Nutrition Made Easy

Our nutrition experts and registered dietitians translate the latest nutrition research into tips you can use to eat healthier every day.

10 Tips for Healthy Grilling

Everyone's favorite summertime cooking technique has suffered from alarming research about carcinogens. Here's how to grill food that's flavorful and safe.


Grilling has developed a bit of a reputation with all of the new research about carcinogens. This doesn't mean you have to ban grilled food forever. Following our tips, you can minimize your risk and enjoy grilled foods that are flavorful and safe.

Tip 1: Marinate Your Meat

Marinating meat helps to reduce carcinogens. Kansas State University researchers marinated steaks in three different mixtures of oil, vinegar, and herbs and spices. After grilling, carcinogens in the marinated steaks were cut by 57 to 88 percent. Dozens of studies confirm the effect. The reason it works is not so clear: The marinade may create a protective barrier between the meat's proteins and the heat of the grill. Or the antioxidants in the marinade may combat the carcinogens head-on.

Tip 2: Clean Your Grill 

Keep your grill clean by scrubbing with a brush before and after grilling food. Scrubbing keeps the buildup of carcinogens left on the grill grates to a minimum and makes your food taste so much better.

Tip 3: Flip at the Right Time

You want to avoid burning but not rip the meat apart. Give it a gentle tug; it's ready to flip when it comes loose without pulling.

Tip 4: Ban Flare Ups 

When you cook a fatty piece of meat, the fat that drips onto the flames creates smoke which may contain the much talked about carcinogens. If you grill lean meats, poultry, and fish, you'll have less fat which means less smoke, which means less of the bad stuff.

Tip 5: Beware of Burnt

A bit of char is unavoidable (and it tastes good), but incinerated meat will contain more cancer-causing compounds. Don't get the coals superhot and then plop fatty meat directly on the grill. The blackened parts of meat may also contain carcinogens, so remove all charred or burned portions of food before eating.

Tip 6: Reduce Bacteria in Burgers

To kill the common E.coli bacteria, the USDA recommends cooking ground beef to 160 degrees. If you want to go for medium-rare, grind your own beef, then cook immediately. If you use store-bought meat, flip burgers frequently: A study in the Journal of Food Protection advised flipping every 30 seconds for optimal E.coli reduction. Another study found that even when two patties both reached 160 degrees, the one flipped more often had one-fifth the E.coli.

Tip 7: Work the Grill 

Depending on your grill, it may not be the same temperature throughout-some have hot spots while others have cooler areas. Work the whole surface of the grill to keep certain areas from flaming more than others. If you do have a flare up, just move the food to a cooler part of the grill until the fire dies down

Tip 8: Size Matters 

Size matters when it comes to grilling meat. Cube or slice meat into smaller portions to speed up the cook time or choose a quick-cooking option like shrimp or fish.

Tip 9: The Shorter the Cook Time, The Better

The faster foods are cooked, the less likely they'll develop dangerous charring. Don't cook meat past its goal temperature: 165 degrees for ground poultry; 160 degrees for ground red meats or mixtures and fresh pork; or 145 degrees for red meat steaks or chops.

Tip 10: Beyond Meat 

Go beyond meat and try grilling some unexpected foods like peaches, asparagus, or even bread. Throw fruits and veggies on the grill for a tasty, nutrient-rich side or dessert or give pizza a try for a quick dinner.

You can still have a safe and healthy grilling experience by following these simple suggestions and of course, grilling some of our delicious recipes.

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