Is Your Grill Harming Your Health? What happens when you eat grilled food

Grilling and health

You know that eating burnt food can increase your risk for cancer. But did you know that how you grill your food affects your cancer risk too?


It's cold out, but that's not stopping you from grilling up some juicy grub, right? But researchers found that depending on your grilling technique, you could be putting yourself at more risk for cancer. They found that when charcoal and pieces of food that fall into the grill start burning, the smoke produced can cause cancer.

These researchers give some preventative measures you can take to lower your risk of cancer when grilling:

Use high-quality charcoal. High-quality charcoal has less impurities than low quality charcoal. These impurities can be more toxic when burning and add to your carcinogen exposure. Don't buy easier-to-light charcoal that's been treated with flammable chemicals or use lighter fluid to ignite the charcoal – these also add unnecessary carcinogens to the smoke. If you have trouble lighting your charcoal, use an electric charcoal starter, which doesn't increase your exposure to carcinogens significantly.


Use a ventilation fan. If you're grilling on your porch or have a built-in grill in your kitchen, having a ventilation fan is important. Even if you're grilling completely outdoors, a ventilation fan ensures the smoke blows away from you so you inhale less carcinogens.

Wear protective clothing. Wearing gloves and a long-sleeved top helps minimize your skin exposure to carcinogens in the smoke, which can enter through your pores.

You can also buy a higher quality grill smoker combo that helps reduce the amount of smoke you're exposed to. High-quality grilling equipment helps ensure your food cooks evenly, which prevents burnt edges and bits. Eating burned and charred food increases your risk for developing cancer because it has higher levels of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). But, experts say that grilling or cooking food for a long time or above 300 degrees Fahrenheit increases their HCA and PAH content anyway. A higher quality grill has better temperature control, which helps prevent you from overcooking your food or cooking at temperatures higher than you desire – which helps lower your carcinogen exposure.

To help combat your carcinogen exposure from grilling and eating grilled food, you should eat antioxidant-rich vegetables, which help neutralize carcinogens that you're exposed to.

Grilling food and eating grilled food can be enjoyable and lift your spirits – especially during the holiday season. But follow these tips to help lower your risk of cancer from grilling.