The aroma of tasty treats sizzling on an outdoor grill evokes memories of laughter among family and friends, picnic tables brimming with colorful foods and the joy of running barefoot in the grass. This year, consider adding a few eco-friendly upgrades to America’s favorite summer tradition.
Fuel Source Matters
The biggest environmental impact from outdoor grilling comes from the fuel source. Here is a handy comparison of the options.
- Charcoal briquettes are little chunks of carbon made by baking wood byproducts, sawdust and other additives. Charcoal burns inefficiently and produces caustic smoke before and after the useful temperature for cooking. To reduce the carbon footprint, consider sustainably sourced bamboo or coconut shells to flame up the barbie.
- Gas grills burn fossil fuels like propane or natural gas. On the other hand, they produce fewer carbon emissions than charcoal, heat more quickly and can be turned off immediately.
- Electric grills may seem more eco-friendly for backyard cookouts, but most electricity is derived from fossil fuels. If the home runs on renewable energy, electric wins. Otherwise, gas grills have a smaller carbon footprint.
- Infrared is the latest in barbecue technology. These pricey outdoor grills can reach high temperatures quickly, use less fuel and cook foods evenly. Because they use electric or gas heating elements that radiate infrared waves to the food, they generally run for less time than other grills. One drawback is that their high temperatures can easily overcook or burn foods, especially ingredients that don’t need high temperatures, like fish, vegetables and other seafood.
Cleaning Is Paramount
Regardless of the fuel source, it is important to keep the grill free of grease and food particles to prevent more smoke. When the grill is still warm, clean the grates with a wire brush. If grates are already cool, scrub with baking soda and water.
Caramelized Fruits and Vegetables
Burgers and ribs may be synonymous with traditional cookouts, but the modern barbecue menu isn’t all about meat. Recipes abound for grilled veggies and fruits that lend a delicious smoky and caramelized flavor to these nutritious foods. Embrace the appeal of slightly charred corn on the cob, browned portobello mushrooms and grill-marked pineapple. If meat-free burgers won’t please the crowd, look for certified organic, grass-fed and locally raised meats.