We all love a BBQ. Nothing will beat the smokey caramelised flavour and golden crust that only those amber coals give to a burger. But while you might be becoming a lot more environmentally conscious in your kitchen, are you keeping it eco when it comes to the BBQ? From buying sustainable charcoal to celebrating offcuts and avoiding food waste, here are some easy ways to have a sustainable and ethical barbecue this summer:
1) Fuel to the fire
The most basic – and important – element of any barbecue is the fuel you use to start it. Most likely, you’ll be using charcoal (unless you have a gas barbecue) so think about where it comes from. A lot of the charcoal you buy on the high street is made from unsustainable wood. This means it’s probably imported and has chemicals added to it so that it burns better. Reduce your carbon footprint, help preserve endangered rainforests and avoid tainting your food by opting for UK-grown sustainable charcoal. Check out Tregothnan’s pure English charcoal from Kent – no chemicals, sustainably harvested and home-grown. Or look out for the ‘Grown in Britain’ symbol.
2) Trade up to quality meat
Forget battery-farmed chickens and value-packs of sausages. If you want a greener barbecue, it’s all about well-reared, higher-welfare meat. It’s not only far more ethical, it’s far superior in taste too. And if you have a good balance of quality meat and veggies (see below), it doesn’t need to cost the earth. Story Organic’s beef burgers come from their herd of slow-maturing, native-breed North and South Devon cows. They graze on pasture for as long as possible from early spring to late autumn, they’re free to roam and are fed a totally natural, 100% grass-based diet (read more here on why that’s a good thing for both animal welfare and the planet, too).
Kid goat meat is also emerging as a new and sustainable meat source. Just Kidding is a Wiltshire-based producer rearing male kid goats taken from the dairy industry. Commonly seen as a by-product, male kids are often killed at birth as they can’t produce milk. Just Kidding are rearing free-range, grass-fed kid goats as a sustainable meat alternative that would otherwise be wasted. Check out this guide to different kid goat cuts for your next BBQ.
3) Celebrate veggies
Barbecues don’t have to be all about the meat. Balancing quality, high-welfare meat with some delicious plant-based options is the best way to have an ethical barbecue. Embracing seasonal vegetables and cooking them well is a BBQ game-changer. Cook them on top of the grill in a roasting tray so that you can monitor the temperature and still get that smokey flavour.
Alternatively, throw them on the barbecue as it’s cooling down or over indirect heat. Think whole charred spring onions and corn on the cob, grilled avocado finished with a squeeze of lime juice, charred peppers and courgettes. Halve lemons and place them directly on the grill, then use tongs to squeeze the juice over your cooked meat and veggies at the end. Or try Greek Cypriot food writer and cook, Georgina Hayden’s ultimate grilled halloumi recipe with apricot jam.
4) Use fuel efficiently
Make use of a cooling barbecue to grill a fruity dessert. Grilled peaches or pineapple work wonders as a BBQ pud, especially with yoghurt or ice cream. Chuck whole vegetables, like potatoes, sweet potatoes and onions (especially onions!) directly into the hot coals. Wrap them first in recycled tin foil. By the time you’re done with cooking everything else, they’ll be deliciously tender.
5) Forget plastic
Did you know an estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic finds its way into the oceans every year? Avoid contributing to the problem and swap out plastic for palm leave plates and bamboo cutlery. Instead of loading up single-use plastic carrier bags, invest in a lightweight, durable picnic hamper that’ll keep your food safe and be your best friend for years to come.
6) What about leftovers?
Had one too many BBQ sausages but you’ve got a surplus? Make these meatballs by squeezing the pork meat from the skins, then follow the steps in the recipe. Leftover bread rolls? Dry them out in a low oven, then blitz into breadcrumbs and store in an airtight jar – delicious toasted and sprinkled over pasta bakes or for binding meatballs. Shred cooked meat into salads, sarnies or stews, and turn leftover baked potatoes into these fishcakes.