Skip to main content
<p>Men across the country will soon roll out the gas and charcoal grills to barbecue just in time for Father&#8217;s Day.</p>

Have a Healthier Father’s Day: Marinate Meat Before Grilling

But what’s the safest way to avoid carcinogens (any substance that causes cancer) when grilling?

Beth Kirsch, a registered dietitian and an oncology clinical specialist at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, says marinating meats offers the best – and tastiest – solution to reducing carcinogens.

According to some studies, marinades cut the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) by 90 percent. HCAs are the carcinogenic chemicals formed from the cooking of muscle meats such as beef, pork and fowl. HCAs form when amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and creatine (a chemical found in muscles) react at high cooking temperatures.

Thus, grilling – as well as frying and broiling – produce the largest amounts of HCAs because of the high temps.

When grilling or cooking at high temperatures, use marinades made from olive oil and citrus juices, Kirsch suggested. She said that spices and rubs are also good for helping to reduce HCAs while grilling.
Kirsch offered these pointers for helping to reduce the production of HCAs:

  • Keep your grill clean. Grease the grill’s grates by dipping a paper towel with olive or canola oil, fold it, and with a pair of tongs, brush it over the hot grates to clean.
  • Grill at lower temperatures for longer amounts of time.
  • Use leaner cuts of meats, which lead to fewer flare-ups.

She also suggested these tips:

  • Grill at the proper temperature.
  • Use a meat thermometer.
  • Throw away left-over marinades.
  • Do not eat charred meat.