11 Tips for Outdoor Cooking in an Urban Setting
City dwellers may not have big yards with outdoor kitchens, but that doesn’t mean they can’t become impressive chefs outside of their kitchens. Even as the weather is getting crisp, there’s still plenty of time to master these new outdoor cooking techniques and tricks before the end of the season.
1. Head for a Park
Even though almost all parks prohibit open bonfires, many of them have designated grilling areas. Some parks even have grills on site, which is a great option for the grill-less urbanite with no space to store a portable. Other parks are BYO grill, and you can find portable options at home goods and hardware stores. Be aware that if you’re expecting a big group (over 25 in New York City) you’ll often need to obtain a permit ahead of time.
2. Brush Up on the Grill
If you’re using a public grill at a park, you might not have all the proper grilling tools. You’ll definitely want to clean the grill’s grates before you get to work. If you don’t own a grill brush, an improvised solution using a crumpled-up piece of foil should do the trick.
3. Choose Your Fuel
There are a number of factors to take into account when choosing between charcoal and gas. If you’re grilling on an apartment deck in close proximity to other decks, you’ll want to strongly consider the fact that gas produces less smoke, which is something your neighbors will probably appreciate. On the flip side, charcoal grills are generally smaller and more portable, which is definitely a plus in the city.
4. Keep It Legal
Check your city’s specific safety ordinances regarding grilling and read carefully; there are often different regulations depending on your style of outdoor space and type of grill.
5. Grab a Bucket
Those ordinances should make it clear how much open space you need to safely fire up the grill but it’s a good idea to keep a bucket of water handy to manage flare ups that could become dangerous around trees and other combustible material.
6. Fill Your Tanks
Another thing you’ll need to check if you go with a gas grill is whether your city lets you refill propane tanks. In New York it’s illegal to refill a propane tank within city limits, and it’s also illegal to bring in full tanks from outside of the city. Instead you have to buy your tank with the grill and then get it repeatedly exchanged for a full tank.
7. Inspect Your Roof
If you’re planning on grilling on your building’s rooftop —assuming your city allows it, sorry Bostonians— make sure the roof surface isn’t flammable. This means that tar, in particular, is a no-go.
8. Get a Clean Start
If you’re using a charcoal grill, don’t use chemical-laden self-starting charcoal or lighter fluid. Pick up a metal grill chimney that stacks your charcoal, add some crumpled newspaper and all you need is a match to get the grill going.
9. Expand Your Horizons
Hamburgers and hot dogs are delicious, but don’t limit yourself to beef. If you go through the effort to get a grill up and running at your apartment, you’ll want to have options. Grill chicken resting on a beer can, corn still in its husk, fish fillets wrapped in foil, and smaller vegetables in a grill-safe metal basket or on skewers to make your cookout a little more adventurous.
10. Embrace Sweet Endings
And for dessert, top ice cream with grilled fruit—peaches are particularly delicious— or go with classic s’mores. Wrap the whole graham cracker-chocolate-marshmallow stack in foil and toss it on the grill for a hassle-free, stick-free melted concoction.
11. Cool Down Afterwards
If you’re using a charcoal grill on your balcony or at the park, be extra careful disposing of the burnt coals. Never dump hot coals immediately after grilling since a still-burning ember could spark a fire. Close the vents on your grill to cut the coals off from oxygen, and if you can, give them a full 24 hours to cool down before disposing of the remaining ashes.
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