Q. I know you shouldn’t char meat on a grill to avoid a cancer risk. But I just heard a warning about potatoes, too. What gives?

A. “Cooking potatoes to a deep brown creates a compound called acrylamide, which, at high levels, has been shown to cause cancer in animal studies,” says Amy Keating, one of Consumer Reports' registered dietitians. The World Health Organization considers acrylamide to be a “probable human carcinogen,” although it and other health agencies say that more studies are needed to determine what levels might be dangerous.

Acrylamide can also be found in bread, cereal, coffee (because the beans are roasted), and other foods. To play it safe, be careful how you cook potatoes. It’s the starch inside that reacts to the heat. Baking, grilling, and roasting can cause acrylamide to form, but frying produces the most. So french fries and potato chips are among the worst culprits, Keating says.

An easy way to prepare potatoes at a cookout is to wrap them in aluminum foil before grilling. That will steam them instead, and steaming doesn’t produce acrylamide. Neither does boiling. If you’re slicing potatoes, rinse the slices in water before cooking by any method, which will also reduce acrylamide formation. And always aim for a golden or light-brown color—no darker—according to the Food and Drug Administration.

For more information, check our Food Safety & Sustainability Guide. And send your questions to ConsumerReports.org/askourexperts.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the July 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.