One of my favorite things about summer is cooking on the grill on our patio. We use our gas grill probably 9 or 10 months of the year but in the summer, we grill more often and enjoy our meal on the patio.
The New York Times weekly newsletter, Climate-Fwd, had an item last week discussing how to make your cookout more “climate-friendly”. One thing the article pointed out is that charcoal grills produce three-times the greenhouse emissions as a propane grill. This is largely because people overuse charcoal; it keeps burning after the food is cooked. By comparison, on a gas grill, people turn it on, then turn it off. Big deal? Yes! About half of the grills in America are charcoal grills – that’s about 90 million charcoal grills – and each charcoal grilling session creates emissions equivalent to driving a car 26 miles. It adds up. And while I understand some people embrace and swear by their charcoal grills, I’ve yet to be disappointed by my Weber gas grill. Something to consider when purchasing a new grill.
So what to grill? As I written earlier, I’ve given up red meat so traditional hamburgers are no longer an option. This spring I had my first plant-based hamburger made by “Beyond Meat”. I tried this at an Astro’s game at Minute Maid Park and to my surprise, it was delicious. The taste, texture and the appearance were exceptional – just like a freshly seared 85% lean hamburger patty. I was sold. Last weekend, I found “Beyond Meat” patties at Whole Foods. Pricey ($5.99 for two ¼ lb. patties) but heck, no one ever said saving the planet would be cheap. I prepared these patties same as I would with traditional hamburger meat: lightly seasoned with kosher salt on one side, Lawry’s Seasoned Salt on the other about 30 minutes before cooking. Just before putting on the grill, add a very light coating of EVOO. Very hot grill, 3-3 ½ minutes per side (which brought the internal temperature to 1650.) And they were delicious! I was so relieved and overjoyed – eliminating red meat, particularly hamburgers, from my diet was a big sacrifice. No sacrifice with these burgers.
In addition to the Beyond Meat burgers, there are so many healthy options to grill. Chicken, fish, and just about all vegetables and especially corn-on-the-cob. My favorite way to grill corn (and I’ve tried lots of ways) is to lightly oil the shucked corn; season with either Lawry’s Seasoning Salt, or Zatarain’s Creole Seasoning, or just salt and pepper; and place the corn directly on a medium hot grill for 10-12 minutes, rotating every couple of minutes until the desired level of “char” is reached.
Paella is an ambitious, but fun cookout meal on the grill. Large paella pans (e.g., 16” or 18”) are ideal for the grill. It’s a wonderful cooking event that can be shared with family and friends and provides a delicious meal to be enjoyed family style. If you’ve never made paella, go to Sur La Table, buy a paella pan, and find a good recipe. (You can contact me if you’d like one I’ve used.)
Another climate-friendly choice for your cookout is to buy your vegetables from local sources at the grocery or at farmers markets. These choices support the community farmers and reduce the amount of energy required in getting the corn and other vegetables from the farm to your house. Also consider buying beer from local breweries. Same reasons: support your community and save transportation energy.
And when serving the food, be sure to use re-usable plates and cups and cutlery – no plastic straws – i.e., no plastic waste! And use cloth napkins instead of paper. For sodas, buy aluminum or glass containers – no plastic bottles – and all bottles and glass should be disposed of in a clearly marked recycle container. Put your recycle bin on your patio or in the kitchen. It sends a message. Regarding the food, if you plan well, there will be few or no leftovers (i.e., no waste) – but if there are leftovers, store them in reusable containers – no plastic wraps or zip-lock bags.
By doing all these things, you make a difference to our planet and you also provide an example for your children and guests as to how to plan and enjoy a climate-friendly cookout. Your planet, and future generations will appreciate it. Every little bit helps!