We’ve all heard horror stories about grilling on an apartment balcony or deck – melted siding, railings that catch fire, smoke flooding your (and your neighbors’) apartment. In general, grilling in your apartment or on the balcony is a recipe for disaster and a “sure-fire” way to lose your security deposit. There ways to enjoy a barbecue in your apartment, but you’ll want to follow a few guidelines:
Know the Rules
Find out what restrictions your state and apartment community place on grilling. In most cases, you are not allowed to use any open-flame cooking devices on decks, patios, or within 10 feet of community structures. Some communities will make exceptions for balcony grilling if automatic sprinkler systems exist on the deck or balcony. Even in communities with these sprinkler systems, gas grills and propane tanks exceeding one pound are generally prohibited. Some apartment complexes prohibit cooking of any kind on balconies and decks, even with electric grills. Make sure you know what is allowed in your community.
Choose an Electric Grill
For the most part, there are very few safety restrictions prohibiting electric grills on your patio or balcony. It’s true that an electric grill will not produce that smoky barbecue taste associated with open flame grilling, but you can achieve a nice char (and electric grilling is healthier!). Electric grills can also be used indoors, so if your Fourth of July party gets rained out, you can still enjoy entertaining inside!
Learn How to Use Your Equipment
Understanding how your grilling equipment is intended to be used is essential. The Nation Fire Incident Reporting System shows that misuse of grilling equipment accounts for almost half of all grill fires. Use proper cooking methods and understand how your grill works. Follow these guidelines to help you stay safe:
- Always plug electric grills into a grounded outlet.
- Keep cords out of walkways to prevent tripping or upsetting the electric grill.
- Clean the grill grates after each use to remove grease and buildup.
Never Leave ANY Grill Unattended
Whether you live in an apartment or a house, it just takes a second for a spark to jump onto your patio cushions or for a breeze to carry sparks into your living room. Even an electric grill can be dangerous – if it gets knocked over or the grill experiences a short it could catch fire or cause serious burns. If you need to step away from the grill for a moment, designate an adult to watch the grill while you are busy.
Take Advantage of Community Grills
Many luxury apartment communities include clubhouses and outdoor grilling spaces where you can entertain friends or just grill up a steak for dinner. Not only can these amenities prevent you from setting your balcony on fire, but you can also host a larger party (without crowding everyone onto your balcony). Learn the rules for using community space, clean up after yourself, and follow basic grilling safety tips:
- Always check that propane is connected properly to the propane tank when using a gas grill.
- For charcoal grills, stack coals into a pyramid before adding lighter fluid; wait approximately one minute before lighting coals.
- Never use more than ¼ cup of lighter fluid per one pound of charcoal.
- Always turn off the propane and check that coals are fully extinguished after you are done cooking.
With a little creativity, you can plan a safe apartment barbecue! Use your common sense, follow the rules, and have a great summer.