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Pennsylvania: Energy and the Great American Cookout

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted August 24, 2017

With food kings Heinz, Utz, Herr’s, Kunzler and brewer Yeungling all headquartered in Pennsylvania, you’d think the summer cookout was invented in the Keystone State. With that group you’ve got your dogs, chips, pretzels, ketchup and beer – and more. All that’s left is to fire up the grill.  

Download: Energy is Pennsylvania

Energy handles the grilling part: propane from a tank or maybe a natural gas feed. Yet, products made from or with oil and natural gas contribute greatly to the feast in other, under-appreciated ways. Which is energy’s role: making modern life fresher, tastier, more convenient and more enjoyable – often without us noticing it very much. Let’s talk about how energy facilitates a great American summer tradition.

Pennsylvania is the perfect setting for cooking outdoors. Tourists flock there to take in the state’s rich history. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia offer a long list of things to see and do, as do the places in between. Catch a Pirates game at PNC Park, or if you’re in Philly, grab a cheesesteak downtown or a drink with some friends at Spruce Street Harbor. But it’s hard to beat a cookout in August.

Salty Snacking in the Summer

As the classic ad campaign tells us, it’s hard to eat just one potato chip. When having the crew over for a summer get-together, Job No. 1 is to amply supplied in the chips department. Since being invented by George “Crum” Speck in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., (or perhaps the Brits in the early 1800s, take your pick), potato chips have delighted generations of the taste buds.

Saratoga chips

To produce great chips, you need great potatoes and canola seeds. Nitrogen fertilizer provides the nutrients for both potato and canola seed crops to grow into a quality product. Natural gas is an important part of manufacturing nitrogen fertilizers. Using the Haber-Bosch process, natural gas is combined with high heat pressure to produce the ammonia necessary to make fertilizer.

Potatoes are then cut thin, fried in canola oil and salted, providing that satisfying crunch and taste. That salty coating wouldn’t be possible without the use of the heavy machinery that cuts slabs and loads them to transport from the mines, producing salt in mass quantities. These machines use various oils to help keep them humming along.

Pennsylvania potato chips Shareable

Quality is Key

Opening a fresh bag of chips is pretty delightful. As the aroma hits the olfactory system, you may be so overwhelmed you might forget to think about what it took to get that bag’s contents to you fresh and crisp. Energy, of course. Barrier plastic film, a petroleum product used by Utz and Herr’s in their packaging, ensures the freshness for which the two companies are known.

Chips aren’t the only grilling-associated product that relies on packaging for preserving freshness. Heinz uses plastic bottles to hold its condiment line, including its signature ketchup. Whipping up a homemade sauce? No problem! Grab a polypropylene-based condiment bottle from your local container store. Made possible with natural gas and petroleum, these bottles keep your sauce fresh and ready for the whole family to enjoy.    

Fire It Up & Pour It Down

Pennsylvania Cooking With Gas Shareable

Of course, there’d be no cookout without the cooking out, on the barbeque. Hosts load vegetables, meats and poultry on the sizzling grill, which often features a propane tank, a natural gas and petroleum by-product. It makes firing up a cinch.

As you’re manning the grill, you may grab a cold one from the cooler. For many, a BBQ wouldn’t be the same without a frosty beer cooling things down. Pennsylvania has a wide variety of local beers to choose from, and is home to Yuengling, the oldest brewery in the United States. Yuengling, along with breweries across the country, often use natural gas in their creative processes. Refrigeration and packaging accounts for 60 percent of these breweries’ use of electricity, which is increasingly generated by natural gas.

OK, so let’s recap. You’ve got the chips, pretzels and cheesy snackables. You’ve got your meats, condiments and a cooler full of Yeunglings. The grill is stoked, ready to cook with gas. Soon, all that will be left is the eating (my specialty).

It’s one of the things we love about summer. Thanks, energy!

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Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.