The Thrill of Greener Grilling

The smell of barbeque is a hallmark of summertime’s arrival. Whether gas or charcoal is the grill of choice, most folks with a patio, stoop or other outdoor escape enjoy cooking out of doors as the days grow longer. But that classic summertime scent contains two potentially carcinogenic compounds: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) created by fats dripping onto the heat source, and heterocyclic amines (HCAs), produced by the burning of said heat source (charcoal or wood). Following are some tools to help keep the grilling experience healthful without sacrificing that outdoor taste.

greener grilling

Little Griddle

Little Griddle is a Michigan-based manufacturer of stainless steel griddles in several styles to fit both rectangular and kettle-style grills. The Griddle-Q ($170–$210) is manufactured in the U.S.; the smaller, lighter weight and less expensive Sizzle-Q ($70) is made in China. Adding a griddle to one’s grill top not only improves the healthfulness of the food being cooked but also expands the chef’s options. Its drip trough catches any fat before it reaches the flame and results in PAHs. Veggie burgers, especially the kind composed of chopped vegetables versus textured vegetable protein, hold up better on a griddle than directly on the grill; it’s a prime surface for cooking an array of foods, including vegetables and grilled fruits, fish, quesadillas, pancakes and eggs. The griddle also serves to handily segregate meat from animal-free fare when one’s cooking for mixed company. And here’s the true selling point for the Little Griddle line of products: Even those who eat meat don’t want to smell its lingering odor days later in the couch cushions. If one domestic partner craves bacon and the other can’t bear the thought, never mind smell, of it, moving all meat-frying activity out of the house and onto a griddle may help lessen tensions produced in a dietary divide. Further pleasing to vegan householders, these griddles need never grace the kitchen sink, as they clean up easily outside with a scrubbing tool.

greener grilling

GrillStone Cleaning Block

Speaking of cleanup, the GrillStone Cleaning Block is an ingenious product to degrime your home grill or that one at the public park crusted with years of carbon detritus—no VOC-producing solvents required. The “stone”—which is made from recycled glass—looks and feels like soft pumice and can be used on its own ($4.50) or in combination with a handle ($6), and on either hot or cold surfaces. Each block lasts for several uses, depending on how grubby the surface and the amount of pressure applied (a lighter touch is actually better).

greener grilling


The FlameDisk ($5), an ethanol-fuel alternative to charcoal the size of a pie plate, has been around for a few seasons now, but its parent company recently changed when the FlameDisk was acquired by BIC, maker of disposable lighters, razors and pens. This association might steer some conservationists away from the one-time-use barbeque fuel. Yet the FlameDisk is made from recyclable aluminum, and it both cooks and is disposed of more cleanly than coal, which produces carcinogenic HCAs when burned. It’s also very convenient to have on hand for an impromptu cookout at the park or beach—especially if reaching one’s destination by bicycle or public transit, when portability’s a main concern. (Incidentally, TerraCycle and BIC have launched a recycling campaign in France, where BIC’s largest factory is located, to get all those pens out of the waste stream. A similar initiative is available in the U.S. through the TerraCycle Brigades program.)

greener grilling


Grilling Apron

How better to suit up for this barbeque season than in the NPR Recycled Cotton Grilling Apron ($32)? While public radio logos appear on tote bags and T-shirts proudly sported by listening members of their local affiliates, there’s an online store where one can support National Public Radio any time of the year, not just during a pledge drive. The apron has adjustable neck and side ties, and several large front pockets (containing an oven mitt and hand towel). A bottle opener’s included, too, for the fine summer brews and natural, small-batch pops that will accompany your greener grill fare.