Magazine article Sierra

Grill of My Dreams

Magazine article Sierra

Grill of My Dreams

Article excerpt

The outdoor barbecue is as much a part of summer afternoon as desultory softball games, rained-on picnics, and the smell of cut lawns. The season seems scarcely complete without at least one ritual charring of animal protein.

But when you fire up the backyard grill, you may be about to disrupt more than the digestive tracts of your friends and relatives. The lighter fluid commonly used to get barbecue charcoal flaming is a source of troublesome hydrocarbons, a key culprit in the formation of smog. The burning coals themselves give off nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide; even the meat being grilled puts particulates in the air.

Barbecue pollution is considered enough of a problem in California that the state Air Resources Board has regulated the sale of lighter fluid and presoaked briquets. Beginning in 1993, no "barbecue aid" that emits more than 0.02 pounds of pollutants per use will be sold.

Various low-smog cube and gel firestarters that meet the new standards have begun to appear on the shelves, but the simplest way to fire up remains the "chimney starter." A metal device shaped something like a beer stein with a wooden handle;l it burns newspaper or tinder in a ventilated compartment that funnels heat to a scoop of briquets, getting them glowing in 15 minutes or so. (If that seems like a long time to wait, clock yourself next time you build a fire by the "douse-and-duck" petrochemical method.)

Several companies now offer "natural" barbecue charcoal made from orchard prunings or non-lumber-grade timber, held together with vegetable starches rather than the blend of petroleum or coal with borax, limestone, and sodium nitrate that binds most standard briquets. …

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