How to Use a Grill in New York City


So many New Yorkers are undeniably head-over-heels in love with city living — but they still yearn for some of the opportunities of the suburbs. For example, grilling seems like an activity that requires abundant backyard space. Most people imagine lazy summer afternoons with friends on the patio, cooking burgers at the barbecue and playing yard games with drinks in hand. Thus, many New Yorkers resign themselves to making food on their small apartment cooktop even while dreaming of an outdoor kitchen.

Fortunately, it is possible to barbecue in NYC. Here are a few rules you can follow to make your summertime grill dreams come true — without breaking the law or putting your roommates in danger.

Where You Can Use a Grill

Grills are outdoor cooking appliances — with an emphasis on outdoor. It should go without saying that you should never use any kind of grill inside your apartment; the heat and flame poses a significant fire risk, and the smoke produced can pollute interior air to the point of toxicity. It is imperative that you only use grills in exterior spaces with plenty of ventilation, regardless of whether you are in New York City or anywhere else.

Unfortunately, the city places additional restrictions on which outdoor spaces are safe and appropriate for a grill. Specifically, there must be at least 10 feet of space between a building and a grill for an outdoor space to legally allow grilling. Therefore, most balconies and rooftops are prohibited from grilling activities — but terraces and backyards are permitted.

If your apartment does not have access to an outdoor space that can accommodate a grill, you might consider setting up your grill in any of the city parks where grilling is approved. Propane grills are not allowed in public spaces, so you will need to invest in charcoal grills in NYC. New York law forbids anyone under the age of 18 from using a grill in the park, and you should pay attention to park signs to avoid setting up your grill in areas where grilling is not authorized.

Safety Tips for Grilling in the City

Whether you are grilling in the park or in your own backyard, you should always try to make your grilling experience as safe as possible. In addition to following any and all laws regarding barbecues in New York City, you should pay attention to safety guidelines, which will prevent property damage and personal injury.

It was mentioned above, but it bears repeating: You must never use a grill indoors. If you are eager for grilled food but lack the outdoor accommodations, you can invest in a grill pan, which can achieve a similar grilled effect on a regular stove.

Fire is a risk regardless of where you are grilling, so it is wise to have some kind of fire extinguishing solution on hand whenever and wherever you grill. Many people rely on hoses or buckets of water. However, an even better solution is a fire extinguisher using dry powder, foam or carbon dioxide, all of which will be useful in all fire situations. If your grill fire is caused by burning grease, water can exacerbate the issue by causing a flare that sends flames outwards to burn bystanders and ignite flammable materials. Because non-water fire extinguishers tend to smother flames under non-combustible chemicals, they are the fastest and safest way to stop grease fires.

Finally, if you are using a grill on your property in New York City, you should be a considerate neighbor and warn those in adjoining apartments of your intention to grill. Because barbecuing can create clouds of smoke, alerting your neighbors to your grilling activities will prevent them from panicking and alerting authorities unnecessarily. You might offer some grilled foods to your neighbors as a sign of appreciation for their tolerance of your use of shared outdoor space. Even better, you might try to organize some kind of block or building party to showcase your grill mastery and get on your neighbors’ good side.

It isn’t easy to grill in the heart of the city. Knowing the laws regarding grilling and adhering to important safety guidelines will keep you out of harm’s way and ensure that you can enjoy your favorite grillables all summer long.

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