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Grilling Tips - Enjoy BBQ Grilled Meat while Minimizing Cancer Risk

Updated on September 17, 2012
Lily Rose profile image

Health is a top priority for me and my family, especially after my breast cancer diagnosis in 2008. I hope to help others seeking the same.

Summer’s just around the corner and people are starting to roll out their grills from storage, unless you live a place like South Florida, where summer has already started and the grills are never stored away.  While grilling is fun, easy and convenient for many, it also has its drawbacks.  Is grilling meats one of the causes of cancer?   Research suggests that grilling meat at high temperatures creates heterocyclic amines, or HAs, which has been shown to increase the risk of several cancers, especially stomach cancer.  HAs form when creatine and amino acids react together under high temperatures.

Of course, the same holds true when broiling or pan frying because the magic number seems to be about 350° Fahrenheit.  This way of cooking makes it easier to control the temperature, though, whereas grilling makes it too easy to reach that HA-creating danger point since it’s not so easy to control the temperature, or even know what temperature it’s at.  Grilling doesn’t have to be dangerous, though, if you follow a few easy grilling tips:

Easy Ways to Prevent Cancer

We’ve all heard about the many benefits of antioxidants, right? You may not know what those benefits are, but you probably at least know that antioxidants are good for you. Well, antioxidants can help to neutralize the compounds that turn into HAs before they get the chance to turn into HAs.

Rosemary is not only a delicious addition to your meats, but it can help reduce potential carcinogens when grilling.
Rosemary is not only a delicious addition to your meats, but it can help reduce potential carcinogens when grilling.
  • Rosemary extract has been shown to minimize the production of dangerous high-heat compounds when added to beef patties before grilling. So, not only can you have a tastier burger, but you can minimize those dangerous HAs at the same time by adding rosemary to your burgers. You can also reap this benefit by adding thyme, sage, garlic, apples, pineapple, and even cherries to your meats prior to grilling them.
  • Mixing one teaspoon of wheat bran per pound of ground beef helps keep burgers juicy AND can stop HAs in their tracks.
  • In addition to, or instead of, adding one (or more) of the above ingredients to your meat, you can reap the benefits of minimizing the dangerous HAs by turning down the temperature of your grill – cooking at lower temps and frequently turning your meats (flip every 3 minutes) can do the trick. Flipping the meat frequently keeps the surface temperature down, thereby helping to curtail HAs.
  • Minimizing the amount of meat you’re grilling can also help lessen the dangers – try swapping out some meat for mushrooms – you’ll not only have a healthier burger, but you’ll shave off at least a couple hundred calories, too!

Safe Grilling Tips Video:

More Healthy Grilling Tips:

  • Marinating your meats keeps them moist to protect them from high temperatures. Using olive oil-based marinades is best, but it doesn’t have to be. You can use an Italian dressing that has a lot of garlic, too, or make your own. Be sure to avoid marinades with syrups or added sugar (see video above.)
  • Adding vegetables, especially cruciferous ones like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage, will help lessen the risk because they increase the metabolism of HAs, minimizing their dangers. Yet another reason to heap your plate with good-for-you veggies!
  • Grill kabobs instead of big, fat steaks – small pieces of meat cook faster and produce fewer HAs. Make sure you add plenty of veggies to the skewers!
  • Grill fruits and vegetables instead of meat – fruits and veggies don’t produce carcinogens! 


Grilled vegetables are delicious and contain no cancer-causing ingredients.
Grilled vegetables are delicious and contain no cancer-causing ingredients.

The juices from meats are what contain the amino acids and creatine and when they drip down in the grill, they create smoke that surrounds the cooking meat in the HAs. Two ways to decrease the cancer causing fat drippings are:

  1. Microwaving your meat or poultry for 1 ½ to 2 minutes and then throwing out the juices prior to grilling can go a long way to minimizing the carcinogens. Studies have shown that this can help eliminate 90% of the HAs. You can also pre-cook meats on the stove or in the oven.
  2. Line the grill in punctured foil, so the drippings can still pass through, but the meat remains protected from the smoke of flare-ups. The added benefit of this is easy grill clean-up! 

See that smoke?  That smoke surrounding your burger is what contains dangerous, cancer-causing HAs.
See that smoke? That smoke surrounding your burger is what contains dangerous, cancer-causing HAs.

Food "Doneness" Temperature Guide:

Food Item 
Safe Internal Temperature (F)
steaks and roasts
ground beef
chicken breasts
shrimp, lobster, crabs
cook until pearly & opaque


The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry is a great resource for many research studies involving foods and chemical processes involved in nutrition, including some of the studies mentioned above.

Now you can go about enjoying summer outdoors with friends and family and great, grilled, healthy meals!




Disclaimer: The information contained in this hub is of a general nature to provide you with helpful tips. Consult your doctor for specific medical questions and/or conditions.


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    • saif113sb profile image

      saif113sb 6 years ago

      Great information hub. Thanks

    • Lily Rose profile image

      Lily Rose 7 years ago from East Coast

      BPop - welcome back! How was the carribean? I've missed my daily politics lessons!

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 7 years ago

      Thanks for the advice. I worry about the effects of grilling on the health of my family.

    • Corin profile image

      Corin 7 years ago

      A great and very informative hub. Thanks for sharing these healthy tips.

    • Lily Rose profile image

      Lily Rose 7 years ago from East Coast

      Hello, hello - well then you need to check out my George Foreman Indoor Grill hub! LOL!

      Thank you for visiting, oceansnsunsets!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Very nice Hub Lily Rose. I like to learn all I can too about Cancer and the prevention of it. Thanks for sharing

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for a great hub and I would love to do a BBQ but the English weather doesn't like it.