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Healthy Grilling Secrets for Your Next Cookout

Check out our tips for healthy, safe summer grilling.

Medically reviewed in October 2021

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Secrets for a Healthier Cookout

Grilling season is here! But if you worry about the link between grilling and cancer – research shows that cooking meat at high temps produces cancer-causing substances – let us put your mind at ease. Experts say it’s okay to eat grilled meat sometimes, especially with cooking techniques that reduce carcinogens. So go ahead and plan a great barbecue with these tips for healthier, safer grilling.

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Marinate Your Meat

Not only does marinating infuse your food with flavor, it also helps reduce carcinogens, such as heterocyclic amines (HCAs), that can form when you cook meat on the grill. Try marinating your beef, pork or chicken in a mix of lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and rosemary; studies show that compounds in rosemary block the formation of HCAs. Check out more tips for reducing those cancer-causing compounds from Sharecare expert and registered dietitian Samantha Heller in this video.

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Choose Leaner Options

Not only is red meat worse for your health than leaner meats, but cooking it on the grill can make it even less healthy. Here’s why: A lot of red meat is high in fat, and when the fat cooks, it drips onto the coals or other hot surfaces. This creates carcinogenic smoke. As the smoke swirls around your meat, carcinogens are deposited on those burgers or steaks.

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Keep It Clean

Make cleanup a priority before and after you fire up the grill. Scrubbing the grates with a brush helps to improve the taste of your hamburgers and hotdogs, and reduces the buildup of carcinogens, cutting down on the likelihood that they’ll end up in your food.

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Grill Something New

You don’t have to stick with standard BBQ fare, which tends to be full of saturated fat and calories. For your next cookout, mix it up. Try throwing healthier options on the grill, like veggie burgers, low-fat tofu dogs, or vegetables. Broccoli in particular is a great one to add to your menu: Research suggests it can break down harmful, carcinogenic HCAs.

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Take Your Time

When the smell of dinner on the grill wafts across the yard, we can’t wait to get it on our plates! But it’s important not to grab your meat too soon – or too late. Undercooking meat could lead to E. coli and other bacterial contamination, while overcooking and charring the meat leads to the build up of those cancer-causing compounds. Aim to cook poultry to 165º F, burgers to 160º F, and steaks or pork chops to 145º F.

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