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Your outdoor grill may be more unhealthy than you think — but these all-electric BBQs are a safe, cost-effective alternative

All you need is an outlet close enough to reach, with or without an extension cord.

"All you need is an outlet close enough to reach, with or without an extension cord."

Photo Credit: iStock

While firing up the barbecue is a beloved American pastime, you might be surprised to learn just how unhealthy the "fire" part really is. 

If you use charcoal briquettes, they produce a shocking amount of toxic particles and chemicals. Meanwhile, both charcoal and other fuel sources — such as gas and propane — all create heat-trapping gases that escape into the atmosphere, where they harmfully raise the temperature of the planet.

So, is there a safe and healthy alternative that will still let you enjoy your burgers in peace? The answer is yes: an electric grill.

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What is an electric grill?

This appliance is exactly what it sounds like: a barbecue grill that runs on electricity rather than fire. Many electric grills plug into any standard 120-volt outlet, and after that, you can use them exactly the same way as a traditional barbecue — grill marks and all.

Where charcoal briquettes produce smoke and fine particle pollution that can damage your lungs, plus cancer-causing fumes including formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, electric grills don't create air pollution of their own.

They also don't even release heat-trapping carbon dioxide (unlike natural gas and propane, which produce more than 12 pounds of pollution per gallon, per the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and charcoal, which generates three times that much). Unless the energy itself comes from a polluting source, you can use these grills without damaging the environment. 

There's also the question of convenience. With an electric grill, you'll never need to run to the store for charcoal or lighter fluid before you can start cooking. All you need is an outlet close enough to reach, with or without an extension cord.

How will an electric grill save me money?

Electricity is the cheapest fuel source for outdoor cooking, according to The Spruce Eats. Even if you have a convenient gas hookup (the second-cheapest option), you'd still be paying more for similar heat and cooking time. 

An electric grill is usually more of an investment up front (at least compared to charcoal grills), but the yearly energy costs (about $20 total, according to the website EnergyBot) are so low that it will beat out fuel options that require constant refilling. 

Will food prepared on an electric grill still taste 'grilled'?

The short answer? Yes

The grill still gets hot enough to sear food and give it that lightly charred flavor that you get from cooking over a flame. It won't taste as smoky as it would if you used charcoal, but sources say the taste is at least similar to that of food cooked on a gas or propane grill.

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