'I Love My Baby Back Ribs'

MD Anderson gives tips for healthier BBQ grilling

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) There's a lot of buzz about red and processed meats causing an increased risk for cancer. But what does that mean for your backyard grilling this summer? MD Anderson has some healthy BBQ tips.

A great deal of research suggests that red and processed meats may increase risks of certain cancers, particularly colorectal cancer. Although there is no definitive association, it's always better to be safe than sorry. So, MD Anderson has compiled some tips that will make your grilling healthier.

"Simple grilling adjustments reduce risk of colorectal cancer."

Sally Scroggs, a health education manager at MD Anderson's Cancer Prevention Center, offers the following tips for BBQ grilling:

Avoid processed meats

Processed meats including bacon, ham, pastrami, salami, sausage, hot dogs and pepperoni contain cancer-causing substances that form during preservation. Charcoal grilling also adds more carcinogens, so it's best to avoid or limit processed meats.

Limit red meat

Red meat includes beef (yes, hamburgers too), pork and lamb. Too much red meat has been linked to increased cancer risks; try chicken or fish. If you insist on eating red meat then limit your consumption to three, six ounce portions per week. Six ounces of meat are about the size of two decks of cards.

Avoid charring and burning any meat, chicken or fish

Charring, burning and grilling on high temperatures produces heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which increase risks for stomach and colorectal cancer.

  • Fish is a better choice because it has less fat, cooks faster and spends less time on the grill.
  • Lightly oil the grill to keep charred chemicals from sticking to the food.
  • Brown or cook the meat, poultry or fish first in an oven or microwave then finish on grill. This prevents cancer causing chemicals to cling to your food.
  • Spread coals or put the grill rack on bricks to lower the temperature and position the meat farther away from the heat. You can also use hardwood products, like hickory or maple, because they burn at lower temperatures.
  • Clean the grill after every use to avoid cancer-causing substances from building up.


Marinade meat in vinegar, lemon juice or herbs (mint, rosemary, tarragon, sage) for 30 minutes.

Marinating can prevent HCA formation.

Cut the fat

When fat falls off the meat into the charcoal, cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) form, causing the smoke to be filled with these chemicals that attach to the food.

Cut as much fat as possible off the meat or choose lean cuts of meats.

Add fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables should be a part of all meals including BBQ plates.

Barbecuing is an American tradition and part of summer fun. By incorporating a few of these tips, you’ll make your grilling healthier and more enjoyable.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 13, 2011
Last Updated:
June 13, 2011