they cause mutations or changes in your DNA and can lead to certain cancers. 

Many studies have shown that these chemicals increase the risk of stomach, breast, pancreatic, colon, and prostate cancer. In some cases, the risk is as high as 60%. 

Some meats, like hot dogs and sausages, have additional risks since they contain nitrites and nitrates. These chemicals allow the food to have a longer shelf life. But when they are cooked at high temperatures, they turn into nitrosamines. These are carcinogens or cancer-causing agents. 

You should cook your food at a low temperature but for a longer time to prevent the creation of these harmful chemicals.


According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

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Medically Reviewed on 11/17/2021

Data Brief: "Dataset on improved nutritional quality and safety of grilled marinated and unmarinated ruminant meat using novel unfiltered beer-based marinades."

Harvard Health Publishing: "5 tips for healthy grilling."

Mayo Clinic Health System: "Advice for safe and healthy grilling."

National Cancer Institute: "Chemicals in Meat Cooked at High Temperatures and Cancer Risk."