Summer's Sustainable BBQ: Flavours, Fuels and Cooking Facts
Everyone’s favourite summer meal is set to be even more popular this year as we all take advantage of staycations and enjoy our outdoor spaces with loved ones and friends. And whilst we all have our favourite BBQ recipes nailed, however, many of us are unaware how or what we're cooking may impact the environment.
“So many of us are doing our best to make small changes to ensure we live more sustainably,” says Taylor Gathercole, outdoor living expert and founder of purpose-led ethical fireside living brand, Kindwood. “What we’re continually learning is that sustainable changes don’t have to be drastic or painful; you can succeed in living sustainably with some simple swaps combined with some old-fashioned forward planning.”
“One simple change we can all make this summer is our approach to the great British BBQ. From what fuel we’re using to what we’re grilling, small variations to our shopping or cooking techniques can make a big difference."
“Locally sourced, natural fuels should be the basic ingredient for any green barbecue, with fresh, seasonal produce forming the basis of all meals. And this doesn’t mean sacrificing on flavour.”
Read on to find out Taylor’s tips of how to make the most of your BBQ whilst looking after the planet.
Different fuels for different flavours…
Many don’t realise that the fuel you use in your BBQ vastly changes the flavour of your food. The most flavourful options are wood and charcoal, both of which infuse ingredients with rich, smoky undertones and if sourced correctly are perfectly sustainable options.
When building up the BBQ start with the kindling and then add in the larger pieces of wood over the top - teepee style. Airflow is essential for creating the optimal slow and steady burn so make sure not to pack the wood too tightly.
Charcoal is another excellent option for deep smoky flavours. To start a charcoal BBQ place the charcoal on the grate away from the edges in order to keep the fire contained and therefore focused on the food. Using natural firelighters will ensure the charcoal ignites quickly, and don’t be put off by the smoke - it will clear once the fire gets going.
The burning of wood fuel can be highly sustainable so long as the wood is sourced correctly, and in order for woodlands to be managed properly, it is imperative they are thinned out.
Harvesting small amounts of trees and thinning woodland, ensures the trees have the space and light needed to grow and thrive, and is actually one of the key ways we can help to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
And rather than letting the cut wood from thinned woodland go to waste, Brits should be encouraged to use this by-product for their summer BBQ.
When cooking with wood a key consideration is the burn time. Slow and steady is the goal for barbecuing and using wood with a low moisture content is essential for this. Opting for certified Ready to Burn wood, with a moisture content of less than 20%, ensures your BBQ will emit less smoke and as such will help to reduce pollution and improve air quality.
It's fairly common knowledge that meat and dairy farming can contribute enormously to emissions of harmful greenhouse gases. So for those that prefer to go without, it is easier than ever to find and make delicious vegan food, and choosing locally sourced, seasonal ingredients is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. A classic veggie skewer in a tangy and herby marinade is always a sure winner.
When feeling more adventurous you can use your BBQ to cook a range of breads for your meal. A charred flatbread would pair perfectly with a vegan burger and a spread of grilled vegetables. Make sure you brush the dough with an olive oil and rosemary mixture to add flavour, good enough to eat on its own.
To make your salads pop grill some corn on the cob over your charcoal flame to infuse them with a really deep flavour before cutting off the kernels to add to a salad or salsa. If spice is your thing then turn up the heat by adding chillies to the grill, perfect for adding a punch to any dish.
For the carnivores...
Many people don’t realise that there are several ways to enjoy meat in a sustainable manner, but you have to be meticulous. One of the most important aspects is for the meat to be British and grass-fed, avoiding transport emissions and water involved in livestock feed. Soil is one of the best places to naturally store carbon and mixing livestock and crops means artificial fertilisers can be avoided. Farms that genuinely use regenerative agriculture therefore produce meat that helps to balance their environment. Few of our favourite farms implementing regenerative agriculture: Deepdale Farm, Old Hall Farm, Pipers Farm
It’s also worth considering less intensively farmed meats such as venison. In the UK there is a huge supply as the their natural predators are now rare. Deer populations are often culled in order to ensure they don’t encroach on farmland so using this meat on your summer BBQ is a great way to ensure you aren’t contributing to unnecessary emissions.
Turn up the heat…
Different temperatures create varying flavours and textures in your barbecuing. Ensuring you aren’t using too high or low a heat for your dish means you will also avoid unnecessary energy outputs from your fuel.
Smoking is the lowest temperature, and is best used for more heavy cuts of meat or fish. It also ensures that the fuel isn’t going to waste. Low-moisture wood that burns slow and steady is ideal for this kind of cooking.
The next temperature up is barbecuing proper; ideal for infusing your food with an authentic flavour without taking too long or using up too much fuel. Plan ahead and pre-marinade ingredients in order that you can move the food on and off the grill in a timely fashion and avoid food going cold between cooking and eating.
Finally, at the highest temperature, is grilling; perfect for adding fast and intense flavour. For a sweeter BBQ option grill watermelon and peaches and serve with fresh ice-cream. A sweet treat that will impress BBQ guests young and old!