Backyard BBQ Tips for Greener & Healthier Grilling
Everyone loves a summer backyard bbq. It’s a time when friends and family get together, cousins and distant relatives play in the backyard, or try to kill each other depending on your family 😉 But regardless, grilling is a fun and social thing to do. But sometimes it comes at a cost to the environment around you.
Of course most people don’t think this way, but they should. And that’s why I am writing this. So here are a few tips to think about to make your BBQ’s a little better for yourself and the world.
1. DITCH THE LIGHTER FLUID. Vapors from lighter fluid – and smokey irritants from self-lighting charcoal – lead a direct attack on our ozone layer with their toxic chemicals. Fluid costs more to use and can be dangerous to keep around the house. Draft a better choice, a charcoal chimney starter. It works. You pay for it once.
2. GO LEAN. Get the fat level down on those burgers — for the atmosphere and your waistline. Better yet, if you can afford it, opt for a single chunk of meat. It’s easier to track the doneness of one piece than of many, and there will be less surface area to char. It also makes it easier to eat less meat when it’s sliced, rather than being handed a large single serving.
3. TRIM YOUR MEAT. Those steaks and pork chops don’t need that extra edge of fat. What matters most to flavor is the marbling within the meat. So trim off the excess fat. When fat burns on any grill, it binds with meat’s amino acids and sends potentially cancerous soot into the air. More below.
4. MARINATE, MARINATE, MARINATE. Charring meat fat over an open flame causes the formation of HCAs (heterocyclic amines), likely carcinogens, according to the American Cancer Society. The American Institute of Cancer Research says marinating before grilling reduces the formation of HCAs by up to 96 percent.
5. DON’T EAT THE BLACK STUFF. See above, caveman/cavewoman.
6. USE A MEAT THERMOMETER. And pay attention. You must check your temperatures. Why pay for meat, spend the time preparing it and overcook it so badly that no one wants it? You’ve seen those char-crusted orphans left on the plate. Knowing the recommended temperatures for doneness (145 degrees for steaks, with 3-minute resting time, 160 for ground red meat, 165 for poultry and 145 for fish) will help prevent waste.
7. USE THE RIGHT OIL. Olive oil is good inside the house, but it burns fast on the grill. Instead, use an alternative like canola or grape seed oil for cooking food outdoors and cleaning the grill afterward. A cleaner grill is a healthier and less smokey grill.
8. SWEET SAUCE LATER. If your barbecue sauce is heavy on sugar or corn syrup – as most are – consider a dry rub of spice on the meat overnight in the fridge. Then grill most of the way before adding the sauce, because sugar burns easily and creates you-know-what.
9. TRY A BEEF ALTERNATIVE. Simply put, it takes a lot more caloric energy (translation: natural resources) to raise a cow than it does to raise a pig or chicken. Even if you’re not a vegan, try a totally vegetarian BBQ next time. Or you can grill an amazing wheat free pizza using the KettlePizza attachment we reviewed.
10. COOK MULTIPLE COURSES ON ONE FIRE. It’s a simple exercise in efficiency. Toast your bruschetta bread for appetizers at the edge of the early fire. Follow with meats and veggies when coals get ashen. Then use the embers to grill some peaches or other fruit for dessert.
11. GRILL MORE VEGGIES. As a sports nutritionist for the Browns once told players: “Get some color on that plate.” Maybe people are listening. Weber’s recent survey showed that 30 percent of us are adding more vegetables to our picnic plates. And, just FYI, the char on veggies does not have the same danger as the char on meat.
12. USE REAL PLATES. They don’t bend, and they hold up under sauces and knives. If you must use disposable, at least use compostable plates from a renewable source such as bamboo or sugarcane. Don’t try eating them, though. The formula isn’t edible. Yet.