I’m not advising you to forsake grilling this holiday and join the ranks of raw-foodists. Nor do I believe that we can reverse climate change by eating burgers rare instead of well done. But a little creative thinking can reduce this year’s Fourth of July carbon emissions without gustatory sacrifice. And maybe that awareness will carry into other days and other parts of our lives.
Consider potato salad: a pale mixture of boiled potatoes and mayonnaise that is sometimes appetizing but always wasteful. An overwhelming majority of the energy in boiling goes into heating the water rather than cooking the potatoes.
Direct-heat methods are more efficient and usually tastier. Cubed and pan-fried potatoes take just 10 minutes to cook and require less than one-third the energy of boiling. (According to my math, microwaving potatoes is about 40 percent more efficient than pan-frying them on an electric stove, but when I do it the potatoes come out rubbery, and that is too much sacrifice for a holiday.)