Outdoor cooking on the barbecue and smoker is now becoming a serious leisure pastime. Certainly in England where the weather is not altogether reliable, the advent of wonderful contraptions such as umbrellas and patio heaters has made outdoor cooking an extremely pleasurable recreation. In fact so much so that you’ll see people lighting the barbecue in all weathers – a funny lot those English!
Speaking as one of that “funny lot”, an extremely enthusiastic fan of outdoor cooking and now a creator and purveyor of outdoor bbq recipes and free smoker recipes I thought is was I did some research into the subject of my chosen fuel of fun.
What concerns me is that I’m thoroughly enjoying myself lighting fires, grilling fish and steaks and washing it all down with a glass or two of the falling down water and yet I must be damaging the environment, mustn’t I? Charcoal comes from wood, so with all these barbecues there must be serious deforestation going on followed by greater transport costs to ship it from further afield and less trees to absorb the carbon dioxide greenhouse gas.
So in the spirit of my own education and learning I wanted to find out about how charcoal is made and as a result I’ve found out about the process of coppicing.
Coppicing is the cutting of a tree or shrub to ground level. Doing this stimulates the tree to sprout a number of new shoots and they grow very vigorously. Coppicing could be described as similar to pruning except that with coppicing all the wood is removed and not just a few branches. By cutting the tree or shrub to the ground, all dead, diseased and old wood gets removed and that can be put to good use. The tree now free of disease is able to grow as fast as possible and this makes for a thicker plant that is also better for wildlife.
Coppicing is carried out in cycles from one year to many years depending on the species of tree and what the wood is going to be used for. This means that a variety of coppicing activity will be taking place in a wood thereby ensuring the continuation of the ecology and an ongoing supply of wood.
Coppiced trees can survive for many centuries and perhaps one of the most astonishing facts about the English countryside is that very often the oldest trees are those that have been cut down the most! Add to this the fact that because it’s sustainable there aren’t truckloads of charcoal pounding the roads, it really is a local industry.
So now I can write my free smoker recipes for your enjoyment safe in the knowledge that outdoor cooking on the charcoal BBQ grill can remain my chosen method of relaxation and recreation.
Please note that this article is not a statement of scientific fact; it’s merely a way of absolving me of guilt at lighting a fire. Of course we need to be careful whenever the earth’s natural resources are consumed and I work on the principle that the cooking process itself is no more or less environmentally unfriendly that turning on the stove or the oven. Of course I maybe wrong but at least I feel happier knowing that I’m not contributing to serious deforestation.
Not all charcoal is produced the way I have described above so please be careful when buying charcoal to check that it does indeed come from a sustainable source.