Are Wood Pellets Greener than Charcoal?
by Mary Logan Barmeyer
The Green Guide responds:
Like the "paper or plastic?" debate, there's no real winner when deciding between charcoal and propane. These wood pellets are a greener third alternative, but they come with problems of their own.
Both wood pellets and charcoal start out as trees, but charcoal is charred and converted into briquettes that contain unhealthy ingredients like coal dust and sodium nitrate. Wood pellets, however, are left untreated and don't contain these harmful additives. The fact that they both come from wood also raises the issue of deforestation: Because of federal health standards, pellets used for grilling can't be made from recycled materials, which means they have to be sourced from virgin wood, a representative from wood pellet grill manufacturer explained. Wood Pellet wood come from several different sources, including private orchards and furniture manufacturers, which are better than getting wood from old-growth forests. Charcoal also has to come from virgin wood, but there are brands, like Whole Foods 365, that use well-managed wood. Finally, burning charcoal produces more greenhouse gas emissions than wood, but burning wood releases smoke and ashes into the air, triggering respiratory irritation.
Wood pellets could gain the upper hand, though, when it comes to flavor, because you can buy pellets from different types of hardwoods, such as apple and cherry, to suit your taste. This is a healthy (and tasty) alternative to conventional charcoal and lighter fluid, which is a petroleum distillate that emits volatile organic compounds.
Given the flavor issues and charcoal's contributions to atmospheric greenhouse gases, wood pellets are a better alternative. But keep in mind that the most efficient way to use these chips is to purchase a brand new wood pellet grill, which doesn't make a very green option if you already have a perfectly functioning charcoal or gas grill. If you are replacing an existing grill, consider the greenest of all options: solar.
Wood Pellet Grills Emviromental Impact Facts:
Wood pellet grills use a natural biomass wood pellet fuel. No fossil fuels of any kind are used in the combustion process. Wood Pellet Grills are the environmentally responsible way to cook outdoors.
Wood pellet grills utilize an in-direct cooking system that "reduces the fat" and charring, decreasing cancer causing "benzo-a-pyrene" on food. The hardwood smoke created by our wood pellets produces antioxidents similar to vitamin E. Wood pellet grills are a healthier way to cook.
Some Wood Pellets are made from 100% recycled hardwood sawdust. Through partnerships with hardwood furniture manufacturers, these wood pellets add economic value to materials that were once considered "waste", creating new business, products and jobs. This use of sawdust, previously burned or placed in landfills, results in significant economic, social, and environmental benefits.
The burn system in every wood pellet grill is capable of a combustion efficiency rate of 98.8% with an extremely high "fuel to air" ratio. This means low emissions and a lower carbon footprint.
Also, INDIRECT COOKING:
The other exclusive essential feature of wood pellet grilling is indirect cooking. Like a convection oven, the wood pellet grill cooks ONLY with hot air swirling around the food. Unlike gas or charcoal, there is no direct heat from the bottom or top.
Not only does the food taste better because heat and smoke surround the food, indirect cooking is the most healthy way to cook. In all other grills, cancer causing carcinogens are caused by fat dripping onto the heat (source causing flair-ups and blacken crusts PAH-filled smoke coats the food. Wood Pellet Grills have two shields between the food and heat source and the fat drippings are channeled out of the cooking chamber into an external bucket. Fat never has a chance to drip into the fire.
Where There's Smoke, There's Cancer Risk
Grilling meat, poultry, or fish, whether over wood, charcoal, or gas, exposes the food -- and whoever eats it -- to two separate carcinogens, or cancer-causing agents. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are found in the smoke created when fat drips from meat, chicken skin, or fatty fish (such as salmon) onto a heat source. The PAH-filled smoke coats the food, which we then ingest.