Don’t Overcook Your Meat!


Moist meat cooking on the grill

Many of us think that grilling is the healthiest and most natural way to eat meat. What could be more natural than throwing meat on the fire right? Well, it isn’t quite so simple. The grill can easily dry out and overcook the meat, making it harder to digest and even taste less flavorful.

Overcooking Meat

Overcooked meat is tough because of what happens to the fat, protein, and sugar molecules; they get fused together, making them difficult to cut, chew, and digest.

Cooking muscle meat at high temperatures and with dry heat toughens the meat, destroys nutrients, and creates carcinogens.

Heterocyclic amines are formed when meat is cooked at high temperatures and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are formed when fat and juices drip onto the open fire, causing flames. These flames then contain PAHs which adhere to the surface of the meat. Both of these compounds have been shown to cause cancer.

The amino acids in the meat are very sensitive to heat and can be easily damaged. The amino acids, plus the oxygen and iron that is in our blood can all react, which creates fusions between the molecules. This creates toxins that your body can’t use, but you’ll absorb anyway.

Once in your bloodstream, your liver and kidneys will have to eliminate them, which is an added burden for these organs. Even worse, ruined nutrients, or carcinogens, cause reactions between other nutrients and wreak havoc on our bodies, leading to cancer and inflammation.

Hydrolytic Cleavage

You probably know that I like to eat a lot of my animal foods raw but there are some meats which are not at all easy to digest this way, namely, the muscle meats. The reason is because they are tough and in order for our digestive systems to easily use them they need to be broken down in some way. This might be accomplished with an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice, fermentation (as in dried or rotted meat), or by cooking.

Hydrolytic cleavage is the process by which moisture trapped inside the meat while cooking actually slices the strands of protein, thereby tenderizing the meat. Additionally, this trapped water prevents proteins from fusing together and making the meat much less digestible.

How to Properly Cook Your Meat

In order to avoid the toxins created in the cooking process, you should cook your meat with moisture either from water or from fat.

  • Cook meat submerged in soups
  • Always trim the fat after cooking, not before. Fat helps to trap moisture in the meat.
  • Wrap meat in foil when cooking on the grill so as not to lose moisture to the fire.
  • Cook meats along with vegetables.
  • Add a coating of stable fats to the meat before cooking (like butter or lard).
  • Avoid cooking fast on high heat.
  • Slow cook.

You know your meat is overdone when you slice it and don’t see drips of moisture. Check the meat often and take it off the fire before it dries out.

Author: Peggy the Primal Parent

The blog owner!


  1. So far in the middle of the day on this 4th of July, I have had coconut kefir and a smoothie of greens, coconut oil, banana, and raw grass fed beef liver. Of all the options, this is what I wanted most. I alternate between desiring cooked foods and then raw foods, including raw and cooked meats. I don’t own a grill but indulge in grilled meats and veggies infrequently at other people’s houses. I am so happy to read about these discussions of raw vs. cooked meats.

    • Sounds like me Rhianna. I usually end up back on cooked meats when I get bored with raw. And I usually end up back on raw because I miss the lightness in my step.

      Your breakfast sounds so lovely to me! I didn’t end up grilling for the fourth, but I did eat some lightly sauteed halibut.

    • I’m quite curious since I am a huge fan of smoothies… How much liver did you add to your smoothies?

  2. Thanks Tons for this article about Overcooking meats. I’ve overcooked my meats(any food)for years. To where it is tough and dry. I realize how I cook my food(double bad is that most is in the Microwave, even worse for my body. When I’ve eaten my foods like this for many years it is hard to eat them with juice, etc.

    Any ideas to help is greatly appreciated. By the way, I love receiving your Posts.

    • Hi Tammy. Try making slow cooked soups and cooking with water and oils. This was the meats stay moist but aren’t undercooked, which might be a little strange at first. Then little by little, once you’ve gotten used to the feel of moist meat, try eating it a little juicier, i.e. undercooked.

      And throw out your microwave! Those things are worthless… except for maybe warming up a hot pad.

  3. Hi! I’m enjoying reading your blog, which I found by googling “morning sickness diets”. Unfortunately, the google link gave me a page full of the error message below. A lot of the internal links are giving me this kind of page as well.

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  4. I like to cook a chuck roast in my slow cooker with just filtered water and salt. I put enough water in to cover up the roast, usually at least 5-6 cups of water, probably more (I don’t think to measure it afterwards). Cooking time usually takes at least 10 hours, sometimes 12. The water turns into a nice beef broth that I save, and then I reheat the meat in the broth for lunch for several days. Very little effort and very tasty!

    When I used store bought beef, I had to season the cooking water with onion powder and garlic powder (in addition to salt) for the meat and broth to have any taste to them. Since switching to grassfed beef (from U.S. Wellness) I no longer need to use the powders. The meat and broth have a very rich flavor, even a little on the gamy side, but I add a little extra salt and then it tastes AMAZINGLY good. The fat is also a golden color instead of being pure white. Good stuff!

  5. I’ve never actually understood how or why people eat meat that’s overcooked. Dry, tough, flavorless, not even pretty to look at most of the time! What’s the point of even eating it?! If I never had eaten rare steak, I probably wouldn’t even like red meat. I guess that’s why steak sauce was invented. *blech*

    I’m thankful for my nana who taught me that the only way to eat a steak is with it red and juicy in the middle. I remember being a little kid in restaurants and devouring several ounces of bloody, delicious prime rib. And saying things like “I’ll have mine still mooing!” or “just pass my steak through a warm room”. :P

    My favorite way to prepare steaks is under the broiler for a few minutes per side. Just enough to change the color and flavor on the outside, leaving it juicy and tender in the middle. Also anything in the crockpot is amazing.

    I’ve gotten the boyfriend to finally eat it medium rare, but he cringes if it’s not really warm in the middle.

    Thanks for this post. I wasn’t aware how bad grilling could be. Even throwing some meat on there for a minute can still cause the fat to drip in the fire, so I think the foil wrapping is the way to go from now on.

    I hope you had a happy 4th! We watched fireworks and ate fajita-style chicken and veggies… wicked American haha!

  6. For the 4th, my husband made these AMAZING ribs – first he baked them in the oven for a few hours, then finished them on the grill in 10 minutes. Not only were they deliciously tender – the bones were actually falling out – they must have been a good choice also with less of direct heat. My favorite way to cook meat is now in my pressure cooker. I call it “my favorite appliance.” It cooks your pot roast, beef shanks, and other tough (collagen-rich – mmmmm) cuts quickly and easily, without heating up the kitchen (I have the plug-in kind). It also makes the best rice I’ve ever had, for you rice eaters – I make it with bone broth and butter, and it’s addictively good. The pressure cooker also makes outstanding bone broth in a fraction of the time without getting the house all humid and smelly. Overall, it truly is my favorite appliance!

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  8. All cooking is harmful. You are eating denatured flesh. Just eat it raw, like it’s supposed to be eaten. Re raw muscle meats being hard to digest, not in my experience and many others I know who eat the same way. In fact, the exact opposite is true for us. Cooked meat is what is hard to digest. Raw meat digests so effortlessly, it’s amazing. The meat may be tough to chew, but that’s because we’re not supposed to be chewing it. All animals that eat meat swallow it in chunks. My dog swallows raw meat without chewing but has to chew cooked meat. Our stomach acid has no problem breaking down tough meat.

    Anyway, it’s awesome to see another family on the paleo diet! My partner and I will be following you because we’re also a paleo family, albeit raw paleo! :)

    • Great to meet another raw meat eating Paleo family! By the sound of your comment, I’d guess you haven’t seen my many posts and videos about eating raw meat. My daughter and I have preferred raw meat for over 5 years.

      And yes, I do find a tough steak hard to digest raw or cooked. I prefer organs or seafood or marinated meats for digestibility.

    • That is interesting and really the first I’m hearing of raw paleo – I’m not even to the point I’m full on paleo – maybe 85% – I still love beans and lentils. So, where do you get your meat from – you must be particular about where it comes from? Which meats are you eating in raw form? I love optimal digestion! :)

  9. I’ve seen one video of your daughter eating raw meat, yeah. But I didn’t know much of it you guys ate. That’s awesome though, especially that your daughter not only eating raw meat but prefers it! Kids truly know what is healthful for them when you give them the options! Someone I know experimented with their child and offered them mashed up bananas or raw meat, and they chose the meat. :)

    My 10 month old grabs for it but we dont give it to him because the meat we’re eating right now is not the highest quality. He’s fully breastfed but eats some fruit.

    My partner is very much into “attachment” parenting, so I think you and her will get along!