Editor's Note: This is a guest post by Jocelyn Anne
With summer officially here, I imagine I'm not the only one yearning for a kabob skewer of perfectly grilled veggies or a smoky grilled pesto pizza with a just-barely singed crust and melting pools of fresh mozzarella. There's almost no other way I enjoy cooking more than with a grill. Even the most basic foods taste newer and healthier and so much better when they’re drenched in that intense barbecued flavor.
However, I realize that the typical charcoal grill is not particularly green. In fact, according to Greenzer.com, during the 4th of July alone, approximately 60 million barbecues are fired up across the U.S., consuming the same amount of energy it would take to power 20,000 households for an entire year. And you also have to consider the dangerous greenhouse gases produced by the charcoal that’s found in most of those 60 million barbecues, right along with the waste of plastic silverware and paper plates and an overabundance of food that’s going to get tossed.
When you look at it that way, the cute and innocent little propane grill in the backyard suddenly becomes a bit more ominous. If you’re a big time griller or even a wanna-be griller, I highly encourage you to ditch the charcoal, ditch the paper, ditch the plastic, and green up your grilling with these cleaner alternatives:
Hydrogen grills are one of the very best options because they produce zero emissions. And, more than that, using hydrogen gas can cut down your overall cost in the long run, compared to propane or charcoal. However, they are a new product on the market, making them hard to find and cost-wise, somewhat pricier. If that isn’t an issue, you should be able to find a table-size option for around $500.
The upside of solar grills: you don’t need anything but the sun. They obtain their heat through reflective dishes that soak up the sun’s heat and transfer it to the coils that will in turn, grill your meal. However, it can be quite time consuming and you do need the sun. Grilling isn’t an option when the sun isn't shining. Some models, including the Helios solar grill, do have a retractable plug for electricity in case you’re in a pinch and don’t have any sun. (If you're really ambitious, you can do a Google search for "build-your-own-solar-grill" and make your own.)
Corn grills are another excellent option, and probably my favorite. They are 100 percent efficient, they burn a 100 percent renewable resource, and perhaps the best part of it all is that you can grow your own fuel. Although the solar grill is just as green, or perhaps even more so, the corn grill is quicker to cook and more reliable. Other benefits: significantly cheaper than propane or charcoal; produces no gases, creosotes, hydrocarbons or chemicals; doesn’t pollute the environment or your food, and it will never explode or set your grilling area on fire.
Rather than pouring charcoal or wood into a simple pit-style barbecue, you can now opt for plant-based renewable ethanol inserts that burn cleanly and are disposable after use. In fact, with the FlameDisk by uGo, you’ll get 40 minutes of use per one insert and it’s ready for recycling just 10 minutes after you’re done, all with 90% fewer pollutants than you would produce with charcoal in the same amount of time.
Wood & Charcoal?
If you’re not convinced that green grilling is worth the extra effort, perhaps you’d like to look deeper into what you currently have. We all love good charcoal and wood grills because of the flavor they impart. However, consider that flavor in light of the fact that *charcoal grills produce twice as much carbon as gas grills do. Not only that, charcoal grills release more airborne particles into the air which can negatively impact our health as we breathe them in. And, according to the EPA, a charcoal grill also contributes to ground-level ozone.
Take Away Tips
If you must have charcoal flavor – consider bamboo charcoal. It regulates the humidity in the grill by absorbing vapor or releasing stored moisture. It also absorbs impurities on the grill, purifies flavor and provides you with fresher, cleaner tasting foods. Another good charcoal is Wicked Good Charcoal.
- If it’s time for a new grill, consider a hybrid that mixes wood for flavoring and cuts down electricity at the same time.
- If it’s not time for a new grill and you don’t grill that frequently, don’t ditch your old one that works to go out for a new “green” one. Wait until it’s really needed.
- Bigger isn't always better. Don’t pay for the extra time and energy it takes to heat a mega grill if you have a small family and don’t have a true need for “more quicker.”
- Skip the plastic utensils and paper plates. It’s not worth it!
- Clean up the grill before using it to eliminate spreading more particles into the air during grilling.
- Make your meal greener itself by grilling less beef and serving up more chicken, fish and veggies.
Grilling doesn’t have to mean anti-green, there are plenty of ways to grill up a delicious meal while still being as true to your green practices as ever before! Enjoy, summer only lasts so long!
About the author: Freelance writer Jocelyn Anne is passionate about encouraging others to green up their daily living habits. She’s currently working alongside Air & Water, helping them promote eco-friendly portable air conditioners as a replacement for energy draining central AC systems.
Image credits: Hydrogen Grill: designbuzz.com
Flame Disk: errakeeper
* Via Tristam West of the Department of Energy’s Natural Laboratory.