Tips for Grilling Food Safely

September 3, 2015 Brigham and Women's Hospital

Vegetables don’t produce cancer-causing chemicals when cooked at high heats.

Though Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer, many of us will continue to enjoy grilled food throughout September and early October. Follow these tips to enjoy grilled foods safely on the Labor Day weekend and beyond.

Handle Food Properly

  • Store raw meat, fish, and poultry away from other foods. All foods should be wrapped tightly to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Keep meat refrigerated until about 30 minutes before cooking.
  • Germs such as E-coli and salmonella can be present in undercooked food and cause severe illnesses. Don’t rely on external appearance: use a grill thermometer or cut into the meat to gauge if food has been cooked to the desired doneness.
  • To kill bacteria reliably, hamburgers have to be cooked until “well done” (160 degrees Fahrenheit), ground poultry to 165 degrees, and poultry parts to 180 degrees.
  • Do not return cooked poultry to a plate that held raw poultry. Bring along extra disposable dishes and containers to keep raw meats separate from cooked foods.
  • Do not use an implement (e.g., a knife) for cooked meat or any other food after using it on raw meat.

Keep Your Grill Clean

The blackened areas on charred and grilled foods like meat, poultry, and fish contain carcinogenic chemicals. Carcinogens damage DNA, consequently catalyzing mutations that can lead to cancer. If these chemicals appear frequently in your diet, your risk of getting cancer can increase. To reduce carcinogenic intake:

  • Cook with less intense heat and lower temperatures.
  • Keep your grill clean.
  • Use lean meats.
  • Flip often when grilling meat, poultry, or fish.
  • Choose acid-based marinades like lemon or vinaigrettes over thicker, sugary marinades.
  • Substitute grilled meats with colorful vegetables and other plant-based foods like tofu or tempeh, as they don’t produce cancer-causing chemicals when cooked at high heats.

Tips for grilling cleanly originally appeared on Insight, the blog of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Try adding this Grilled Summer Squash with Lime and Cilantro Dressing to your Labor Day barbecue.

Learn more:

- Jamie R. 
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