Burning green and embracing change
May 14, 2014,
George stephen had An idea that would go on to revolutionize the way Americans cook.
In 1952, Stephen introduced an invention he called “George’s Barbecue Kettle.” His neighbors called it “Sputnik,” after the Russian satellite of the same name. According to the Weber website, the “kettle” was originally made of buoy parts in a Chicago sheet metal shop Stephen owned.
In contrast, the outdoor cooking industry spawned by that grill has seen dramatic change. Now more than 85% of U.S. households own a grill or smoker, according the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association.
Innovation, as well as the incorporation of the green movement, continue to drive that change and bring more people to outdoor cooking. charcoal. What they don’t specifically call out is the adoption of what some consider to be eco-friendly solid fuel sources such as bamboo and coconut.
|With more people demanding products that embrace sustainability, charcoal manufacturers are rising to meet new public preferences. Lazzari Fuel Company uses mesquite wood that comes from weak clusters of trees, prunes heavy mature branches that are closest to the ground, even picks up dead wood that has fallen out of the trees. (Photo courtesy of Lazzari Fuel Company.)|
|(above and left) An eco-friendly and hot-burning fuel source, bamboo is gaining in popularity with grillers because it burns clean and can be harvested in a sustainable manner. (Photo courtesy of Maya Bamboo.)|
Cassie LaCourse, founder of Austin, Texas-based Maya Bamboo, said attitudes toward grilling fuels are changing. Her company sells Hot Bambu, a charcoal made from bamboo. “Grillers are serious about their tools,” she said. “I can tell you about good ole’ boys who say, ‘Tell me about this.’ They try it and they come back” because they like how it performs.
While some like that bamboo charcoal can burn hotter and cleaner than traditional wood charcoal, others like knowing their fuel source is sustainable. “There is no clear cutting of forests or resource losses due to erosion,” LaCourse said.
Several charcoal manufacturers have turned to using wood that comes from forests monitored by the Forest Stewardship Council and Rainforest Alliance for sustainable harvesting practices. Others, such as Lazzari Charcoal, go to great lengths to get their wood, working with a biologist to identify which wood gets cut. Some of their harvest methods include collecting dead-fallen wood and cutting dead standing wood.
Other alternative ecofriendly fuel materials exist. Greenlink International sells Kachi wood charcoal, made from mangrove trees. Afire offers KoKo Charcoal, which is made from coconut husks.
|Coconut husk is an alternative to traditional charcoals derived from woods. According to Afire, the company that manufactures KoKo Charcoal, this form of charcoal is a self-sustaining product that burns cleaner, hotter and longer. (Photo courtesy of Afire, Inc.)|
|The Grillbot features three cleaning brushes that chew up food baked onto grilling surfaces. (Photo courtesy of Grillbot, LLC.)|
CHANGING FOR THE BETTER
Innovation is a good thing. The marketplace needs those tinkerers and free thinkers to continue questioning the status quo. We need those people who resist the temptation to stop creating when others say, “That’ll never work,” or “That’s crazy.”
The grill industry has its fair share of people who are willing to ask “Why not do it this way?” Here are a couple of examples of that kind of thinking that made people put their palms to the forehead and say “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Lynx Grills has given us a glimpse of the future with its Smart Grill that will be available in 2015. No more reading cookbooks or figuring out burner settings. Grillers can simply tell the grill what they want to cook and it sets burners to the appropriate heat. It also tells them where to put things on the grill. It takes the guesswork out of grilling.
Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet launched its Hybrid Fire grill in 1998 and has been updating it ever since. The grill features a drawer between its burners and cooking surfaces, which gives outdoor cooks the ability to easily switch between cooking with any combination of gas, charcoal and wood. Simply load the drawer with wood or charcoal and light it with the burners below. The burners can be turned off for a pure solid fuel fire.
|The Rib-O-Lator extends the usefulness of a grill’s rotiserrie spit. Two X-shaped support brackets hold up to four perforated trays that can carry ribs, vegetables, fish, and more, giving outdoor cooks more room in their grills for indirect cooking. [Photo courtesy of The Rib-O-Lator.)|
|The Hybrid Fire grill uses drawers located between the grill’s burners and cooking surfaces to give outdoor cooks the freedom to combine the cooking fuels of charcoal and wood. (Photo courtesy of Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet.)|
Technology makes modern living easier and more efficient. For some, they don’t want a Bluetooth-this or an iPhone enabled-that. They just want something that works. Burton Plastics came up with the Cooked-Per’fect Complete meat thermometer. Just insert it into whatever meat you’re cooking and the heat-sensitive plastic tells you whether the food is rare, medium or well done. There are thermometers for pork, beef, fish and poultry.
It’s a beautiful sight: the meat Ferris wheel going round and round, carrying beef or pork through the beautiful warmth of charcoal or wood fire. You see them in smokers and commercial kitchens. The Rib-O-Lator does the same thing, but in medium-to-large sized grills. Just slide the Xshaped tray carriers over the grill’s rotisserie and add the trays. Load them up with food and you’ve got a great way to cook ribs, veggies, fish filets, etc. over subtle indirect heat.
Let’s face it: You’d rather have someone else clean the grill. Well, now there’s a robot for that chore. The Grillbot is a set-it and forget it grill cleaner. Put it on the grill, turn it on and it goes to work. Three motorized brass brushes grind off baked-on food residue. A computer chip tells the machine where to go so the whole cooking surface gets cleaned. When the job’s done Grillbot beeps to let you know.
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