The next time you have everyone over at your place, remember that cooking the food on the grill is one mighty delicious and energy-saving solution to feed the crowd. As long as you’re giving your air conditioner a break by keeping the cooking heat outdoors, take a few extra steps to make your next cookout one that conserves resources and saves money.
Keep everyone outside: If the weather is hot, guests coming and going through your front and back doors can turn your party zone into a real energy waster, with the excess warm air rushing in. If outside is where you want people, place directional signs in the front yard to keep arrivals from trafficking through your house, and set up your party stations so people stay put. Borrow patio sets and tables from neighbors so there’s more than enough seating for people to cluster, socialize and eat comfortably.
If hot temperatures are likely, schedule the party for the evening hours, when the sun is less intense and the heat starts to back off.
Skip the fridge: Even if you have a refrigerator in your garage, don’t use it to store party beverages, or this appliance will run overtime to keep up with frequent door openings. Instead, keep cold drinks and plenty of ice handy and easy to access in coolers. (It also removes another reason for people to go inside.) For longer-lasting ice, pre-chill cans and bottles in the fridge.
Cook strategically: When it comes to prepping tasty sides and desserts, do your cooking and baking ahead of time, preferably in the morning or evening, when it’s cooler. Use window fans instead of your A/C to remove the extra heat during this time, and direct the airflow into the outdoors.
Use the dinner plates: Disposable plates and cutlery makes cleanup a snap. But who likes cutting a nicely charred hunk of meat with a plastic knife, especially if it’s on a flimsy paper plate? We don’t either. Go ahead and cut back on trash and serve your grilled masterpieces on the real plates and cutlery. it will not only make the meal feel more special, it will also reduce waste.
Preheat your grill: Whatever you have, charcoal or propane, you need to give your grill ample time to preheat — but don’t wait too long or you’ll just end up wasting fuel. To save time and cut the guesswork from gauging your grill readiness, invest in a grill thermometer so you always start cooking at the right time. The ideal temperature for classic char-broiled meats is 500 degrees Fahrenheit. For entrees that require indirect heat, aim for 350 degrees.
Be prepared: Before you preheat, make sure all your supplies and ingredients are by your side, so once the fire starts, you’re good to go. Make sure there’s ample fuel, keep your utensils handy, and gather up all those spices, seasonings and oils for those delicious rubs and marinades. Don’t forget to check your supply of condiments and buns so you don’t waste gas (and delay dinner) with a last-minute trip to the store.
Cover your grill: During cooking, just keep the grill covered and let the fire do its magic. If you constantly open the grill, you could easily double the cooking time (and waste fuel). As a rule of thumb, this is how long different meats should cook on the grill:
- Steaks: 4-5 minutes per side
- Burgers: 3 minutes per side
- Pork chops (3/4-inch thick): 3-4 minutes per side
- Bone-in chicken breasts: 10-15 minutes per side
Of course, to avoid foodborne illnesses, use a food thermometer to make sure all meats are cooked to a safe temperature.
Encourage recycling: Set up clearly marked containers for trash and recyclable waste. Even better, if you happen to have a composting bin, set up a third container for paper napkins and food scraps.
Using these green grilling tips for your cookout is a practical way to stretch your resources, but it may also save you a few bucks.