Just because you live in an apartment community doesn’t mean you have to forget the delicious taste of summertime meals prepared on the grill. There may be options even if your community has grilling restrictions.
Things to Consider When Apartment Grilling
While it’s tempting to get a grill for your balcony and get some burgers going right away, you have some things to consider. Keeping certain factors in mind will help you organize yourself and your balcony in a practical way. Some apartments don’t allow residents to utilize grills. While this is unfortunate, it keeps you and other residents safe. Be sure to check the rules of your community before you get a grill for your patio or other outdoor spaces. Remember, the safety of your neighbors is important. Consequently, your community manager will work to enforce local fire prevention ordinances.
- Are you allowed to grill? Every apartment community I have worked with or lived in prohibited the use of a grill on a balcony. Grills are also prohibited inside garages, under overhangs or close to the buildings. Additionally, charcoal grills, wood or coal burning smokers, and portable fire-pits are also normally prohibited. Even if you are on the ground floor and have a gas grill, you are still required to be at least ten feet away from the building. Do not leave your grill unattended while barbequing. Many apartment communities have designated grill areas, some even provide grills. In fact, quite a few Wimmer Communities feature gas grills and picnic tables in a central area known as “BBQ Central.”
- BBQ – it’s what’s for dinner. The size of your grill really does determine how much food can be cooked at one time. Trying to cook skewers of kabobs, racks of ribs, burgers, and hotdogs all at once is difficult to accomplish on a smaller grill. Size does matter when you plan your menu. Determine the cooking times beforehand; pork takes longer than chicken which takes longer than steak which takes longer than salmon. As you gain experience, you will be able to get everything done at the same time. You don’t keep hungry guests waiting! If workspace on the patio is limited, keep everything indoors until it’s time to toss it on the grill.
- It doesn’t get any better than this. Parties affect what you’re making and how much space you have. The more people you invite, the more you’ll have to consider. Serve up hot dogs and hamburgers to save space on your grill while still feeding the crowd or serve a mix of premade food alongside some grilled mains. Even if you have a bigger patio, you’ll have more room if guests stay inside. They can always come out when the grilling is over and it’s time to eat. The more people you have nearby while you’re trying to grill, the more unsafe your setup is.
- Take me to your Griller! If your patio is off your kitchen, your grilling job will be much easier. Even if there isn’t a direct path, you can still make apartment grilling simple. Make sure you have a clear walkway between your patio and kitchen, since you’ll have to transport your food between the two. Don’t block your door with furniture inside or outside and have a door that opens smoothly. If you can’t open your door easily with one hand, it’s going to be harder to carry what you need outside. Give yourself some space: Avoid cluttering your balcony. Having a barbecue on your apartment balcony will take up some space, and you don’t want to navigate a maze of patio furniture while carrying a plate of grilled food. Choose smaller furniture or fewer pieces to prevent clutter. Use tables and chairs that fold up, which you can do to keep them out of the way. Get lighter furnishings you can easily move inside when it’s grilling time.
- When the grillin’s done, we’ll take our leave and go. Outdoor storage or space right by your balcony door can make your life easier when you’re grilling. If you don’t have a lot of space on your balcony, consider vertical storage. You can keep tools for your grill, a fire extinguisher and other necessities nearby with those solutions. When not in use, you should store your grill on the patio. The grill should be covered and in good repair. Check your community rules for any additional requirements.
- In the dark of the night. Lighting isn’t essential to grilling, but it sure does help when you’re out there late at night. When you can see what you’re doing, you are a bit safer as well, so be sure to have adequate lighting outside. Use string lights for atmosphere and have a brighter patio light to help you see. You’ll be able to tell when your steak has the perfect char when you aren’t grilling in the dark.
- To grill or not to grill. Wherever you’ll be using your grill, be sure to choose the right one for you. You want something safe that will help you make perfect meals. Gas or propane grills have caused more house fires than charcoal varieties, so keep that in mind when deciding. Charcoal and wood pellet grills have a reputation for creating an impressive crust in contrast to their counterparts, so that may be an option to consider.
- Life is too short for ordinary food. During the week, it may be challenging to set up your grill, heat the charcoal or pellets, cook your food and clean the grill. You may want to reserve cooking outside for weekends or nights when you have time for the prep and cleanup involved. No matter when you grill, it’ll be worth it! Do prep work in your kitchen: Get everything you need ready to go before you head outside. Season meat, cut vegetables and get your sauce made before you step out to the grill. If you get everything done beforehand, you can minimize the back and forth.
Safe Grillin’ Rules
“If I am on fire, this is not a training exercise (please extinguish)”. No matter where you’re grilling, safety is vital. Take these steps in any setting to ensure you’re safe while grilling:
- Keep your grill clean to avoid flare-ups and possible contamination from previous meals.
- Don’t let children or pets stand near or sit on the grill.
- Don’t put the grill under eaves or low hanging tree branches.
- Pay attention to the grill, your food won’t cook itself.
- Read your owner’s manual.
- Purchase a good meat thermometer to ensure the food is thoroughly cooked.
In addition to the steps you should take, you should also have specific tools on hand when you’re cooking. These tools keep you and others safe:
- Heat-protective gloves that cover the forearms.
- Nylon or silicon grate cleaning brushes – metal brushes fibers can break off and get imbedded in the food.
- Heat-proof tools like stainless steel or silicon.
- Longer tools for reaching toward the back of your grill safely.
- A nearby fully charged fire extinguisher.
- A water spray bottle to stop flare-ups.
Benefits of Grilling for Apartment Dwellers
You’ve most likely heard that grilling is a healthy way to enjoy your meats and veggies. This is true, but there is also so much more to grilling! Just like cooking, grilling can be considered a therapeutic activity. Grilling wherever and whenever you can has advantages other than just creating a tasty meal.
- Meet your neighbors and make new friends. Host a barbecue for your neighbors! Whether you’re new to the building or want to meet the folks next door, grilling for a group is a great way to build a sense of community. Your neighbors will appreciate the kind gesture, and you get to spend time and share delicious food with new friends. If you can’t use your patio for cooking, you can still meet your neighbors at community grilling areas. When was the last time you had friends over to “microwave?”
- Get outside: The very act of grilling brings you outdoors. Even if you’re just spending the time next to your patio, grilling lets you take advantage of the open air. Enjoy the weather, cooler evenings in the summer and the sights and sounds around you. Getting outside to grill is especially beneficial after a winter of cabin fever.
- Grilled food tastes better. It’s as simple as that. However, charcoal can expose your food to harmful chemicals which may cause cancer. Also, make sure to keep your food from the smoke. Try using a gas grill as much as possible. It is a cleaner way to cook, and steers clear of hazardous chemicals. Your food will be so flavorful that you won’t need to add anything to it, but I personally cannot pass up a good rub! The aroma, flavor, and health benefits of grilling will change how you view food.
- Grilled food is better for you. If you’ve been loading your pans with oil to make fried food, you need to try grilling. Grilled food tastes delicious and is healthier than fried food. Meat and vegetables can also maintain their nutrients when you cook them on a grill. Grilled meat has less fat.
Try to make apartment grilling work for you, no matter where you’re cooking. You’ll love the results and how it lets you spend time with friends, family, and neighbors.
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