For millions of Americans, summer means grilling outdoors.
However, for apartment-dwellers, it’s not as simple as setting up a grill in the backyard. Not all of us have a porch, deck or patio on which to set up an apartment grill, and many states and municipalities have laws prohibiting grilling, open flames or propane use on porches next to multifamily dwellings.
Enter the underrated, undervalued, underutilized community apartment grill. Whether grilling for yourself, your family or the entire complex, community grills are a great way to cook up apartment burgers, dogs and brats, provided you follow a few courteous rules so everyone can enjoy the fun.
Know the unwritten apartment grill rules
If you’re lucky enough to live in a complex or development that provides a community apartment grill, you can enjoy holidays and weekends broiling, searing and roasting to your heart’s content as long as you heed the following rules of sharing and caring.
1. Schedule your grilling time
If your complex requires you to reserve grill time, do it. Be there ready to grill at your assigned time, and be done when scheduled as others may be waiting. And just because you don’t see someone using the grill doesn’t mean you can slide in without reserving.
If you don’t have to schedule ahead of time, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared. Gather everything you need and be ready to go before you start at the grill to maximize your time.
2. Don’t hog the grill
If your community grill doesn’t have a signup schedule or stated rule on time, be considerate and don’t monopolize the grill. Even if there’s no one visibly waiting on you, finish as quickly as is required for your food to be done and don’t dawdle. You never know who’s watching from a window for you to wrap up.
Don’t grill a week’s worth of food. Grill what you need and move on. If there are people waiting, offer to share the grill space if you can. And if there are multiple grills, don’t dominate the counter space.
3. Don’t set the place on fire
Remember, you’re literally playing with fire. No horseplay around the grill. No showing off flipping burgers into the air like you’re Bobby Flay. Don’t let kids play around the grill and keep them at a distance. Pay attention and avoid distractions. Never ever leave the grill unattended as a small flare-up can become an out of control fire before you return.
DO NOT USE LIGHTER FLUID UNLESS EXPLICITLY ALLOWED AND NEEDED. Lighter fluid is for charcoal grills. A regular gas grill with a propane tank most likely won’t need it. And never add lighter fluid to a fire that is already burning.
Watch your drinking. We know grilling and beer go together, but the more you drink, the more you will limit your capacity to concentrate on what you’re doing or be more likely to knock something over.
Bring a spray bottle filled with water if a fire extinguisher isn’t provided. Nothing will inconvenience your neighbors more than setting the yard on fire.
4. Don’t move the grill
The grill is where it is for a reason. Don’t move it from its designated spot, even if you can’t quite see the TV.
5. Be aware of smoke
If your grill is smoking particularly badly, or the wind is wafting back towards your neighbors’ open windows, close the lid, turn down the heat or scrape off the grate. Don’t burn your food.
Avoid grilling smelly food like seafood and fish on a community grill. Not only will it stink up the area, the smell can get trapped in the grill and affect the taste of the next person’s food. For foods that fall apart, use foil instead of placing them right on the cooking plates.
6. Not the place for a party
The grill is not the party area. Not only is it unsafe, it’s inconsiderate.
If you have a lot of people over for food, revel and eat in your apartment or designated area, not around the grill. And keep noise around the grill to a low roar, especially if it’s later into the night.
7. Clean up after yourself
As soon as you’re done cooking, start to clean so you can be finished quickly for the next person (and your food won’t get cold). Use a barbecue brush or tin foil ball to scrape the cooking grates. Use paper towels and approved spray cleaner on the entire area, including the counter, the grill knobs and the outside of the grill, especially where raw meat many have touched. Put everything back where it belongs.
Before you leave, double and triple check that the apartment grill is turned off, and the gas is off and shut tightly. And report any issues with the grill or gas to management immediately.
8. Follow the posted rules
Finally, your community apartment grill should have a posted set of rules for use. Follow the rules as stated on the sign. Don’t be the guy that thinks he knows better.