Reducing cancer risk in your backyard: 4 Tips for Safer Grilling

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, when red meat, poultry and fish is cooked at high temperatures, especially when “well-done” or “charred”, cancer causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) form.  With the 4 tips below, you can help to reduce your exposure to HCAs and PAHs and enjoy the grilling season without worry.

  1. Marinate:  Marinating has been shown to reduce the formation of HCAs.  So, make a quick marinade with flavorful herbs, vinegar or lemon juice and let your meat marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before putting it on the grill. 
  2. Pre-cook: This can reduce the amount of time the meat is exposed to high heat on the grill.  Partially cook the meat in the microwave, oven or stove top and then immediately place it on a preheated grill to finish cooking.  Use a food thermometer to ensure the meat is fully cooked before serving.
  3. Go Low:  Use a low flame to keep charring to a minimum and choose lower fat meats (trim off any visible fat before cooking).  If you happen to have charred portions of meat, cut them off before serving.  In addition, try to cook food in the center of the grill and move coals to the side.
  4. Don’t forget the fruit & veggies:  Grilling fruit and veggies can help you to cut back on the amount of meat that you eat at your cookout, which can help to reduce your intake of harmful saturated fat.  In addition, eating more fruits and vegetables can also help to boost your anti-cancer nutrient intake and will make your barbeque menu more unique and memorable!  Fruits to grill include apples, peaches, pears, pineapple and even bananas (split them in half).  Brush the fruit or the grill rack with some olive oil to prevent sticking and sprinkle grilled fruit with some cinnamon just before serving.  Good grilling vegetables include asparagus, onions, peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and eggplant.  Make kabobs with chunks of vegetables, cook veggies in a grill basket with some olive oil & fresh herbs or grill large pieces of vegetables right on the grill rack (coat with some olive oil first).