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Now that summer is here, think about how you can save energy with your grill and cook delicious food with minimal cost to you or the environment.
Summer has finally arrived! And with it comes the perfect weather for heating up your grill and cooking some delicious BBQ. Of course, if you’re here, you likely want to make sure that your evening grilling is costing both you and the environment as little as possible. Now that you’re saving energy thanks to your spring cleaning, it’s time to think about some summer savings instead, from air conditioning to family gatherings.
In this article, we’ll give you all the tips and tricks you need to save energy with your grill, which will enable you to also save money and minimize your environmental impact. We’ll also recommend our picks for grills in case you’re on the lookout for something new.
But first, let’s begin by clarifying the different types of grills you might see.
Get the Right Type of Grill
Cooking food directly over a wood fire is the oldest method of grilling. However, it is far from the best. While cooking over wood adds a fantastic smoky flavor, it also results in significant air pollution from the generated soot. You might hear about pellet grills. These are wood grills that run on small wooden pellets. Such wood grills do represent a fairly cost-effective solution at only about $0.76 per hour of cooking. But the harmful environmental impact makes these an overall poor choice.
Charcoal is perhaps the most popular method of grill cooking. Most traditional grills utilize charcoal, and many swear by the flavor it adds to your food. Unfortunately, for those who like that flavor, charcoal is both expensive and harmful to the environment. Like wood, charcoal releases ash into the air when burnt. Its environmental impact is actually three times that of a propane grill! It also costs a whopping $2.85 for a single hour’s worth of grilling. So avoid picking up a charcoal grill if you can help it. And if you already have one, consider replacing it with a cleaner (and cheaper) alternative.
Electric grills are relatively new, made most famous by the George Foreman brand. They represent a far cleaner solution than wood or charcoal grills since they simply run off the same electricity you use in your home. Electric grills are also the cheapest type of grill, costing only an estimated $0.26 per hour. If you happen to have access to a renewable energy source like solar panels, then this easily becomes the best possible solution with no cost and zero environmental impact.
Where electric grills lose out are in portability and flavor. They typically require a power cord connecting them to a nearby outlet. They also lack the charred taste one expects from a wood or charcoal grill, lessening the impact of your barbeque. If you can see past those downsides, however, electric grills are a cheap, sustainable investment.
Our Recommendation for Electric Grill: George Foreman Indoor/Outdoor Electric Grill
There’s a reason George Foreman has become such a household name. This grill offers you excellent value. And with enough space to cook up to 15 servings at once, it should be more than big enough for an average family’s needs. Features such as temperature control and nonstick coating make it easier to clean and to get just the right cook. And perhaps most excitingly, it’s rated for use indoors as well as out. With this grill, you’ll never have to worry about your barbeque getting rained out again!
Gas grills have become one of the most popular alternatives to traditional coal grills. They can still impart some of the smoked flavor you’re looking for from your barbeque. Though not as cheap as wood or electric grills at about $1.20 per hour of use, they still cost less than half what coal will.
You might expect their main drawback to be their impact on the environment. However, gas grills may actually be more environmentally friendly than even electric grills depending on your home’s electricity sources. The carbon footprint of propane or natural gas is arguably less than what it takes your power company to generate an equitable amount of electricity (although this will of course depend on where you live). If you’re willing to accept the slightly higher associated upfront cost, a gas grill may represent an ideal solution for energy efficient grilling.
Our Recommendation for Gas Grill: Char-Broil 4-Burner Liquid Propane Gas Grill
Though significantly pricier than the George Foreman, this larger grill includes additional features such as warming racks and side burners. If you’re looking for a more formidable grill for larger outdoor barbeques, this one might be for you. Just be aware that you will need to acquire your own propane tanks to power it. Despite that hassle and upfront cost, this grill won’t disappoint with the potential for even cleaner energy as well as superior flavoring.
Save Energy with Your Grill Compared to an Oven
Types of Ovens
While gas and electric grills represent the best that grills have to offer, you might be wondering how they compare to cooking in your typical oven. Most ovens similarly run on either gas or electricity. Given the cheaper cost of electric grills compared to their gas counterparts, you might expect the same to hold true for ovens. Surprisingly though, gas ovens are almost four times as cost effective as ovens running on electricity. This is largely due to their quicker warm-up times, resulting in less time drawing power.
Whether gas or electric, ovens come in two main varieties: a conventional oven or a convection oven. Both are heated similarly from the bottom. The primary difference between the two is that convection ovens use fans to circulate air throughout the oven, resulting in a more even dispersal of heat. As a result, convection ovens are almost 20 percent more efficient than conventional ovens.
The Benefits of Grilling
So, do you save energy cooking with your grill compared to your oven? Your average electric grill consumes around 1200 to 1500 watts of power while running. Conversely, an electric oven uses an average of 2400 watts—about twice as much—while on medium or high heat. Even accounting for the added efficiency of a convection oven, your electric grill is simply more efficient to run.
Gas grills and ovens are bit harder to compare directly, but you’re likely to see similar results. In both cases, cooking outside on the grill can also reduce heat generated in your home. This can, in turn, reduce the cost of keeping your house at a comfortable temperature, supplementing other energy efficient cooling solutions.
Seven Tips to Save Energy with Your Grill
Regardless of the type of grill you opt for, there are several tricks you can use to further reduce your power consumption in order to save money and save energy with your grill.
1. Chop your food into smaller pieces before cooking.
The longer you have the grill running, the more energy it will take. One technique you can use is to chop your food into smaller pieces to facilitate cooking. A chicken breast cut into strips will cook much faster than a whole breast. That means you’ll be able to turn the grill off sooner so you can stop cooking and start eating!
2. Prepare your food ahead of time.
It can also help to prepare the food ahead of time. If you have the food marinated and prepped before you head out to the grill, that means less time wasted while you wait. Don’t turn the grill on until you have some food ready to toss on it. Grills heat up so fast that the pre-heat period required with ovens doesn’t necessarily apply, depending on the type of grill you use.
3. Cook more food at once.
Along the lines of these first two points, try to cook in larger batches. The more you cook at once, the more efficiently you can make use of the heat being generated and the less time you’ll need to keep the grill on. Your grill is generating the same amount of power and using up the same amount of fuel whether you have two hamburgers or ten cooking on it.
4. Don’t open the lid.
Keep the lid closed as much as possible while cooking to preserve heat (so, basically the opposite of the image above!). Just as you don’t want to open your oven while baking, don’t check constantly on your food while grilling. Every time you open the lid, you’ll let heat out that will need to be replenished, making the food take longer to cook. This, in turn, means the grill will need to use more power.
5. Turn your grill off as soon as you can.
Another way to save energy with your grill is to make sure you turn it off as soon as you’re done with it. There’s no reason to just leave the grill idling. Once your food is done, any extra energy spent by the grill is being wasted without any benefit.
6. Keep your grill well-maintained.
You can also reduce your energy expenditures by properly maintaining your grill. If you leave your grill dirty, that can require extra time and fuel before your next cook session burning away food residue. It can also potentially damage the grill over time, reducing its effectiveness.
7. Only use what you need.
Finally, consider exactly what functionality you really need from your grill each time you cook. Grills can include all kinds of additional features like warming areas or extra burners. If you’re not going to use them, turn them off so they aren’t wasting energy.
Prepare for Barbeque Season and Still Save Energy with Your Grill
Grilling can be a viable alternative to traditional cooking, utilizing less energy than conventional ovens and saving you money in the process. And that, of course, is on top of the great flavor and fun experience grilling offers. If you are going to grill, however, make sure you do so in a fiscally and environmentally responsible way. Consider opting for a gas or electric grill over a coal or wood one. And make sure to follow our tips to save energy with your grill when you use it!
Summer brings with it all kinds of fantastic opportunities, but that doesn’t excuse us from thinking about how we can better practice energy conservation in our daily lives. Now is the perfect time to think about changes you can make to cut down on your AC bills, such as investing in window energy efficiency or smart thermostats. And if you want to keep enhancing your energy-efficient lifestyle, be sure to subscribe to our blog so you can get all our latest content!