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The Ultimate Grilling Guide for Apartment Dwellers

3 ways to get your grill fix without moving to the suburbs
How to Grill Without a Backyard
Photo: Tasting Table

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.

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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.

 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.

 

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 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.


 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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Bec Couche is a writer and doodler based in Brooklyn. You can follow her on Instagram at @thesnackdoodler and @beccouche.

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