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Think ‘low and slow’ when grilling

man grilling while child watches

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The summer grilling season is upon us, a happy time to enjoy good food and fun.

But as you fire up your gas or charcoal grill, take a moment to consider what and how you're cooking. That tempting meat with such a pleasant aroma may be a health concern.

The American Institute for Cancer Research says that when meat, poultry and fish are cooked with high temperatures – especially when well-done or charred – two cancer-causing compounds can form.

These substances, called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), can damage DNA and may increase your risk for colon cancer.

Chrisanne Urban, M.S​., a Marshfield Clinic registered dietitian, offers these tips on how to enjoy safer grilling:

  • "Think low and slow. Slow down the cooking time with a low flame or less charcoal, to limit burning and charring," Urban said. "Cut off any visible fat and any charred portions of the meat."
  • Partially pre-cook. You can do this in the microwave, oven or stove to help reduce time the meat is exposed to high heat.
  • "Sizzle with veggies and fruits," Urban said. "Boost cancer prevention with these foods on the menu and you can grill away without worry because the cancer-causing compounds related to grilled meat don't form on grilled vegetables and fruits."
  • Mix up a marinade. Marinating meat, even for as little as 30 minutes, reduces formation of HCAs. The bonus here is that your family and guests will rave about the tenderness and added flavor from the marinade.

Classic Marina​de Recipe​

This classic marinade is suitable for vegetables, lean meat, poultry and fish. Start to finish: 45 minutes
  • 1/2 cup rice or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, thyme or oregano (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a bowl, combine marinade ingredients until well blended.

Add food to be grilled and turn several times until all sides are coated.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, occasionally turning food so marinade is evenly distributed.

Visit the American Institute for Cancer Research at for more summer wellness recipes.​​​​​​​​