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Don't Get Burned by Grilling Myths

Are you ready to get cooking? Grilling is a staple of summertime entertainment, and some people even grill 12 months a year. As long as grilling has been around, myths have circulated about this popular means to preparing a meal. Let’s set the record straight.

Myth: You have to clean the grill right after cooking.

Fact: It really doesn’t matter when you clean the grill, just that it gets cleaned. Many people rely on grilled food as a quick method of cooking. If company is over, it’s perfectly alright to leave the grill uncleaned. Just do it the next time you light the fire. Simply turn on the heat, let it warm up for about 10 minutes to allow the flames to burn off any food particles and loosen up the rest. Then go over the grates with a wire brush. Remaining oils from foods help season the metal grating and flavor the next round of food.

Myth: Eating grilled food causes cancer.

Fact: This myth is based on a study in which rats were fed heavily charred food that was cooked on a grill. Charred food can contain benzopyrenes, which are carcinogenic. However, the rats were only served the charred food and in high amounts—something that would be unlikely for people to consume. Eating grilled food as part of a balanced diet is unlikely to cause cancer. If you are concerned about benzopyrenes, grill lean meats that are less likely to cause flare-ups and charring on the foods. Some marinades can also reduce the amount of charring that occurs.

Myth: Grilling and barbecuing are the same thing.

Fact: Actually, they’re not. Grilling cooks food over high heat for a short duration of time. Barbecuing uses low, indirect heat to cook foods, generally all day or even overnight. Grilling is used for foods that would dry out if cooked for a long time. Less expensive, tougher cuts of meat can be barbecued, such as brisket.

Myth: Grills require special cleaning to prevent bacteria.

Fact: Concern about food-borne illnesses is very real. Bacteria can lead to stomach discomfort and other symptoms. However, it is not necessary to sterilize your grill. The high heat used to cook the food essentially does that work for you. Allowing your grill to preheat and cleaning it regularly will be all the precaution you need to prevent bacteria.

Myth: You need to coat foods in oil to prevent sticking.

Fact: Generally cleaning your grill and allowing the grating to season will be enough to prevent sticking of foods. Also, allow meats to cook thoroughly on one side before attempting to flip to avoid sticking. If sticking is still a problem, a light coating of cooking oil or nonstick spray applied to the grill grates can help.