Summer BBQ season is upon us, but before you get cooking, read Jasper Baines’ tips for how to have a more sustainable barbecue.
Nothing is quite as quintessentially summery as a barbecue. If the weather is game, it is entirely possible to realise the wonderfully unique experience of a high-quality barbie: catching up with friends with a cold one in hand, while the scents of freshly cooking food and tunes mingle in the background. As idyllic as this image sounds, it is important to plan ahead because a rushed barbecue will inevitably lead to an unsustainable one. Don’t panic, as there are heaps of solutions to ensure that you’ll have a fantastic, sustainable barbecue.
Invest in a good grill
With over a million sold last year, linked to wildfires on Saddleworth Moore, Marsden Moor, Delph and Winter Hill, and inherently characteristic of our anachronistic single use culture; it’s clearly time to toss aluminium foil disposable barbecues on the scrapheap of the unwanted and unsustainable, alongside plastic bottles, plastic bags and ear buds. Instead, invest in a high-quality charcoal grill.
The Big Green Egg kamado-style grills are made out of handmade ceramic, which is less polluting to make, and the unique kamado design means that there is higher heat maintenance leading to lower levels of charcoal wastage than traditional grills. Furthermore, it has a life-time guarantee so it is certainly a worthwhile investment if you’re looking to be a long-term pit master.
If you’re looking for a short-term solution, CasusGrill is made from FSC-certified cardboard while the grill rack is made from bamboo. The cardboard is lined with lava stone which ensures a high cooking temperature to properly grill your food. Furthermore, CasusGrill’s are entirely bio-degradable, so you can dispose of your grill in good conscience. Alternatively, it is always possible to hire a barbecue or, if you’re a social sort, borrow one from a mate.
Get sustainable, good fuel
Good fuel is key to any barbie, so that you ensure that your food is well cooked and imbued with that signature, smoky ‘BBQ’ flavour. Sustainably-sourced charcoal is carbon-neutral, and we recommend charcoal from The Oxford Charcoal Company or The Dorset Charcoal Company. Purchasing from these UKFS approved brands means you will be supporting the regeneration of local UK woodlands, as well as avoiding the polluting paraffin odours of chemical charcoals. Better quality charcoals also burn longer, so while on the surface it may seem more expensive, buying a more sustainable bag of charcoal will be a trusty ally in the many summer barbecues to come.
It is integral that your charcoal is sustainably-sourced, as some charcoals have been linked to mass deforestation in developing countries, so be sure to look for charcoal from native forests. Finally, make sure you choose wood-based firelighters; petrol-based firelighters smell bad, work bad and are bad – for the environment.
What to cook
Barbecues are synonymous with meat, but what’s the point of stoking up your mates for a feast, only then to serve cheap and poor quality (not to mention unsustainable) burgers and sausages?
Grilled veggies provide a solid plant-based alternative, with options as varied as crunchy gem lettuce, charred asparagus or grilled courgettes equally delicious and organically grown in the UK throughout the summer. Portobello mushrooms (stuffed with anything) are also guaranteed to convert even the most ardent meat-eater to the benefits of grilled vegetables. It is increasingly evident that the meat industry is a major contributor to world emissions, and for that reason, a veg-based barbie is definitely the more sustainable choice. If you’re going to grill meats or fish, choose lower-impact meats such as organic free-range chicken, or grass-fed and pasture-raised beef or lamb.
For dessert, in these hot months, ice creams and lollies are unrivalled essentials. Check out Alexandra Dudley’s tasty popsicle recipes to impress all your peers.
Barbecues often end with mounds of waste – a trend that everyone should be determined to phase out. With over 343 million tonnes of plastic waste discarded in the US in 2014, any alternative to plastic is essential to a sustainable barbie. Cut out those single-use plastic-flutes (irritatingly ubiquitous at parties), and invest in reusable cutlery, plates and cups that you can reuse at your next party too. Charity shops and second-hand stores are great for cutlery-sets, or check out these biodegradable palm leaf plates. For any food waste leftover, try home composting.
Remember – single-use is no use.
Keeping the barbie going
It’s a familiar feeling at a barbecue – waiting for your food as you suspiciously glance at someone’s plate; ‘hang on, hasn’t that bloke already had firsts?’
There are easy fixes to avoid dissatisfied mates or disgruntled cousins: snacks, dips and drinks. Stock up on plastic-free snacks like roasted nuts, seeds and sweets at your local bulk store. With dips, it can be tempting to buy the plastic-packaged houmous found at all local supermarkets, but it’s really easy to make your own home dips, which are not only taste great but are also plastic free. Last but not least: cold ones. Drinks are so important for ensuring that good vibes are flowing at a barbecue and keeping your guests suitably hydrated. If you want to really impress, serve up your own homemade alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails and mocktails. Crisp Coronas are the perfect summer beer: made even more refreshing by its sustainable initiative with Parley, which is revolutionising the beverage industry in order to protect the marine environment from plastic pollution.
For soft drinks, Karma Cola is a delicious and ethical alternative to traditional brands,which is also dedicated to the wellbeing of the land and people by which it is made – perfect for sustainably-minded young’uns.
If you are barbecuing this summer, please make sure that you observe the Fire Service’s Barbecue Safety Advice. We hope that the sun smiles on your barbie…Happy cooking!
See Alexandra’s plant-based BBQ recipes: Charred Asparagus With A Broad Bean And Radish Salsa and Charred Herby Gem Lettuce With Lemon And Macadamia
Discover 8 Refreshing Summer Drinks Recipes, perfect for accompanying your BBQ.