5 tips for healthy grilling


Former Executive Editor, Harvard Health

Summer is the prime time for grilling. From northern Maine to southern California, the backyard barbeque is a key part of the season. Whether your menu includes simple burgers or something more elaborate, a little preparation can help you serve up a healthy meal.

Start out clean. Don’t let the charred buildup on your grill transfer to your meal. Use a wire brush to give your grill a good cleaning. Then wipe it down with a cloth or wadded-up bunch of paper towels to make sure that no grill-cleaning bristles will get into your food—or your guests.

Smoke and fire. Exposing protein-rich meat, poultry, and fish to high heat and open flames creates heterocyclic amines. When fat drips and burns on the grill, the resulting smoke contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. These two groups of chemicals have been linked to various types of cancer. You can reduce the formation of heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons several ways: Line the grill with foil perforated with holes. Cook for longer at a lower temperature. Have a spray bottle filled with water handy to control fatty flare-ups.

Marinate. Marinating food for a while before cooking limits the formation of potential carcinogens while grilling. Recipes abound for healthy marinades that will add flavor to whatever you are grilling. If you rely on bottled marinades, choose those that are low in salt.

Give veggies and fruit equal billing with meat. Grilling intensifies the flavor of fruits and vegetables, just as it does for meat. Kebabs that alternate meat with pieces of onion, pepper, or other produce, like spicy chicken kebabs with Moorish flavors, are a great way to increase vegetable and fruit intake. Or skip meat altogether, with something like grilled eggplant cutlets with tomato or portabella mushroom “steak” sandwiches.

Practice safe grilling. Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate from vegetables and other foods. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of grilled meat, poultry, and seafood. Place grilled foods on clean plates, not on the ones that held them when they were raw. The USDA offers other tips for keeping food safe.


  1. arif rohman

    A very good and interesting post that i have come across, thanks for sharing the post.
    Really appreciable.

  2. Bryan McDonald

    These are great examples on how to make grilling healthy!
    I love grilling because how healthy it is and this makes it crystal clear on how to make it even healthier!

    thanks for sharing!

    Bryan McDonald

  3. Randy Wolf

    Thanks for the useful tips, I’m a big fan of outdoor and bbq. I didn’t know anything about heterocyclic amines, that’s little scary but it won’t hold me back enjoying my summer bbq, the foil idea is a good one. Thanks again

  4. nutritionsupplements

    Thanks for the article.Simply do 20 minutes exercise, have a piece of fruit and green vegetables at each meal.

  5. Justin Bieber

    I receive your new posts in my email. Whenever there is information that I know I’ll want to refer back to later in my work, I save the email. Right now there are six posts from you in my email folder. A very quick look and I can come up with one concrete example, I used your post about confidence levels and margin of error in surveys just the other day in estimating a sample size that I will need for an upcoming survey. Thanks.

  6. Mr been

    Thanks very much !

  7. blog and seo

    Fuel is also very dangerous charcoal for grilling meat when it is too often used

  8. Paket aqiqah murah bekasi

    good article. i need it

  9. Dr. Alex M

    So this is how smart people get the grill action going? Wonderful article, Patrick. I personally love grilled veggies, find it weird that people look at me funny when I asked to have them dipped and grilled too at hotels (happened to me no less than an hour ago).

    All that aside, perhaps it would have been wise if you added a recommendation for maximum amount of red meat someone should consume in a week.

    Dr. Alex

    • Avatar
      Patrick J. Skerrett

      Dr. Alex —

      I don’t think anyone really knows “the maximum amount of red meat someone should consume in a week.” What I’ve been reading suggests that the type of meat (relatively unprocessed, like steak or pot roast, versus processed, like sausage, bacon, deli meats, etc.) may be more important. See this article from Dariush Mozaffarian and colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23701737.

  10. Dekstar

    Great tip , I’m an apprentice chef and this would help me in my growth , especially for health-concerned customers

  11. Educação Brasil

    Great topic. I follow the blog a long time. Congratulations for the work.

  12. Darrell Smith

    The smoke adds the great taste to the meat, it needs to be there 🙂

  13. Kristy07

    These tips are really tremendous so far. I think these can help us quickly to sale our home. This posting must be helpful for all. Thank you for sharing with us. Nice job…

  14. Nithin Upendran

    great and informative tips

  15. steven

    great tips!Thanks for your sharing!

  16. Reni

    Very useful info. Healthy lifestyle is important.

  17. This is great. Everyone likes to grill, so if you can do it without adding on the pounds, what could be better. And the weather is great too – happy times. Thanks for sharing

  18. pari

    I’m Agree with you…This is great
    When we tried to grill I worried about the carcinogen that we ate. Good thing you have tips.

    Thanks for your information.

  19. Sean Lundberg, Kitchen Chef

    Thank you Patrick for the information. I will make sure to folow this article when ever I grill. You can see me using this article in this video

  20. Konto Demo

    You are what Yoy eat!I totally agree:)


  21. Pirlanta Sarrafi-pirlantasarrafi.blogspot.com

    I’m Agree with you…This is great.Healthy living starts with healthy cooking!

  22. Jennifer Monroe

    Very informative,

    I never knew about marinating until I read this content. It was a great idea.

  23. Karl

    This is great. Everyone likes to grill, so if you can do it without adding on the pounds, what could be better. And the weather is great too – happy times. Thanks for sharing

  24. Dr. Gary Kim

    Great tips, I wasn’t aware that marinating helps to prevent carcinogen growth! Makes sense though when you think about it… 🙂

  25. Cellulite Free in 90 Days

    Very useful tips here! Healthy living starts with healthy cooking!

  26. Easy Desserts

    Thanks for the tips. Very useful

  27. Christine Blythe

    I agree with marinating. I also marinate when I broil meats in the oven and I routinely use oil and vinegar style salad dressings as marinades (e.g. roasted red pepper, sun dried tomato, etc.). They are yummy.

    Christine Blythe

  28. wetandoiled

    I always love to drench my ingredients with lots of oil so that the oil drips down and glistens the skin of the big round juicy breasts that I grill.

  29. Anthony Breezie

    It is hard to pay attention to healthy eating or healthy habits on a holiday.


  30. Shilpa Rana

    Its pretty good thing you have shared. Thanks for it.

  31. Healthopinion

    Nice tips thanks for health information

  32. gold coast removalist

    When we tried to grill I worried about the carcinogen that we ate. Good thing you have tips.

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