The Ultimate Grilling Guide for Apartment Dwellers

3 ways to get your grill fix without moving to the suburbs

Mastering an outdoor-grilling lifestyle while living in a tiny NYC apartment is tough. And why bother? Standing around a fire getting smoke in your eyes while burning yet another sausage doesn’t really hold a candle to just going out for dinner.

But as a native Australian, there’s just something I miss about grilling at home, which is why I’ve been testing out some options—without a single smoke-alarm mishap, I should add. Here are three ways to get your grill fix without resorting to moving to the burbs.

① Indoor Electric Grill

After looking online, I found a range of appliances designed to solve the smoke problem. After my modestly priced Hamilton Beach model arrived, I shifted things around to give it some counter space and tested it with a few burgers. I was concerned it wouldn’t have enough searing power, and my patties wouldn’t have that true BBQ flavor. I used a couple of drops of Lazy Kettle liquid smoke in my patty mix; the jewel in the crown of indoor grilling, it lends the smoky flavor without the actual smoke. As a result, the patties were slightly smoky, succulent and striped with perfect grill marks. The smoke alarm stayed quiet—because this mini grill has a hood—and cleaning proved a breeze, because the grease pan and the grill tray are both dishwasher safe.

② A Grill Pan

I consulted with grilling expert Taylor Erkkinen from The Brooklyn Kitchen, who understood my smoke concerns and recommended I do the obvious: Open a window. She also explained how to choose a grill pan: “Look for one with sharp edges raised to allow the fat to drain and grooves spread out so to give those distinct sear marks.” Taking her words to heart, I selected a Finex cast iron, considered the Rolls-Royce of pans (though most cast-iron griddle pans will probably have similar results). The meat this time? Liquid smoke-marinated chicken. Despite the open window, my kitchen did get a bit smoky, and the grill pan was also somewhat tricky to clean up. But the chicken was delicious, and the sear marks were just as pronounced as Erkkinen promised.

③ Take It Outside

There are a number of public grills in NYC, like Picnic Peninsula, a scattering of communal grills and tables near Pier 5 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Knowing it gets crowded on weekends, I went early, banking on it being relatively empty during breakfast hours. I’m not going to sugarcoat this: Would-be urban grillers need to go prepared with the basics, including charcoal, lighter fluid, a lighter, plates, paper towels and tongs, plus, you know, the actual food. I wasn’t so sure about the cleanliness of the grills—they weren’t clean, but cleaner than expected—so I also brought a mini cast-iron just in case. It was a pretty heavy bag for a couple of bacon and egg rolls, but that view of Lower Manhattan? You certainly don’t get that from my kitchen window—or any backyard barbecue I’ve ever been to.

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