charcoal or gas grilling, which is healthy?

A reader asks, which way of grilling is best for my health, charcoal or gas? I would have to say gas grilling is best, unless you use all natural charcoal…otherwise the chemical in charcoal briquettes is a deal killer.

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Are you grilling it or killing it? Here is the low down, Food may develop carcinogenic compounds when it becomes charred.  The American Institute for Cancer Research says it very plain, ‘Cancer researchers have found that grilling … causes ‘muscle meats’ (red meat, poultry and fish) to produce cancer compounds.’  These compounds, called HCAs, have been shown to cause tumors in animals and increase the possible risk of breast, colon, stomach and prostate cancer in humans’.

Another cancer-causing substance forms when fat from meat, poultry or fish drips onto hot coals or wood and then, via smoke and flare-ups, is deposited onto the food above. These carcinogens are called PAHs or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.  So I would say how you grill is actually more important than what you grill with.

Ways you can reduce your risk:

Marinade meat, this has been shown to significantly reduce the amount of carcinogens – in some cases by over 90%. Easy & yummy…marinade all meats before grilling. There is some evidence to show that the acidic ingredients in marinades, like vinegar and citrus juices, acts a barrier. The recommendation is about 110ml/4fl oz marinade for every 450g/1lb food. You should turn the food in the marinade from time to time so that all surfaces will be in contact with the liquid.

Trim fat off meat and get the barbecue to the right temperature to avoid dripping fat and flare-ups. Take the skin off chicken and avoid high-fat meats like ribs and sausages.

Remove all charred or burned bits before eating.

If you can’t give up your charcoal briquettes, then try  these all natural ones. I bet they would make food taste amazing & let’s be real, nothing taste as good as grilling with briquettes!

[data collected here, here, & here]

4 Responses to charcoal or gas grilling, which is healthy?
  1. Trisha Gablehouse
    March 18, 2010 | 7:49 am

    Are flare ups bad on gas grills as well? Also,this charcoal makes me want to buy it just because it has coconut. I wonder if you smell it. I really like this one.

  2. Ron W
    March 18, 2010 | 2:47 pm

    The coconut charcoal doesn’t really smell like coconut when it burns, but it is a nice charcoal. You can get real lump charcoal almost anywhere these days. I’d advise that you never use the blue and white bag from the grocery store. It contains coal, borax and other things that give off a bad smoke and taint the food. Once you use real wood charcoal you’ll notice a world of difference.

    Try a two zone fire. That way you don’t get the fat dripping on the coals causing the flareups. Depends on what you’re grilling. We have an explanation of this technique on our website http://www.germangrill.com as well as a lot of techniques to cook healthy and nutritious food using charcoal.

    • Jb
      March 18, 2010 | 10:33 pm

      thanks for the info Ron!

  3. Jmae
    March 18, 2010 | 7:07 pm

    Good to know! The season is around the corner!!!! I’m tempted every night-but the wind stops me…

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