Grilling Ideas for Healthy Cooking

grilling ideasIt’s never too early to start thinking about new grilling ideas! Why wait for summer when you could bust out the grill with these healthy cooking tips?

From prepping marinades to cleaning the grill, these suggestions are just what you need to get going!

Is Grilling Safe?

Maybe you’ve heard a neighbor or friend say that grilling is unhealthy or even dangerous to your health? They are most likely referencing HCAs or PAHs.

PAH is short for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon and HCA is short for heterocyclic amine. Both compounds have cancer-causing potential and can occur while grilling.

When fat from the meat on the grill falls onto the heating element, it creates rising smoke or a flash of fire. This can result in PAHs forming on the meat. HCAs result when meats are exposed to high-heat cooking.

However, while both PAHs and HCAs have been identified as compounds that can cause cancer, the majority of studies have been in animal tests using very high doses. Grilling out even a couple times a week is unlikely to be often enough for the health risk to be measurable.

Tips for Healthy Grilling

If you’re concerned about the presence of HCAs and PAHs, not to worry! There are many ways to limit the compounds and still enjoy your grill.

Prep the grill – At the start of your grilling season, be sure to give it a good cleaning. After the meal is done, clean the grill once more.

A wire brush can be found at any outdoor-oriented store and many supermarkets carry them as well. After using the brush to clean any char off the grill, wipe it down with paper towels or a cloth.

In an effort to limit clean-up time and potentially hazardous compounds, some grill experts recommend lining the grill with aluminum foil perforated with holes.

Limit the fat – If you put leaner cuts of meat that have been trimmed of excess fat and skin, you’re reducing the amount of fat that can drip down. Plus, using lower fat options will be better for your diet!

Lower the heat – Lower temperatures are good for keeping HCAs from forming. When cooking above 400°F, HCA formation increases dramatically.

Make sure to follow proper guidelines to ensure the meat is fully cooked, but in general, grilling for longer at a lower temperature will be beneficial. Also, keep a water-filled spray bottle available to handle flame-ups.

Pre-cook in the microwave – The Harvard Health Letter released a report indicating a 90% reduction in the carcinogen levels when meat was placed in the microwave for two minutes and then briefly cooked on the grill.

Grill your veggies! It is easy to cook up some of your favorite veggies on the grill. Asparagus, peppers and onions can be done in a snap (along with many others) and clean up is just as fast!

Marinate in advance – Want to reduce HCAs? Research indicates that marinating your meat before firing up the grill can reduce HCAs by more than 90%!

Here’s an incredibly simple, but satisfying marinade from It uses rosemary which, according to the author and several studies, is the “most powerful herb of all in knocking out the cancer causing chemicals found in meats, rosemary also adds some aromatics and flavor to chicken, fish and veggies.”

2 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 Tsp fresh crushed rosemary

Don’t wait until weather gets warm to start grilling! Use these healthy grilling ideas and get that familiar cookout feeling today!

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