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The Thrill of the Grill: A Resource for Green Grilling

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Before you fire up the grill this summer, be sure you know how to be the most eco-responsible grill master you can be. Here is almost everything you need to know, in order to make great green grilling decisions.

Originally Published: 07/12/10

It would seem like grilling is the ultimate in eco-friendly cooking: You're in the open air, you're probably not using electricity, and chances are, you're preparing simple, unprocessed foods — but unless you're careful, grilling can actually do harm to the environment, causing pollution and posing health risks. It might be even easier to enjoy one of America's favorite summer pastimes if you know you're doing all you can to keep the cooking green.

Choosing the right grill: Gas, charcoal, or electric? Read later!

Picking the grill that is least harmful to the environment is easier said than done. Here are some pros and cons about the three main grill types, for your consideration:


Pros: Gas grills emit roughly one-third as much carbon dioxide as charcoal grills, according to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory — that's quite a boon to the environment. What's more, gas grills offer the advantage of simpler temperature control than charcoal grills, so it may be easier to achieve a perfect, healthy, time/temperature ratio. Because the healthiest way to prepare grilled foods is to cook smaller cuts of meat (or vegetables!) for longer times at lower temperatures — thereby reducing the potentially harmful chemicals produced when foods are cooked at intense, high temperatures — maintaining constant temperature control is important.

Cons: Neither gas nor propane is a renewable resource, and grilled food doesn't taste quite as good as it does when made on a charcoal grill.


Pros: It's no wonder fast-food chains use the taste of flame- and char-broiling as a selling point — the tastiest burgers undoubtedly come from charcoal-fueled grills. Plus, charcoal is derived from trees, a renewable resource.

Cons: Unfortunately, charcoal grills can cause hefty environmental damage, since burning charcoal releases soot and other pollutants into the air. They're also not quite as user-friendly as gas grills, since they require a longer amount of time to heat up, and you can't control the temperature as easily.


Pros: Electric grills don't produce carbon dioxide, and it's possible to make the electric grill the greenest grill option, hands down, if you generate your electricity with wind or solar power. No matter what, just remember to unplug your electric grill when not in use.

Cons: Unless you do use wind or solar power to run your electric grill, electric grilling could actually be a bigger pollution culprit than gas or charcoal because of the fossil fuel emissions created when producing and transmitting electricity.

Picking cleaner fuel: What can you do to make the best of what you have? Read now!

Greening the process: How can you repurpose household items for grilling tools? Read now!

Cleaning up properly: Where does the ash go? Read now!

Do you have any any other tips to make grilling environmentally friendly (and still tasty and fun)? Share them in the comments below!

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan

I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.