NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Summertime means barbecues and dining outdoors – but firing up the grill can come with serious health hazards.

TV 10-55’s Katie McGee is a grill master like no other, and has the scoop on the dangers that can come with a cookout.

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McGee spoke with dietician Amanda Agamy. As Agamy explained, cooking certain foods over an open flame can lead to serious, and potentially life-threatening, side effects. Charred or burnt crust on food is the biggest health threat from the grill – but it’s not the only one.

As it turns out, processed meats like hot dogs and sausage contain questionable chemicals.

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“They’re high in nitrates,” said Agamy. “These have been shown to increase your risk of cancer, specifically colon cancer.”

Limiting these food choices is key – but if you can’t say ‘no’ to that sizzling steak, Agamy suggests throwing it in the microwave or oven first. It’s something she calls “low and slow.”

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“Lower flame, lower heat,” Agamy said. “Slow and low is the recommendations for when we’re cooking over an open flame.”

Another tip: Marinate meats for at least 30 minutes  – and what you soak it in makes a difference.

“Marinade with an acidic base, something like vinegar or citrus juices,” Agamy said.

Fish and lean meats like boneless, skinless chicken are great alternatives. Have a thermometer handy to know when your barbecue dinner is just right. With fish, aim for 145 degrees. Poultry should be about 165 degrees and for steak or ground beef, look for about 160.

And don’t skimp on the fruits and vegetables.

“Fruits and vegetables are high, really high, in phytochemicals and antioxidants, which protect you from cancer,” said Agamy.

A few other options for grilling fruits and veggies: Try a grill plate, or even tin foil. Also, Agamy suggests limiting your red meat consumption – that includes pork and lamb – to 18 ounces or less per week.

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