Is Charcoal Grilling Bad for You?

It’s one of the dreaded questions by charcoal grill lovers everywhere: Is Charcoal Grilling Bad For You?

While there is no scientifically conclusive answer to this, and there are many opinions from both sides of the barbecue pit, there are some things that are worth learning about to help you make the best decision on whether you should grill gas or charcoal.

The biggest concern about most charcoal that raises the health question is that it contains many additives that can potentially not only pollute the environment and cause possible respiratory problems, but that it may also be carcinogenic and cause cancer. Many manufacturers do not list the ingredients that go into making their briquettes, which can make it even more confusing for consumers to make healthy decisions. Different types of charcoal can have everything from borax to coal and other chemicals added to it. Using lighter fluid (which we don’t recommend!) also adds to the potential risks.

Before this scares you from cooking over charcoal completely however, it should be noted that cooking any food can actually be bad for you – whether over the stove, in the oven, or the microwave. Mark’s Daily Apple has an interesting post on safe cookware – you may be surprised at the potential dangers lurking right in your own cabinets! So it’s probably safe to say that while yes, certain types of charcoal may not be the healthiest thing for you, there are probably thousands of other things in the environment that you use every day that are far more worse for you than the occasional barbecue.

Fortunately, if you are interested in reducing and eliminating the potential risks as much as possible, there is charcoal available that poses very little health risk to you and your loved ones. Finding additive free wood charcoal is possible in many areas, especially in home and garden stores that offer a wide selection of grilling products. However, the safest and best charcoal for you is coconut charcoal like the type pictured below. It is made from the shells and meat of the coconut. There is no petroleum, no additives, no chemicals, and nothing else to worry about when it comes to using it.