Formation and mitigation of PAHs in barbecued meat - a review

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2022;62(13):3553-3568. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2020.1867056. Epub 2021 Jan 7.


Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) are chemicals, which can occur in barbecued or grilled foods, and particularly in meats. They originate from incomplete combustion of the heat source, pyrolysis of organic compounds, or fat-induced flame formation. This review therefore summarizes relevant parameters for mitigation of especially carcinogenic PAHs in barbecued meat. Consumption of PAHs increases the risk of cancer, and thus the relevance for the mitigation of PAHs formation is very high for barbecued meat products. Parameters such as heat source, barbecue geometry, and meat type as well as marinating, adding spices, and other antioxidants reduce the final benzo[a]pyrene and PAHs concentrations and minimize the exposure. Overall, mitigation of carcinogenic PAHs from barbecuing includes removal of visual charring, reducing fat pyrolysis by minimizing dripping from the meat onto the heat source, the use of acidic marinades or choosing leaner cuts of meat. Estimation of human exposure to barbecued meat, includes several challenges such as substantial differences in barbecuing frequencies and practices, heat sources and meat types used for grilling.

Keywords: Grill; PAH4; benzo[a]pyrene; doneness; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; process parameters.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Charcoal / chemistry
  • Cooking
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Meat / analysis
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons* / analysis


  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Charcoal