As pellet grills are beginning to gain mainstream popularity, studies that link using pellet grills with developing cancer are also getting attention and raising the alarm.
However, what exactly is it that these studies are saying? Do pellet grills really cause cancer?
No. Pellet grills do not directly cause cancer. Since pellet grills are easy to use, novice grillers attempting to use a pellet grill are more likely to grill or smoke meat unsafely. This is what is linked to developing cancers, not the grill.
Keep reading to learn more about which grilling and smoking practices are linked to cancer, as well as how to use a pellet grill more safely.
How Might Grilling or Smoking Cause Cancer?
Pellet grills are versatile in addition to being easy to use, meaning users have the opportunity to both grill and smoke meats unsafely.
The health risks for grilling and smoking are different, but it is important to know about both if you plan to use a pellet grill.
Linked Grilling Practices
The animal fat in meat is the source of some nasty chemicals, heterocyclic amines (HCAs), increasing the odds of cancer developing in humans if they are consumed.
While grilling, these HCAs are released into the air and seep into the rest of the meat if the fat comes into contact with the flames, or if portions of the meat are heated unevenly or too intensely.
Linked Smoking Practices
Smoking meat is done with indirect heat, which may seem healthier than grilling since you do not have to worry about releasing HCAs.
However, the smoke produced by the wood pellets contains polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are carcinogens, i.e., a substance that causes cancer.
This is especially true of cheaper wood pellets, which often contain other harsh chemicals for artificial flavoring.
Small amounts of PAHs are not that harmful, though, so it is not dangerous unless you are constantly eating smoked meat produced with cheap wood pellets.
How to Use a Pellet Grill Safely
Thankfully, using a pellet grill safely is not difficult. To practically erase any risk of developing cancer, you should follow these steps:
Use Quality Wood Pellets
Research wood pellets to find a high quality, credible brand. While these wood pellets may be expensive, they contain far fewer PAHs, and they also tend to last longer because they are made with more actual wood.
Further Reading: Camp Chef Pellets Review
Marinate the Meat First
If you marinate meat before grilling or smoking it, the marinade will prevent most PAHs or HCAs from working their way into the meat by acting as a sort of barrier.
Marinating the meat will also boost the flavor without artificial chemicals, unlike cheap wood pellets.
Trim the Fat First
Not everyone is a fan of marinades. If you would prefer not to marinate your meats, you can trim off as much fat as possible before grilling or smoking, instead.
Not only will this decrease the risk of releasing HCAs, but it is also healthier for you in general.
You can also opt to purchase lean cuts or leaner meats like fish and chicken to save time.
Prepare Foods Besides Meat
Pellet grills are capable of cooking far more than just meats.
These grills can even be used to bake foods like pies or other recipes you would typically pop in the oven.
If you make foods besides meat, you do not have to worry so often about HCAs, and if you are not smoking meats, you will not need to be concerned over PAHs.
You can also grill foods besides meats, like vegetables, which are already much better for you, anyway.
Learn To Cook With A Pellet Grill Safely With This Book
Further Reading: Why Do Pellet Grills Explode
Video: Pellet Grill Benefits
Although it is incredibly easy for panic to spread over the internet, you do not need to worry about pellet grills causing cancer.
These grills do not cause cancer.
Only constant, unsafe smoking and grilling of meats is linked to developing cancers like pancreatic cancer.
So long as you are mindful about eliminating animal fat, using good quality wood pellets, and doing more than eating meat all of the time, it is doubtful that you will develop any cancer from grilling with a pellet grill.
You can enjoy your grill and stay safe.