Two types of potential carcinogens may be found in grilled meats. One type (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PAHs) is found in the flames and smoke that’s created when fat and juices drip from meat onto a heat source. The PAHs then stick to the surface of the meat. The other type (heterocyclic amines, HCAs) is formed when high temperatures cause a chemical reaction between naturally occurring amino acids and sugars in the meat and the creatine found in muscle tissue.
Ways to reduce or avoid these carcinogens during grilling include putting a layer of aluminum foil under the meat to avoid direct contact of the meat to the grill, pre-cooking meat in the microwave then discarding the juices, marinating meat, reducing cooking time, and removing charred areas, which contains the most HCAs.