While researching this (I am no scientist) article on Greener Grilling I was surprised to find that there is no clear-cut winner in the charcoal verses propane environmental impact debate.
The good news for grillers is that grills are only responsible for .001% of the greenhouse gasses emitted by the U.S.A. So you can still grill with your preference without to much guilt, however you can improve your impact on the environment by changing what fuel you cook with.
Greener Grilling with Charcoal
Charcoal releases about twice the co2 that propane does, the pro-charcoal people will point to the fact that this is the same co2 that tree absorbed during its lifetime although this is now under debate.
Charcoal Not Good
Briquettes: While all charcoal is made with scrap wood or sawdust, these are made with different binders so it does not burn as clean as it could. Charcoal has almost pure carbon, so that all of its heat comes from converting carbon to carbon dioxide.
Natural Lump: While some people consider this carbon neutral they are wrong, they are not taking into consideration how it is made. All charcoal has to be burned in a low oxygen environment, most likely with natural gas. On the grill it burns much cleaner then briquettes.
Charcoal Best for Greener Grilling:
Natural Wood: This is truly carbon neutral, as long as you are not chopping down a tree specifically for cooking and stick to scrap wood. It also gives your food an excellent smoke flavor.
Greener Grilling with Gas
Propane Not Good
Propane: Is not a renewable resource, but it does release about half of the CO2 that burning charcoal does.
Natural Gas: Burns much cleaner then propane, by burning hydrogen. Most grill manufacturers have natural gas conversions for their grills. The only drawback would be getting a plumber to run the gas line and then you couldn’t move your grill.
Greener Grilling Electric
If you want to throw electric grills into this debate, you would have to know where the electricity used comes from. This would be the clear winner of all greener grilling options if the energy used came from wind turbines or solar cells.
About the author: Mike is the owner of 4thegrill.com, a Certified Food Safety Professional and KCBS member.
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