Seven tips for grilling green this summer
1. Go with gas
For all their charms, traditional charcoal grills just don’t run as efficiently as gas grills. Where gas grills put out 5.6 pounds of carbon dioxide per hour, charcoal grills emit 11 pounds during that same time frame. Putting it simply, gas is a more efficient heating source, and it also takes less time to pre-heat. If you’re in the market for a new grill this year, consider going with gas.
2. But if you really love charcoal…
Make no mistake, the flavor of a burger cooked over a charcoal grill is truly special. So how do we make it better for the environment? For one, buy all-natural charcoal briquettes. Most mass-produced briquettes are a mixture of sawdust, wood by-products, and even a lighter fluid (more on that later), but by switching to all-natural brands, you’ll be helping make your cookout closer to carbon neutral. Another benefit of all-natural briquettes is that they release fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are dangerous for humans to breathe in.
3. Light my fire (without lighter fluid)
We get it, you’re hungry, so you want to get grilling ASAP. Lighter fluid has long been a bedrock of the charcoal grilling experience, but there are some do-it-yourself solutions that work just as well. Here’s a simple DIY firestarter recipe. The whole process only takes about 15 minutes, and it’ll keep your yard or deck free from those harsh VOCs, too.
4. Meal prep
Planning the meal is one of the most important parts of a cookout, and it’s even more important when you consider the environmental impact. When choosing meats to put on the grill, grass-fed beef is a great place to start, but also make sure you’re sourcing vegetables and sides from local sources – farmers markets will soon start popping up which makes for an easy, local option for fresh produce . And while under-buying is a big concern for anyone hosting a cookout, over-buying is just as costly for the environment. Putting together a quick checklist of your guests will keep you from overbuying and having food go to waste.
5. Reduce and reuse
One common mistake that’s made with grill cooking is letting it pre-heat for too long. Gas grills only take 5-to-10 minutes to get up to cooking temperature, while charcoal grills are a little longer at 15-to-20 minutes. Make sure your food is ready to hit the grates as soon as possible to keep things running efficiently; your hungry guests will appreciate this too. And when it comes time to serve the food, consider skipping the disposable utensils and plates. But, if that’s not an option, look for bamboo-based options or recycled-paper products.
6. Compost whatever’s left
Let Mother Nature take the lead on this one: your leftover sides and burger toppings can be composted! Food waste is always a consideration, so if you’ve got scraps to throw away (not meat or dairy items), toss them into a compost and use it to help fertilize your garden later this summer!
7. Give your grill a little TLC
Once the meal’s over, it’s easy for the grill to become an afterthought. To keep your grill running its very best, clean the grates while the grill is still hot, and once it cools down, use biodegradable cleaners with it. Keeping your grill clean, and covering it when not in use, helps in two ways. First – it’ll run more efficiently meaning less wasted gas / coals. Secondly – it’ll last longer. You’ll get more life out of the grill which means it won’t be ending up in a landfill any time soon.