Healthy Living

6 Grilling Tips to Lower Your Cancer Risk

Jul. 29, 2013

Juicy burgers, hot dogs with the fixings, and steaks grilled to perfection are staples in any backyard summer barbecue. But when red meats, poultry, seafood, or processed meats are grilled at high temperatures, the muscle tissues in the meat react to form chemicals called HCAs and PHAs. These chemicals can damage the DNA in our genes and may lead to cancer.

There is no need to avoid barbecuing this summer. Instead, consider these helpful tips for healthy grilling:

grilled kabobs

Grill at lower temperatures.

Lower the temperature on your gas grill or spread the charcoals thinner to create greater distance between food and flame to prevent meat from burning or charring. This reduces the formation of carcinogenic (cancer-causing) compounds.

Marinate your meat.

Not only do marinades spice up  dishes with savory flavors, studies have shown that marinades act as a barrier between meat and formation of HCAs.  Even a simple dip in a marinade before grilling will do the trick.

Choose seafood rather than meat.

Seafood requires a shorter cooking time, reducing exposure to flames on the grill. In addition, seafood typically forms less HCAs than meat. If seafood isn’t your fancy, try leaner meats or trimming fat before grilling to reduce dripping and flame flare-ups.

Cut back on grill time.

Kabobs are a fun and easy way to serve food. Cubed meat reduces grill time and veggies rich in antioxidants are always a tasty treat. Try oven roasting or pan searing your meat or poultry before grilling to cut down on grill time. Be sure to transfer meat from the oven or sauté pan directly to the grill to avoid formation of bacteria.

Avoid processed food.

Hot dogs and sausages are yummy and simple, but preservatives in processed meat may increase the potential health risks of charring. If you have a real craving for hot dogs or sausages, pick off the charred spots before enjoying.

Regularly clean the grill.

Clean your grill after each use to avoid transferring leftover chemicals to your next meal. Hate scraping the grill?  Cover it with aluminum foil before cooking. The foil will protect your food from flames and charring, while making clean-up quick and easy. Simply roll up the foil and toss it in the trash to avoid cleaning and scraping altogether.



The Wilmot Cancer Institute offers multidisciplinary cancer care, meaning physicians and staff from a wide range of disciplines--including surgical, medical and radiation oncology--are working together to form the best possible treatment plan for each patient based on the most recent scientific discoveries and treatments. Doctors, nurses, support staff and research scientists are all brought together, under a single roof, with a single mission: raising the bar for cancer care in Rochester and Upstate New York.