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Editor’s note: Originally published in 2016, this article is a timeless classic.

There’s almost nothing better than a summer cookout. The tantalizing aroma of barbecue wafts through the air as you relax with your family and friends with a cold drink in hand.

But all those delicious grilled meats may be harboring chemical compounds that can cause changes in DNA, possibly even increasing your risk of cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.


The two main culprits are heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Both are formed when beef, pork, fish, or poultry is cooked at the high temperatures that come with cooking over an open flame.

To lower your risk, trim the fat off your meat, cut it into smaller pieces, and opt for a marinade before you hit the grill. Or you could skip the meat altogether and feast on fruits and vegetables, which don’t produce HCAs.


Watch the video above for more tips to help keep HCAs and PAHs from being a summer barbecue buzzkill.

Enjoy and happy grilling.

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