Say goodbye to gas grills and hello charming charcoal.
Come rain or shine, us Brits love a barbecue, and with the latest coal-cooking trend hitting our shores, Britain has been proudly named the barbecue capital of Europe. Whilst we have become a lot more adventurous with what tasty treats hit the grill, what we light our fire with still remains a burning question.
As we sit back with a cold beer and bask in the sun waiting for barbie to become smoking hot, have we ever considered the environmental impact traditional barbecuing has?
Whether its for their ease of cooking, or simply down to neighbour-rivalry, gas barbecue has never been so big, brash and multifunctional than they are today. Great for achieving consistent cooking conditions – helping to avoid the dubiously cooked chicken, or cremated burger – it is not surprising newbies to this way of alfresco cooking prefer the assurance of a gas grill. However, regardless of whether you opt to use propane or butane, they are ultimately fossil fuels silently contributing to global carbon levels.
So for a carbon neutral option, it would be advised to grab yourself a bag of charcoal – but that is a minefield in itself.
Cheap and easily accessible ‘run-of-the-mill’ charcoal, widely known as briquettes, is long lasting barbecue fuel recognised for its consistent temperature. Often made up from clear-felling of environmentally sensitive areas, not only do briquettes tend to be a bi-product of global deforestation, but are doused in volatile chemicals that help to promptly light up your barbie. Whether these chemicals taint the food itself is an ongoing debate, however, you will struggle to ever reach a rich, intense smoky flavour – this seems to only be authentically achieved when using a truly natural fuel source.
The most sustainable, environmentally friendly, and flavour enhancing option however is widely available. Either purchased online and delivered effortlessly to your door, or sourced at most good outdoor retailers, the solution it seems would be local lumpwood.
Sourced from managed woodlands and forests up and down the country, lumped charcoal is typically taken from coppiced trees such as oak, hazel, sweet chestnut and ash. A regenerative process that encourages the growth of new shoots and rapid regrowth of the stump, the production of lumpwood charcoal not only enhances the natural environment in which it is sourced, but goes some way to supporting small enterprises and environmental organisations such as the Wildlife Trusts.
With more of a natural, open structure, lumpwood charcoal lights at the strike of a match, meaning the need for artificial firelighters is eliminated. The smokey flavours that the burning wood produces is therefore natural and organic, and ideal for locking into your barbecued ingredients to achieve that authentic, rich smokey aroma.
Due to its efficiency, lumpwood has the tendency to burn at a higher temperature, therefore takes a little more attention and sometimes a little practice! Having said that, lumpwood is easily controlled by oxygen levels so works perfectly in a barbecue with in-built ventilation.
Lighting easily and heating quickly, your barbecue will be ready for cooking within 15 minutes – surely thats just enough time for a beer!
Words by Helen Upshall