You've gotta love summer and the smell of barbecue in the air as you stroll through the neighborhood at dinner time.
But as colleague Moises Velasquez-Manoff noted in a post over at Bright Green Blog, a researcher in Switzerland posits that unless you're 'cueing with gas, your green credentials are tarnished. You can read a short summary here of his study on gas barbecue versus charcoal.
Over at ClimateProgress.org, blogger Joe Romm points out the path to at least partial redemption for those of us who have chucked the gas grill in favor of a more primeval approach to outdoor cooking.
1. Avoid starter fluid. That mantra's been deeply etched into the spatula handle in our end of the neighborhood for years. And, frankly, it comes highly recommended by grilling aficionados as a way of keeping the ugly tang of petroleum byproducts from interfering with the taste of your dry rub or mopping sauce.
Instead, replace the fluid with a chimney -- basically a metal cylinder with a handle, a grate near the bottom, and some holes at around the bottom for ventilation.
The recipe is simple: Three broadsheet pages of crumpled newspaper underneath the grate, briquettes loaded into the top up to the rim (unless you're cooking for one or two, when smaller amounts will do), and a match or two applied to the paper. Ten minutes later, grill-ready coals.
Although this does beg the question of what we'll use to stoke the chimneys once the last newspaper goes web-only. Maybe crumple up a Kindle or two?
2. Use eco-friendly charcoal, rather than the standard stuff you find in the grocery store or stacked up at your local home-improvement store. Joe's found a neat website that lists environmentally friendly charcoal brands (yes, there are such things) and where you can buy them.
As for gas? Hey, to each her own. But at this end of our neighborhood, gas is too close to instant gratification for comfort. Charcoal breeds patience. In a world already moving too quickly, it forces the match-holder to slow down and, if not smell the roses, at least sniff the scent of mesquite or hickory.
And in our neighborhood's general climate (in the atmospheric sense of the word), one has to replace the innards of a gas grill once every couple of years. It's almost like having to buy a new grill every two or three years. The oldest of two charcoal-fired smokers on the back deck has been around for a decade and is still going strong.
If you've got a gas grill and you like it, keep it. A well-earned gold star for you.
If you've got the yen for charcoal, however, feed it with something other than the usual cast of briquette suspects. That, plus using a chimney, earns you at least a bronze star. Maybe even a silver one.