Enjoy your grill but protect your health

Healthy Grilling Tips

by Leanne Ely


It's barbeque season! And while we all love the thrill of the grill, it's a known fact that cooking meat over charcoal can be harmful for our health because of the carcinogens that come from cooking over chemically charged lava rocks and from eating charred meat.

Rather than giving up the grill on those hot summer nights, here are a few ways to make your next barbeque a little healthier.

Do not burn your meat. Try to get used to eating meat that's more on the medium side of well done! Cook your food just until it reaches the goal temperature:

  • 160 degrees for pork or ground beef
  • 165 degrees for poultry
  • 145 degrees for chops or steaks

Why is it bad to cook meat longer than it needs to be cooked? Burnt meat can contain carcinogens. Remove burnt parts of meat before eating it. A little char is unavoidable and it also tastes pretty good, but don't eat incinerated meat.

Marinate, marinate, marinate. Marinating meat helps to reduce carcinogens. Try using a mixture of vinegar, oil, herbs and spices. The reason that the marinade helps to cut down carcinogens in grilled meat (research has shown carcinogens reduced by up to 88% when marinade is used) is unclear, but it could be a combination of the antioxidants in the marinade mixture or the barrier the marinade makes between the grill and the meat. Either way, marinate your meat for your best chance against those carcinogens.

Clean the grill. Scrub that grill until it's good and clean before using it. It's easiest to do this when the grill is hot. The carcinogenic black coating will slough right off with your grill brush. It will be healthier for you, and it will also make your food taste much better.

Watch out for cross contamination. Don't baste meat with marinating liquid while it's on the grill without first boiling the liquid to kill any harmful bacteria. Also be mindful of using tongs for handling raw chicken. Don't use them to flip over burgers. That's asking for trouble. Another important step to prevent cross contamination is to use a clean plate for carrying cooked meats to the table.

Cook lean cuts. Reduce flare ups, which create carcinogenic smoke. That means you shouldn't grill fatty pieces of meat like ribs or sausages (oh the humanity!) without boiling them first. The fat dripping on the coals is what causes those flare ups. Grill skinless chicken breasts, lean beef, veggies, and other lean items. Always keep a squirt bottle of water beside the barbeque, so you can douse any flare ups that come along.

I can almost smell the barbeque now!

Do you have any other tips for healthier grilling? Let us know on our Facebook page!


Leanne Ely is a New York Times best selling author of Body Clutter and the popular Saving Dinner cookbook series. According to Woman's Day Magazine, she is the expert on family cooking.

Leanne's syndicated newspaper column, The Dinner Diva can be found in 250 newspapers nationwide and in Canada. Her vast broadcast experience includes media satellite tours, QVC several times as well as guesting on several national television shows, including HGTV's Simple Solutions, ABC Family's Living the Life, Ivanhoe's Smart Woman, Small Talk for Parents and Talk of the Town. She has guest chef-ed on the cooking show, Carolina Cooks and has taught cooking classes all over the country for Bloomingdale's.

In addition, she is a seasoned radio personality. Leanne's own radio show, Heart of A Woman aired during drive time in two major California markets, Los Angeles and San Diego. Her current show, The Dinner Diva is one of the top Blog Talk Radio shows on the Internet.

On the Internet, she pens the Food for Thought column for the immensely popular, FlyLady.net, with over half a million readers weekly. She has been featured in Woman's Day magazine, the Chicago Tribune, St. Petersburg Times, Orange County Register - to name a few. Additionally, she is a sought after speaker and has spoken all over the country, with keynote addresses to corporate and non-profit entities. SavingDinner.com. Visit Leanne Ely on Google+.

Take the Next Step:

  • For a few great grilled chicken marinades, please visit here.

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