While the advantages of outdoor grilling are many, it can also leave behind some less attractive impacts on the environment. Studies show that charcoal grills in particular release large amounts of carbon dioxide into the air with each use, and the cumulative effect of greenhouse gases contributes to global warming and climate change.
Also, the demand for charcoal (made from burning wood) could lead to deforestation and release more greenhouse emissions from the charcoal-making process (burning large amounts of wood produces carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and methane).
All of this together can diminish Chef Sarah Glover’s goal RECOMMENDED FOR ALL OUTDOOR GRILLERS: “Leave space better than you found it and don’t take for granted what you get from being outdoors.”
To find out how to have a fun summer barbecue while causing the least possible damage to your natural surroundings, we asked professional grill chefs and eco-friendly cookware experts to give us their best tips for eco-friendly grilling.
Look for high-quality lump charcoal.
Charcoal briquettes are very popular among home grills, as they are easy to light without the need for lighter fluid and provide an even heat to the grill. However, these composite pieces, which contain wood chips and sawdust, are often laced with chemical additives that increase burn time and help them keep their shape. These additives can also release additional emissions into the air.
Chef Luis Mata Eco-friendly cooking tins are not recommended. Instead, he said,The key to making your charcoal grilling experience more environmentally friendly is to use the highest quality lump charcoal you can get. ”
“Lump charcoal” is exactly what it sounds like: lump-shaped pieces of charcoal that have not been chemically treated or shaped. It tends to be the charcoal of choice for grilling professionals, who cite the fact that it lights up quickly, burns hot, and leaves behind less ash than briquettes.
Mata recommends getting particularly lumpy charcoal that’s better for the environment Binchotan“Handmade hardwood lump charcoal is known to be the world’s purest. It burns longer, hotter and cleaner than any other coal or briquette. It is also smokeless, odorless and reusable.”
Stay away from lighter fluids.
Charcoal (especially lump charcoal) generally requires a starter to ignite the fire. While petroleum lighter fluid is popular for this purpose, the experts we spoke to generally advise against using it.
“Soft liquids are made of hydrocarbons, which can be toxic if ingested and can cause symptoms such as stomach or throat pain, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and skin or eye irritation, said Ben Jablonski, CEO and co-founder of The Good Charcoal. “Furthermore, smoke from coal moistened with lighter fluid contributes to air pollution.”
the University of Illinois Center for Sustainable Technology supports these claims, stating that “lighter fluid causes air pollution, as PAHs, when burned.”
Pima County, Arizona, warning about the use of lighter fluid on grills in 2016, stating that when “mixed with Intense solar radiation and other pollutants, chemicals in lighter fluids create a pollutant called ozone at ground level. Elevated levels of ozone at ground level can affect children, people who work or exercise outside, the elderly, and people with lung or heart conditions, including asthma and congestive heart failure. ”
Health problems that can come from ground-level ozone exposure include coughing, difficulty breathing, and increased lung weakness, according to US Environmental Protection Agency.
Glover recommends:Natural Fire Lighter Fluids – Or better yet, get an ax and split your wood into small kindles so you don’t have to use fire lighting fluid at all. ”
If you use a ignition, invest in a Coal chimney start To speed up the charcoal lighting process.
If possible, switch to a natural gas grill.
Charcoal grills have a serious cult following among grilling enthusiasts, but they’re not the only game in town. If you really want to improve your environmentally friendly grilling practices, consider ditching the charcoal in favor of a natural gas grill. Because of its very low emissions, wide availability, and moderate price point, the Sierra Club Natural gas grills are called the “most realistically green option” for most home grills.
Prevent flare-ups by using grab pans or aluminum foil.
Fires breaking out on the grill can be alarming for many reasons, but one that is underappreciated includes the fact that they are Releasing more smoke — and therefore more toxins — into the environment than necessary, according to chef Ron Stewart.
To reduce the risk of flare-ups, follow Stewart’s advice and “place aluminum foil under the meat so that any dripping fat does not land directly on the coals/embers.” You should also consider investing in an inexpensive catch pan designed to catch grease drips or use a heavy-duty aluminum foil tray underneath. your food while cooking to safely collect excess fat before it falls onto the charcoal/stove elements.”
Close the grill once it is done cooking.
For an easy way to reduce emissions, turn off the grill as soon as your food is ready.
“When using charcoal, most people let the charcoal burn out and turn off when they’re done cooking, which can take hours,” said Jablonski. The result is hours of coal emissions for no other purpose. The solution is pretty simple: When you’re done cooking, close the grill lid and seal any vents or barriers. This will smother the coals very quickly and leave a basket of lightly used coals ready to face the next roast.”
The briquettes should be thrown in the trash, but the lump charcoal can be reused as compost.
While briquettes with synthetic materials should be thrown into landfill waste after use, Jablonski told us that lump charcoal can often be reused if it doesn’t burn completely. But after the second grilling cycle, it’s time to figure out where to get rid of those leftover bits and ash.
Jablonski has a simple, environmentally friendly solution: “As long as you’re using charcoal without additives, you can use it as a fertilizer. Ash contains potash (potassium carbonate), which is a nutrient for many plants. Potash can also increase the pH levels of your soil, but Depending on what you’re growing, you’ll want to use it sparingly. Don’t use charcoal ash with acid-loving plants (such as blueberries, azaleas, and hydrangeas), nor newly planted seedlings and seeds.”
As an alternative, Jablonski said tossing a few pieces of used lump charcoal into your compost pile can help the entire composting process.
“Charcoal increases the carbon content” in the compost heap, he said. “Carbon is important for providing energy for microorganisms while breaking down organic matter in compost.”