We Americans love summertime grilling. According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, 80 percent of Americans own a grill, smoker, or outdoor barbecue, and nearly all of them will be grilling on July 4. Burgers are the most popular meat to grill, followed by steaks and hot dogs.

We Americans love summertime grilling. According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, 80 percent of Americans own a grill, smoker, or outdoor barbecue, and nearly all of them will be grilling on July 4. Burgers are the most popular meat to grill, followed by steaks and hot dogs.

Grilling can be one of the healthiest ways to cook because there is no need for extra oil, which adds fat and calories, or for heavy breading. It’s also a great way to avoid heating up the house on hot summer days. But before you grill, take a look at these tips for keeping your grilling healthy and safe.

1. Prep ahead.

Make sure the grill is clean before you use it by scrubbing any bits of char or food from the grates. Once clean, use a paper towel to rub oil on the grate to help prevent sticking. Set aside extra plates for cooked food to prevent contamination with raw food. Keep your food cold until ready to cook, either in a refrigerator or on ice. Freeze any ground meat or poultry that you don’t use within one to two days

2. Pick your protein.

Start with lean meat, cut off any skin, and trim any visible fat before cooking. Meats such as hot dogs and sausages contain chemical preservatives (nitrates) that are associated with an increased risk for prostate, pancreatic and other cancers, so choose these sparingly. Keep portions of any type of meat between three and six ounces per person.

3. Marinate.

Lemon juice, herbs, spices and oils can help protect grilled meat from forming cancer-causing compounds. When proteins are cooked over flames or at very high temperatures, they react to the heat to form compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). HCAs have been shown to cause DNA changes in cells that can lead to certain cancers. Never reuse marinade or rubs after raw meat has touched them.

4. Get ready to grill.

Always start with clean hands. Preheat the grill, and use a lower cooking temperature to help prevent charring and flare-ups. Putting foil poked with a few holes under the meat can help prevent the amount of juice that drips onto the grill, thus allowing less smoke to reach the meat. Flipping the meat frequently can help prevent charring, but use tongs, and don’t press, flatten or pierce the meat. Experiment with indirect cooking to prevent flare-ups: Move the charcoal to the side or turn off one or more burners on a gas grill, and cook on the empty side. Baste with sugary or tomato-based sauces the last few minutes of cooking to avoid charring.

5. Cook to a safe temperature.

Undercooked meat can lead to a variety of illnesses, so make sure you are cooking to at least the minimum recommended temperature. The only guaranteed way to get an accurate temperature is to use a food thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. Safe meat temperatures are 165 degrees for poultry; 145 degrees for pork or beef; 160 degrees for ground meat; and 145 degrees for fish.

6. Keep it covered.

Once the meat is cooked, put it on a clean platter and cover it with foil to keep it warm and safe from bacteria. Let meat rest for at least five minutes so it can reabsorb moisture and become juicer. Trim away any charred pieces before serving. Keep your food covered when you are not eating it to prevent insects from landing on your food. Bugs and flies pick up germs on their feet and bodies and then deposit the germs wherever they land.

7. Don’t forget the sides.

Round out your plate with some grilled vegetables; good choices are asparagus, corn on the cob and zucchini. Healthy side ideas include a colorful bean salad, fresh-cut fruit or a leafy green salad. Make your buns or bread whole grain. For dessert, try grilling peach halves, sliced pineapple or halved bananas.

8. Be safe with leftovers.

Refrigerate or place leftovers in a cooler within two hours, or one hour if it has been in temperatures hotter than 90 degrees. Discard any food that has set out longer than these limits. Put leftovers in shallow containers so they can cool faster. Use leftovers within three to four days, and reheat only once to 165 degrees before eating.