It’s always a good idea to be as healthy as possible in our grilling practices. There are lots of ways to do that which we will cover in greater detail in a later post, but here’s a simple tip to start with.

Think beyond just red meat…

Studies have found that eating red meat may increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and early death. Processed meats— like sausage, bacon and hot dogs—seem to be even worse, increasing your risk of colorectal cancer and packing in salt and preservatives. When cooked at high temperatures, nitrite and nitrate preservatives may react with compounds naturally found in meat to trigger the formation of toxins called nitrosamines. Like HCAs, these are considered carcinogens. For these reasons, poultry, fish or plant-based proteins are smarter choices than red meat. But if you must, pick something minimally processed, like steak. Unprocessed red meat has plenty of iron, protein and B vitamins, so for most people, it’s fine to eat occasionally. Just think of a burger as a treat, rather than your go-to grillable.

Make a Better protective marinade

Slicking meat with a marinade made of oil, water, vinegar and antioxidant rich spices—like rosemary, oregano and thyme—for about 30 minutes prior to cooking can at least partially block HCA formation, research has found. (Wrapping meat in aluminum foil before grilling may also cut down on HCAs.) Ground pepper appears to be effective too. One study shows that mixing a gram of it with 100 g of ground beef blocked the formation of HCAs. If that mixture tastes too strong, add in some herbs and garlic.

And of course, as always, just have fun and use common sense when grilling. Learn to enjoy the process, otherwise it is a total waste of time!