The hot weather has arrived and BBQ’s are grilling great smelling foods all over, from beaches to ballparks to backyards. I have to admit, I am one of those people that love to grill. As soon as the weather gets warm, the grill gets fired up and our outdoor cooking season begins. Cooking on the grill is a “win-win” situation for me. My kitchen stays clean and my family helps cook.

As I sit and enjoy my scrumptious food under the blazing sun, I can’t help but think of the dangers of eating food from the BBQ and whether or not the grills are being cleaned enough.

“Is there a connection between foods cooked on the grill and cancer?” Yes. When foods are cooked at a high temperature, or foods come in contact with the flames of the grill, certain carcinogenic compounds can form. The compounds, called Heterocyclic Amines and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, are formed when food falls into the flame and causes smoke, or when fats are heated to high temperatures. That is why it is important to choose lean meat, fish, and poultry and low fat vegetables when grilling. Remember to trim off the excess fat before cooking.

When it comes to marinating foods before grilling, there are certain ingredients used for marinating that may affect carcinogens.

Studies have shown in the past that using lemon juice and olive oil to marinate foods lessens the formation of cancer causing compounds by 99 percent while cooking. Lemon juice and olive oil based marinates keep foods flavorful, tenderized, and moist. Herbs like sage, thyme, oregano, mint rosemary and thyme work wonders in reducing Heterocyclic Amines.

As far as cooking vegetables on the BBQ, avoid overcooking them. Overcooking breaks down the vitamins in the veggies. Refrain from eating the burned veggies.

Another major factor in reducing carcinogens on the “barbi” is by making sure your grill is cleaned before and after cooking. Not only does food taste better when it is cooked on a clean grill, but the burnt food parts that sometimes stick to the grill plates can cause free radical formation, which has been shown to cause tissue damage and premature aging.

Using a mixture of baking soda and warm, soapy water can clean the grill plates.

Grill cleanings only need to be done once or twice a month, unless you use your grill daily.