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Charcoal vs. Gas Grill – Which One Is Safer?

People love to argue and state their opinion, trying to convince their interlocutor that they are wrong.  From politics, sports, to fashion, and education, everybody has their own opinion and thinks he/she is right. But, if there is one thing that people love to be right about, it’s cooking. Passionate home chefs and flavor enthusiasts can talk about recipes, tips and tricks, and of course no-nos for ages. However, one of the topics they just can’t seem to get over is charcoal vs. gas grill. They argue about size, shape, type, and the design of a grill, praising the type they love. But, they don’t talk about one topic – safety of the grill. The aim of this article is to help charcoal and gas grill lovers call a truce and accept the truth once and for all.

Stick with us.

Which is healthier, gas or charcoal grill?

You will never see a flavor enthusiast using a gas grill. You can recognize this type of person just by listening to what they say. Does this sound familiar to you: ‘Charcoal grill is the king of all grills – it doesn’t get better than this.’, ‘A gas grill is not the REAL grill.’ Oh man, is there anything better than smoke-flavored steak?’ You can also see this type of a person standing with pride next to their outdoor grill every weekend, grilling meat with so much patience and love.

And a neighbor next door who prefer using a gas or even tabletop grill will be like ‘OMG, I can’t believe that a charcoal grill produces so much smoke.’ Our backyard is full of smoke because of that fool! ‘Besides, why is he wasting time on a charcoal grill when a gas grill is so much better; all you need to do is turn a knob.’

The point here is not who is right or wrong, because some people simply love using a charcoal grill and some do not. However, there is a much more important point we want to talk about and that is charcoal vs. gas grill: safety. You have probably read somewhere that a gas grill is safer than a charcoal grill. Perhaps you did not want to read a full article about that because you were afraid of what you might find there. Well, here’s the answer.

Take a deep breath first, though.

Yes, this is true. A number of studies have been conducted in order to help us find out the truth. And they have shown that grilling meat on a charcoal grill may increase the risk of cancer. So, yup, you may want to start using a gas grill most of the time and opt for a charcoal grill on special occasions.

But why a charcoal grill is not a good option?

When grilling meat over an open flame (hence high temperatures), fat from meat drips into the fire. Once in contact with the fire, fat turns into HCAs (heterocyclic amines) and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). These two attach to the smoke and coat the meat. Studies have shown that these two elements increase the risk of cancer. And so does NPAHs. Nitrogen-PAHs (NPAHs) is what the charcoal alone produces, which mean this is one more carcinogen you’re gambling with every time you use a charcoal grill.

If you’re a flavor enthusiast, then you’re probably wondering ‘Can I use charcoal in a gas grill?’ This way, you can get that well-known flavor, yet reduce the risk of cancer. The answer is – it depends on the type of a gas grill you have. Some are designed to be versatile so they can be used with charcoal. The problem is, these are either very expensive, or they do not work properly.

On the other hand, gas grills that aren’t designed to handle the high heat created by charcoal should be used only with propane. If you were to add charcoal to this type of a grill, it’s likely that you will make a mess and the components in the grill may get irreversibly damaged. However, as mentioned above charcoal itself produces carcinogen.

You should know though, that propane gas still produces some PAHs and HCAs. But, here’s the good news – you can significantly reduce the exposure to these two if you follow these three steps.

1.Trim fat

Less fat means less smoke and less PAHs.

2.Marinate.

Not only does marinate enhance the taste, but it also reduces HCAs by 90 percent (studies have shown this). So, make sure to soak meat in lemon or vinegar and add other herbs the night before BBQ.

3. Flip the meat.

The last step to reduce carcinogens when grilling meat is to flip frequently.

And there you have it. If the question is which one is healthier – charcoal or gas grill, it’s the gas grill. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should never again use a charcoal grill. However, you would definitely want to be cautious about it. Also, follow the tips to reduce the health risks related to grilling. And, if you opt for a gas grill, be sure to check reviews and to invest in a good grill. It will pay in the long run.

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