Monday, July 13, 2009

Summertime, and the grillin' is easy

I love my neighbors, but I'm not crazy about their barbeque. The smoke from the grill inevitably wafts into our upstairs window, making our mouths and eyes water. I can’t complain though; my teenager plays the drums, so what’s a little smoke among friends? Apparently, more than meets the eye…

Charcoal is a carbon-based fuel made up of charred wood or sawdust and other additives. Those ubiquitous briquettes that have become synonymous with summertime release air pollutants such as particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and soot as well as greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide.

According to an article in the July/August 2005 edition of Sierra magazine: "Nationwide, the estimated 60 million barbecues held on the Fourth of July alone consume enough energy—in the form of charcoal, lighter fluid, gas, and electricity—to power 20,000 households for a year. That one day of fun, food, and celebration, says Tristram West, a research scientist with the U.S. Department of Energy, burns the equivalent of 2,300 acres of forest and releases 225,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide."

Although there are all-natural briquettes, the most popular alternative, propane gas, emits a fraction of the CO2 that charcoal does. Still, it has its own problems. For starters, it is also a fossil fuel. In addition, purists claim gas-grilled hamburgers do not taste as good as their charbroiled counterparts; you might as well cook ‘em indoors.

One entrepreneur, who saw the demand for a more environmentally-friendly grill fuel, came up with the ultimate eco-grilling alternative—the uGO FlameDisk. The FlameDisk consists of solidified ethanol packaged in a 9 inch pie-shaped disk made of recyclable aluminum and paperboard.

When I met Chad Sorenson, co-founder, president, and company cook of SoloGear LLC, at the New York Go Green Expo, he assured me the FlameDisk produced the same delicious burgers and brats that charcoal produces with minimal effort and maximum portability. Although I'm cooking impaired, this seems to be something even I can use; just peel, light, and grill almost anywhere you want (except indoors) for up to 40 minutes.

In addition, because it is a biofuel rather than a fossil fuel, the ethanol in the FlameDisk purportedly only creates water and a negligible amount of carbon dioxide as byproducts. In a comparison between charcoal versus FlameDisk, Sorenson’s website claims particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and total hydrocarbon emissions were reduced by over 90 percent. And that, as they say, is nothing to sneeze at.

So I’ve gone ahead and put in my order. I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, stay cool…be green.


Anonymous said...

We have a propane BBQ. I couldn't imagine using briquettes again. Seems primitive. Something my grandparents would use way back in the day. Old school.

Steve Tremp

The Old Silly said...

I switched to propane a few years ago. Had to, we moved into a condo and it's the rules. I know it's healthier and more environmentally friendly, but gawd, the charcoal taste is still far superior, my opinion. :(

One thing you can do is get a wood chip holder to put inside the grill. The chips smolder and impart a flavor and aroma - be it Mesquite, Oak, whatever - that is ALMOST as good as the old charcoal flavor.

The Old Silly

Patricia Stoltey said...

It's hard to give up that good old charcoal flavor, but I've become ultra-sensitive to the fumes too. I have tried hickory chips and indirect heat with a closed grill -- that's not so bad.