How to Grill When You Live in An Apartment: 6 Grilling Alternatives to Try

It’s finally grilling season around the country after a long winter. And as the nation continues to stay home more, an increasing number of people are interested in grilling at home, although they might not have done it before. But what about apartment-dwellers? Many are wondering how to grill when you live in an apartment, especially if you don’t have an outside?

While many apartments have porches, patios and balconies, most buildings and complexes, as well as local municipalities, have rules and regulations against gas and charcoal (or any flame) grills in close proximity to an apartment due to fire hazards.

So, how do you grill when you live in an apartment? Here are some suggestions for how to still host a summer grilling party and barbecue in an apartment.

oven broiler

1. Oven broiling

No flames allowed? Let the oven do your work for you. Even aside from preheating, broiling meats and vegetables in the oven is a much longer process than flame grilling, and is also a bit more complicated (and occasionally messy). But what broiling brings to the table (excuse the pun) is heat and a lot of it.

Broiling your barbecue foods uses the same (although not direct) intense heat as grilling to create caramelization and charring. For best results, cook with the oven door slightly ajar, use a proper and preheated broiler pan and stick to lean cuts of meat and thicker marinades to cut down on heat and smoke in your kitchen.

2. Indoor electric grills

An indoor countertop electric grill can be a great alternative for your barbecue, even though it lacks a direct flame and doesn’t allow for the high temperatures and sear you would get on the grill or in the oven. Not only are they portable and convenient, but they offer simple cleanup.

With an indoor grill, however, you’re basically contact-cooking the food on the outside with electric heat, so be sure to cook your meats well enough to get done on the inside.

However, an electric grill achieving that signature smoke flavor can prove to be difficult, so utilize a few drops of liquid smoke and your favorite smoky barbecue sauce. The upside is that most units have ribbed cooking planes so you can actually achieve faux grill marks! As long as you have an outlet on your balcony (or an extension cord), an electric grill is easily used outside for that real grilling atmosphere.

Models come in all sizes and types, from a small cooktop that fits a couple of burgers to larger family units with bells and whistles like the Kenyon Portable City Grill that heats to 600 degrees Fahrenheit in seven minutes with no smoke and the George Foreman GFO3320 indoor/outdoor stand-up grill from the master of home grilling that comes with his signature “drain away the fat” sloped surface.

3. A grill pan for your stovetop

Grilling on your stovetop isn’t much different than cooking with a cast-iron pan on the burner. But stovetop grilling is more about the right pan and the right preparation. A good grill pan will mimic a griddle pan or flattop with a large square surface. The best pans will provide sharp, raised edges and well-spread elevation grooves that will allow the fat to drain away from your meat without causing a mess, with some pretty authentic grill marks to boot.

The primary benefit of using a stovetop grill pan over a standalone electric grill is your ability to baste your meat as it cooks, giving it more flavor and tenderness. While the direct heat from a grill pan on a gas stovetop will provide more char and caramelization than the electric grill, you will still need to prepare your meats marinated with liquid smoke and coated with flavorful barbecue sauce. Also, be aware that most pan grilling will result in a smoky kitchen and pan cleanup can be difficult.

4. Roasting with wood chips

Want a method that’s a little more hands-off, easier to clean up and allows you to cheat your way to a pretty authentic smoky flavor? Try roasting your meats and vegetables over soaked wood chips. The roasting process is really no different than any other form of roasting food you would normally use, but with a little different prep.

Wood chip roasting involves soaking your favorite flavor of wood chips for two to three hours (and draining), creating a foil pouch that’s placed at the bottom of the oven and waiting for 10 to 20 minutes for the chips to begin smoking. After that, just add your meat and vegetables and cook as you normally would for roasting. Boom, instant fake outdoor grilling taste.

5. Solar cooking

No gas or charcoal on your patio to grill when you live in an apartment? How about the sun? They can’t outlaw the sun! OK, a solar cooker is never going to replace your favorite local barbecue joint, but it does let you be outside cooking on your patio or having a barbecue on an apartment balcony with your friends and not trapped in the kitchen.

It’s also a green solution to reduce carbon emissions from traditional grilling and costs zero dollars to operate.

people grilling at a picnic

6. Get off the porch

It may not be the most convenient alternative, but you can try grilling away from your porch. Many apartment complexes and apartment buildings offer a space on the grounds with a public grilling patio, whether it be standalone, by a pool or on a rooftop. Keep a grill bag handy with your favorite cooking, cleaning, prep and serving supplies, along with spices and sauces so all you need to do is bring the meat.

Just be sure to clean the grill before and after you use it, sign up for a scheduled time if your management requires and always follow all the safety and community grilling rules and etiquette.

No grill in your complex? No problem. Many cities and municipalities have public spaces for community grilling. Check parks, campsites, piers and public pools for grills you can use and sign up to throw yourself a barbecue party!

How to grill when you live in an apartment

Sure, you may not be able to throw a block party barbecue like your neighbors with houses and lawns, but by using a little creativity with how you grill when you live in an apartment you can roast, broil, fry and season your way to a great meal.

And no matter where you do your apartment-safe grilling, you’ll always have that sunny patio, inviting porch or comfy living room to serve up your chicken, ribs, steak and crisp veggies for everyone (or just you) to enjoy.

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Michael HochmanMichael is a Philadelphia-based writer with a variety of interests, including music, TV, politics, travel, and sports (Fly Eagles Fly!). His background includes a decade as a programming executive in network television, six years as a marketing executive at a technology company, and time at two magazines and two advertising agencies. He also sits on the board of a non-profit law firm that assists veterans with disabilities. Michael is a proud Syracuse grad (Newhouse) who has lived in Kansas, Chicago, Saratoga and beyond.

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