Dreaming of a Sustainable Summer… Grilling Green


We’re prepping for the season with a series of posts – Dreaming of a Sustainable Summer. C’mon in, the water’s fine and the living is green!

The grilling controversy rages on. Which is better, charcoal, wood, gas or electric? Is grilling even good for you? Is it good for the environment? What’s the best way to grill? Cooking out is a staple of summer, and done right, it is indeed a very green choice. You’ll often use less energy, plus avoid heating up the house (and increasing your need for more AC) by cooking outside. How to grill green?

Let’s start with the grill. While the debate rages on, it’s safe to say that traditional charcoal briquettes are the worst of the lot, especially when used with chemical starters. Lump charcoal is a greener choice, especially when lit with a chimney (instead of fluid). If you’re purchasing lump charcoal from a sustainable source, this could be a reasonable option to getting that “real grill” flavor.

There’s no way around it, gas in either petroleum distillate or natural gas form, are non-renewable fossil fuels. However, the quick start time, year-round usability, temperature consistency and less smoke and particulate matter released are all positives. If you’re cooking with gas, invest in the best quality, energy efficient unit you can, and use refillable tanks instead of disposable bottles.

Electric can be a good option if your home power is from green sources, otherwise they’re eco-nightmares. If you’re going electric, make sure the grill can get hot enough for the types of food you will be cooking; many lower-end models don’t get hot enough to really sear well.

There are some newer, greener options emerging on the market, including pellet and hybrid grills that use electricity to do most of the cooking, but a small amount of charcoal or wood for flavor and char.

You can reduce the impact of your grilling even further by changing up the menu. Skip the beef; go for small amounts of organic chicken or sustainable seafood and lots and lots of fresh, locally-grown organic veggies. Try grilling some fruit for dessert, there are few things sweeter than a grilled peach or pineapple!

Proper prep is important as well. Use the grill’s heat and a stiff brush to clean it well then lightly coat with oil to prevent sticking without relying on chemical cleaners or unhealthy sprays. As always, opt for reusable dishes and napkins rather than disposable.

Grab some sustainable barbecue tools and get ready to grill!