For most of us, warm weather is so inviting to turn up the heat through grilling food. If you’re craving for barbecue, it’s so easy to just fire up the grill and enjoy char-grilled food without feeling guilty.

But the question really is this: is it safe? Unfortunately, the barbecue season comes with increased risk of food-borne diseases and dangerous chemicals, especially when meat is on the menu.

The Dangers of Grilling

While grilling makes food tastier, here are some reasons why it can contribute to your early death:

1. Barbecue smoke is toxic and can damage your lungs.

Smoke that comes from grilling has polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are dangerous chemicals that not only stay in the air but also in your food. If you’re a grill chef or you simply like grilling, don’t stand over the food as you are inhaling the toxins. What’s worse is that these toxins can coat your lungs when they stick to your hair and clothes.

They look delicious, but are they healthy / Image by chowstatic
They look delicious, but are they healthy / Image by chowstatic

2. Char is full of compounds that cause cancer.

Char is the life of grilled meat. It makes them look more appealing and taste better. But char comes with heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that can cause cancer. The more blackened the meat is, the higher the carcinogens in the food and this can lead to pancreatic, prostate, or colorectal cancer.

3. More harmful byproducts exist in grilling.

Grilling requires very high temperatures to cook food and because of this, a chemical chain reaction happens. As a result, inflammatory products, including advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are created. AGEs can harm your cells and can therefore contribute to aging. Habitual grilling may cause these byproducts to accumulate within your organs and damage them.

Tips for a Healthy Barbecue

Grilling doesn’t have to be this scary. It is important that you know how to protect your loved ones from such dangers. Here are some ways to make grilling safer:

  • Coat meats with marinades. Use thyme, pepper, or rosemary. Marinades can lower carcinogens by up to 96%.
  • Cook your meat first. In a skillet or oven, cook meat halfway to remove some of the fat and reduce the amount of time needed to grill.
  • Use aluminum foil to reduce the dripping from smoking. As a result, lower amounts of PAH will go to your food and your lungs. Another way to reduce drippings is to opt for leaner meat cuts. You can also remove excess fat before you grill the meat.

Grilling does not have to be all about meat. You can grill veggies, too and the good news here is that they don’t have carcinogens even when they’re charred.