9 kilogram LPG gas bottle BP© 2014 Don L BoroughsEqual SignHigh31 Plates

We use our gas braai very regularly, not just on National Braai Day. In part this is because we like the taste and simplifies the kitchen clean-up. But it also helps reduce our electricity consumption. I try to avoid turning on the oven to frequently, since it can burn through about 2 kilowatt hours in one meal, which is a daily increase of about 20 percent from our low base.

Still, a question nagged at me each time I fired up the braai. How do I know I’m not using more fossil fuel and creating more carbon-dioxide emissions using that gas braai than I would with the electric oven? And how much is the gas to cook one meal costing me?

I finally have some sort of answer. Over the course of 4 months, I kept track of every meal cooked on a single, 9 kg bottle of liquified petroleum gas (LPG) until it ran out. I had cooked 31 ½ meals. (Thank you to the microwave oven for finishing off the half-cooked meal.) These ranged from a single fish to large meals including grilled vegetables and potatoes for Sunday lunches with guests. It wasn’t quite a scientific measurement, but it allows for some rough calculations.

The LPG bottle cost R250, so per meal I used R7.94 worth of gas. If each of those meals had rather used 2 kWh of electricity in the oven, the 31 ½ meals would have cost between R75 and R118, depending upon the local electricity tariff. So I am sorry to report that using the gas braai does not save us money compared to the electric oven. If we lived in a Joburg suburb with Egoli Gas, however, a braai using piped gas would be cheaper to use than the oven. And LPG is still less expensive than using charcoal.

(This is not the same as comparing a gas oven to an electric oven. A gas oven will be more efficient than a gas braai because it is better insulated and opened less often. For a comparison of gas vs. electric stoves, see this post.)

What about the environment? Gas burns cleaner than the coal used by Eskom, and using a fuel directly for heat is more efficient than using it to generate electricity. I still held out hope that my gas braai would come out on top. Further calculations showed that for a 2 kWh meal in the electric oven, Eskom generously donates 2.14 kg of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and the climate. But the 286 grams of LPG I burned for each of my meals released less than 0.9 kgs of CO2. With less than half the greenhouse gas emissions, the gas braai wins cleanly.

Happy National Braai Day.