Before you fire up your grill for an end-of-summer Labor Day cookout, check out these simple ways to lessen your environmental impact and grill healthier. Learn why a gas grill beats charcoal every time, then discover that marinades don’t just taste good — they’re good for you, too. And find out how to reduce the amount of garbage you create when throwing a backyard barbecue.
1. Go for the gas grill, not charcoal. Cooking with gas is the greener option, says a study that found that a charcoal grill’s carbon footprint is three times that of a gas grill’s. The dripping fat that hits coals and contributes to the tell-tale aroma and smoke of a barbecue also gives off polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a carcinogen. The soot from a charcoal barbecue can irritate your lungs and squirting lighter fluid on the hot briquettes causes chemicals to waft up and onto your food.
2. Marinate meat before grilling. Recent research reveals that barbecuing meat – beef, chicken, and fish – on an open flame can create carcinogens known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs). But you can stop these cancer-causing compounds from forming by marinating meats in antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, and olive oil. One study found that a marinade made with rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, and olive oil greatly reduced HCAs from being produced in red meat. Also try marinating beef, chicken, and fish with tomatoes, peppers, and onions or the juice of lemons, limes, oranges, or grapefruit. Try these recipes for Grapefruit Juice, Ginger and Honey Flank Steak and Lime-Marinated Grilled Salmon Wraps.
3. Grill veggies and fruit instead. The good news is that vegetables and fruits do not produce HCAs because they don’t contain the protein and amino acids found in meat that create the compound when grilled. You can toss just about any veggie or fruit on the grill. Try Grilled Vegetables with Roasted Garlic Dressing, which features bok choy, eggplant, and tomatoes, and Tarragon Balsamic Grilled Peaches and Vegetable Platter, which pairs peaches with portabella mushrooms, peppers, and onions.
4. Reduce your barbecue waste. Recycle all aluminum foil used on the grill. Just clean it before recycling it just like you would an aluminum can. Compost all produce scraps in your garden instead of throwing them in the trash. And buy compostable paper plates, cups, and cutlery when hosting a backyard barbecue.
5. Green your cleaners. Ditch the chemical-laden grill sprays and opt for a natural, biodegradable brand so you don’t leave a toxic residue on the grates, which could drip onto your food the next time you barbecue.
How have you greened your barbecues? Please share your tips below.