Dear Umbra,

What sort of grill (charcoal or gas) is the fairest of them all — speaking from an environmentalist’s viewpoint, of course!

R. Widiss

Dearest R.,

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Gas. I gather that lively debate exists in the barbecue set over which yields better flavor: the briquettes, with their flavorful smoke and irregular heat, or boring old gas, which cooks evenly and imparts fewer smoky (aka burnt) flavors to the object de grill. Not much debate over the environmental results, though: Burning charcoal gives off more nasty particulates and chemicals. And if you’re carnivorous, you’re doubly culpable: cooking beef can be worse for air quality than the charcoal itself. Burnt cow gives off that particulate matter we’ve talked about so often — the stuff that causes respiratory problems, and may have some carcinogenic properties as well. Choose gas if you can, and minimize smoke and heat if you can’t.

Or, join the raw food caravan.


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