Integrative Nutrition Blog

Five Tips for Grilling Safely

July 2, 2018

Image via Shutterstock.

Summer grilling is a perfect answer to entertaining during the hot months when you want to keep it simple and feed a group of people. For many, grilling is a Fourth of July tradition.

Here are a few tips to make sure your summer cookouts are healthy and safe!

1. Keep direct exposure to a minimum.
When meat is exposed to high temperatures (especially over an open flame), it creates compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PCAs). These chemicals have been shown to alter DNA and may increase the risk of cancer.

To reduce heat exposure, cut meat into smaller pieces that can be cooked quickly and flip meat frequently to avoid charring. Keep in mind, however, that undercooked meat can lead to foodborne illnesses, so be sure to cook thoroughly.

2. Use a marinade.
Marinades can drastically reduce HCA formation – especially those made with a variety of antioxidant-rich ingredients. For example, rosemary, turmeric, clove, pomegranate, and cinnamon may all be effective in reducing HCA formation, so consider these for your next marinade.

3. Include vegetables.
Traditional cookouts tend to include similar dishes – hot dogs, hamburgers, and potato chips. But to help reduce inflammation and make sure you’re getting some fiber, be sure to add vegetables to the mix. Grilled veggies are easy to prepare and don’t produce HCAs or PCAs. Try grilled portabella, asparagus, corn, eggplant, cauliflower, or peppers.

4. Don’t cross-contaminate.
If you’re handling and grilling raw meat, be sure to disinfect any surfaces that may have been exposed. Once meat is cooked, it should be served on a new plate with clean utensils.  Marinades that were in contact with raw meat should be thrown out, and anyone who touched the raw meat should wash their hands with warm water and soap.

5. Refrigerate leftovers immediately.
Food left out in warm weather is at risk for developing illness-causing bacteria. Two hours is usually considered okay, but if the temperature is 90 degrees or higher, food shouldn’t be left outside for longer than an hour. Dishes containing dairy, eggs, and/or meat are particularly at risk for developing bacteria quickly. If something has been left out too long, it may no longer be safe to eat. Rather than having to waste food, set an alarm for yourself so you remember to put the food away.

Have a favorite grilled food? Share your favorite grilling recipes and tips with us!

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