Do Charcoal Grills Cause Cancer: Grills and Your Health

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With recent research coming to light, there’s been a question on whether or not charcoal grills cause cancer. Take a look at the recent grill news, and there’s been a positive link towards forming carcinogenic compounds. Is this true?

To get a better picture, we need to take a look at a few factors, as the studies may be blowing things out of proportion. Grilling has been a popular method for cooking food quickly and efficiently, which results in better flavor. This brings us to wonder do charcoal grills cause cancer?

Do Charcoal Grills Cause Cancer?

When you cook meat at a high temperature, it produces cancer-causing chemicals to occur. This is mainly the heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). In animal studies, these types of compounds have been shown to increase the risk of cancer, although they were only administered in larger quantities.

The average person only grills a few times each summer, which in the long run doesn’t tend to affect the risk of cancer. However, those who are grill fanatics and find themselves grilling year round should still take the necessary steps to cut down on their grilled meat consumption. There are a few tips we can give to make grilling safer.

1. Start Cooking With Lean Cuts of Meats

Fatty meats always taste best on the grill, but the fat tends to be one of the factors that helps increase the risk of consuming cancer-causing cells. When the meat is cooking at high temperatures, the fat runs down the grates and hits the charcoal. In turn, the fat then causes PAHs, which float back up and cook back into the meat.

One solution to this problem is to skip the fatty meat, such as beef and pork, and instead opt for grass-fed lean cuts of steak, chicken breast, or fish along with vegetables. These meats don’t have the same effect, and because of their low-fat content, they pose less of a risk.

2. Cook and Grill More Vegetables

Cooking meat at a very high temperature yields higher levels of HCAs, which can be harmful over time. These food items mainly contain protein and fat, which produce more cancerous cells when cooked.

However, fruits and vegetables don’t include these types of components. This allows you to prepare them freely without the worry of health risks from cooking on the barbeque grill.

Do Charcoal Grills Cause Cancer

3. Learn to Wrap Your Food

If you don’t want to stray away from your usual fatty meats, then an alternative that can help is to wrap your food in foil. The fat will drain into the foil, and you won’t have to worry about the PAHs. The foil also works to protect against high heat temperatures and leaves the meat less exposed to other forms of carcinogens.

4. Start Using Marinades

Marinades often come with a high sugar content but are excellent for breaking down some of the muscles and fats in the meat. If you want to reduce the overall HCAs in your meal, an excellent method is to wrap it with foil while also adding some sauces. Allow the marinade to sit overnight in the fridge for a better effect.

5. Learn How to Flip Meats

Another common fix is to flip food before it has a chance to drip into the grill. Flipping and draining the meat of excess fat and oils can help prevent the carcinogen cells from forming. Most grillers tend to leave meats sitting for a while before flipping, which allows the fat to drain into the grill grates.

Not only does flipping the meats help prevent the carcinogens, but it also helps prevent black charred lines and overcooking with high temperatures.

6. Cook at Ideal Temperatures

This may go without saying, but grilling during warmer temperatures is ideal. The reason for this is because, in colder climates, you will need to pump the fire up even more, which results in worse cooking conditions.

You will end up with charred meat on the outside and undercooked meat on the inside. This will only stress you out and cause you to cook the meat more, leading to more fat drippings and a higher PAHs level.

Other Alternatives?

If you don’t want to risk the chance of cancer, then a good alternative is to switch to a gas grill. These grills produce the same results of cooking but have better temperature controls.

It won’t cost you more than charcoal, and you can control how the meat cooking time. The only downside is that you may not get that traditional grilled taste.


So, do charcoal grills cause cancer? To say that there’s a direct link between the two is a far stretch. Charcoal grills do increase the risk of causing cancer, but they do not directly cause cancer. Think it as being the same with diabetes.

You could eat a lot of sugar, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll get diabetes. Either way, we hope this has addressed the issue, and we’ve helped you better understand how you can avoid making mistakes for your next grilling session.

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