A New Generation of Barbecue Grill?

One of the things that distinguish us from other animals besides an opposable thumb is the ability to make fire. Nobody knows for certain, but early man probably used fire for warmth and protection first. It was probably discovered when lightening struck a tree and after a few blistered fingers, curious man figured out how to use it to keep from freezing. Then one cold night huddled over a fire and having dinner, someone dropped some of the meat into the glowing coals, dug it out and tasted it. It was good, very good.

Over the years, many other methods of cooking would be discovered. Baking, boiling, steaming, frying, all would have their place. But the original cooking method, cooking food over an open flame, would still be the purest and best way. Some 77 percent of all U.S. households own a barbecue grill and 58 percent of them use their grills year round and 45 percent of owners grilled once or twice a week, May through September. The Fourth of July is the most popular day of the year to barbecue with some 69 percent of those who have grills doing it on that day. (Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association, 2007 survey)

But over the years the technology of barbecuing has pretty much stayed the same. Other than the development of charcoal briquettes and self-starting charcoal, not much has really changed. Barbecue grills come in all shapes and sizes and quality but the basic design is still a round or square container with a grid on the bottom to hold the charcoal, a lid to keep in the smoke, and a cooking surface to place the food on. Some have warming decks or spits and places to hang your utensils, but that is about it. And even with the lid, you still have the problem of smoke blowing in your face and polluting the environment. According to a 2003 study at the Energy department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, if 60 million American households fire up their grill at the same time it’s like burning the equivalent of 2,300 acres of forest.

But now, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, (www.stltoday.com) a local Clayton company called Metaphase has created an environmentally friendlier more ergonomic charcoal grill. It cooks and steams on different surfaces, uses 75 percent less charcoal, and has no sharp corners. The cooking surfaces also swing out to keep the smoke out of the cook’s face. They also plan to market a more natural type of charcoal from the Philippines that is made from coconut shells. The traditional-looking briquettes light quickly and emit a white vapor instead of a chemical-laden black smoke. Add a few wood chips and you have all of the traditional flavor without all of the pollution.

Currently the grill is only being sold at a few Lowes stores in the barbecue intensive South, but if it does well there it will be available nationwide.

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