Before firing up your grill for a cookout, check out these simple—and surprising!—ways to lessen your eco-impact and barbecue healthier. Did you know gas beats charcoal every time? Or that besides making meat delicious, marinades can be good for you, too? With a little planning, you can grill safer, healthier, and greener.
1. Go gas, chuck charcoal. Research shows that a charcoal grill’s carbon footprint is three times greater than a gas grill’s. Fat dripping onto coals creates that smoky aroma you might savor—but it also emits cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Plus, charcoal-churned soot irritates lungs, and lighter fluid squirted onto hot briquettes wafts up and soaks into your food. Eww.
2. Marinate meat. Cooking beef, chicken, pork, fish, and other animal proteins over an open flame kicks up carcinogens called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). But marinating meats in antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, olive oil, or even beer before grilling can cut down on cancer-causing compounds. Here’s a simple marinade that’s been proven to curb HCA production: rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, and olive oil. Also try marinating beef, chicken, and fish with tomatoes, peppers, and onions, or use lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit juice. Test-drive our popular recipes for Grapefruit Juice, Ginger and Honey Flank Steak and Lime-Marinated Grilled Salmon Wraps.
3. Trim the fat. Your healthiest meat choices are the leanest cuts, but if you pick a steak, pork chop, or chicken with an outer rim of fat, slice it off before grilling. Besides cutting calories, you’re also trimming off the chunks most likely to char and harbor carcinogens.
4. Precook meat. To decrease grilling time and cut down on carcinogen exposure—and to crank out the main course quicker for your guests to get eatin’—preheat meat in the microwave or stove. You can still score that smoky flavor by transferring partially cooked meat to the preheated grill to finish it off.
5. Grill veggies & fruit instead. Since they lack meat’s HCA-producing proteins and amino acids, vegetables and fruits are safer to grill—and super tasty, too. Get creative! Try tossing avocado, Romaine lettuce, radishes, and your favorite fruit on the barbie. Find more Unexpected Grilling recipes.
6. Create less waste. Recycle all aluminum foil used on the grill (just rinse it first, like you do with aluminum cans). Compost produce scraps in your garden instead of trashing them. And if you’re hosting so many folks that offering reusable dishes and silverware would create a huge headache, purchase compostable cups, cutlery, and paper plates.
Ready to relish in healthy, green grilling this summer? We can’t wait! If you have more healthy, earth-friendly barbecuing tips, please share below.