Green Grilling Tips

It’s that time of year again when the temperatures are rising and the perfect opportunity to pull the grill out.  Grilling always seems to get a bad wrap whether it be because of health or environmental reason.  There are ways to make this grilling season healthier for you and the environment.

University of Maryland
Photo by woodleywonderworks.

Which Energy Source?

A leading point of confusion when grilling is which source of energy is the cleanest and/or most environmentally friendly.  This is actually a tougher question to answer than you might think.

Gas

Whether it be natural gas or propane, gas is considered the cleanest of energy sources for the grill.  Both burn cleaner than other fossil fuels and has no ash particle, but do produce carbon dioxide when burned.  It’s no surprise that both natural gas and propane are heavily used in cooking.  The biggest issues with both is all the process of getting them before using them as a fuel source.  Since natural gas is methane gas, it has much more harmful effects on climate change than carbon dioxide.  It can leak from pipelines and tanks when transporting and being stored.  Another problem is the drilling for natural gas.  Just as with oil, it can have harmful effects on the surrounding habitats.  There are better measures being taken to reduce the impact, much more so than with oil.

Electric

Electric is technically the cleanest source of energy when it is used since it does not produce any carbon dioxide.  The biggest problem is the majority of our electricity as you may know comes from coal.  Electric is also considered the a bad conductors of heat generation and is far more expensive to run than gas.  If your electricity is coming from a renewable energy source, then it is in fact the cleanest source of energy to cook from.

Charcoal

Charcoal is considered by many as the dirtiest, but usually tastiest form of grilling.  It is visibility more dirty as it releases hydrocarbons and soot into the environment.  Both can cause problems to your health as well as pollute the environment.  This is caused by the various chemicals often used to make the charcoal lumps.  Things like coal dust, sodium nitrate, limestone, borax and lighting fluids are just some of the dangerous ingredients found in popular brands of charcoal lumps and briquettes. Not all charcoal brands are created equal as some carry 100% natural briquettes and those made from plant materials.

The Best?

It’s really up to you which source of energy you chose for grilling, but try to make it a little safer for your health as well as the environment.  The best bet seems to be using natural gas or propane.  You can get a hookup to your house to be able to use natural gas for your grill or buy propane tanks from your local hardware store.  If you still do not like the taste of gas for grilling, try using natural charcoals that are made from 100% woods used from environmentally sustainable forests or wood scraps that require no trees to be cut down.  There are also various charcoals made from plant materials including 100% Natural Coconut Charcoals. It burns much cleaner that traditional coals, while still giving a great charcoal flavor.  Just make sure that no additional chemicals are added to your charcoals.    Also, it is suggested to use a chimney starter to eliminate the use of substances such as lighter fluids to add additional chemicals to the grill.

Foods

Foods are just as important of a part to grilling as the energy source need to cook them.  The first thing most people think of when grilling is meat.  Steaks, burgers and hot dogs are the most popular items to throw on the grill.  I’m not suggesting that meats should be avoided at all costs when grilling, but healthier alternatives should be considered.  Try using locally grown and free-range meats that are usually healthier and leaner meats.  Chicken and fish are much leaner alternatives that can be just as tasty.  Fruits and vegetables do not have to be your enemy when it comes to the grill.  Instead of a burger, mushroom burgers can be just as hearty, but much healthier.  Asparagus, eggplant, tofu, zucchini and squash and pineapple are just a few of the fruits and veggies that can spice up your grill.

Cleaning Up

The first thing to note before cleaning your grill is that you should allow the grill to completely cool.  This can sometimes take up to 24 hours.  After everything is cool, try using a more natural or homemade cleaner so that you are not harming the environment while cleaning your grill.  I sometimes use a combination of the following cleaners to get my grill cleaned:

Vinegar

This basic vinegar solution is such a great versatile cleaner that can also be used anywhere in your house.

  • 1 Part Vinegar
  • 1 Part Water

It’s that simple and it really fights tough, stuck on grease.

Baking Soda

This is a paste solution that is more of an abrasive solution that is also a versatile cleaner.

  • 1/2 Parts vinegar
  • 1 Part baking soda
  • 1 Part water

You can also try finding a green cleaning solution that is made from natural materials.  Whichever cleaning you choose to use, make sure to clean the grill after using it each time to reduce your cleanup time and rusting.

Share Your Tips

Please share your grilling tips to make this grilling season a greener one.

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Comments

  1. Very complete article I must say! As I kept reading, I didn’t think I was going to get cleaning tips as well! So that was cool. I don’t have any real other tips to share…. but I will say one thing…. it’s interesting to note… the “dominant” method different countries have. I was originally born in Brazil… and over there BBQ’ing is huge. But… we mainly use charcoal for our BBQ. Now when I moved to the USA it was a different experience for me, because over here in the usa, most everyone uses the gas grill. So.. yeah I Just thought it was a fun thing that different countries have different approaches.

    Till then,

    Jean

  2. If you live in a sunny climate, there’s also the option of solar ovens:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_oven

    While they require a different approach to cooking, you’ll be hard put to find a greener way to prepare your food outside. In remote parts of South America, there are actually bakeries that use only solar ovens to bake everything they sell.

    Also, there are a few techniques you can use to reduce cooking time for the things you put on your grill. I’ve written about a couple on my blog:
    http://www.renewablesathome.com/energy-conservation/baking-potatoes-halving-time-and-energy-spent

    http://www.renewablesathome.com/energy-conservation/saving-energy-while-cooking-hamburgers

  3. “Charcoal is considered by many as the dirtiest, but usually tastiest form of grilling.” This is an unfortunate truth :-( Makes me hungry thinking of some grilled food. Anyhow I will look into natural gas or propane for this summers grilling. Thanks for the tips.

  4. check out my secret for cooking awesome hamburgers

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