How to Maximize a Small Grilling Space
Many people grill in a space that’s not quite as big as they would prefer. Anyone who’s tried to smoke a brisket on a tiny apartment balcony or grill burgers at a crowded garden party has felt the pain. When you’re constantly dealing with the pressures of a small space, there’s not much room to let loose with your culinary creativity.
Fortunately, a space that’s on the small side can still be a safe and fun place to create your BBQ masterpiece! You just need to get everything set up right, and we’ve got a little knowledge that can help. Whether you’ve got a charcoal grill, pellet grill or gas grill, check out these seven useful tips for maximizing a smaller grilling space.
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Make sure you’re putting safety first.
Your first priority should be to avoid grilling hazards like fires and carbon monoxide. Thus, wherever you put your grill, it should be on a flat surface and well away from walls and furniture. Look out for potentially flammable nearby items like vegetation, and avoid storing fuel like wood pellets or charcoal too close to your grill.
To avoid carbon monoxide hazards, never grill in any kind of enclosed space like a garage. Grilling under a non-enclosed roof or canopy is usually fine, but make sure that there’s plenty of air circulation. If you’ll be grilling in a space like an apartment balcony, double-check that your lease or condo association rules allow it first.
Choose a compact grill.
Smaller-size grilling setups are more achievable today than ever, thanks to the boom in compact grills. These grills are designed to offer great cooking performance with a small footprint. Many even fold up so you can take them on the road to a tailgate, camping trip or BBQ competition!
Compact grills come in all shapes, sizes and fuel types. It’s a good idea to get one with handles and/or wheels to make it easier to maneuver in a smaller space. In fact, a grill with wheels offers another great strategy: Once you’ve extinguished and cooled down your grill, move it to a less-crowded spot for storage.
Add storage and workspace accessories to your grill.
One of the smartest ways to optimize your grilling space is to optimize your grill itself! Every grill master needs a convenient space for BBQ tools, sauces, spices and other essentials. Most grill manufacturers offer grill accessories that make it easy to keep your grilling stuff handy on a shelf or caddy.
Note that, for attachments, it’s usually preferable to stick with official accessories from the manufacturer of your grill. That $5 grill caddy on Amazon might not really be compatible with your grill, no matter what it says. Plus, you don’t want to attach anything to your grill unless you’re sure that the accessory is built to withstand the heat.
Use wall storage to hold your tools and supplies.
Wall storage is another low-footprint option for holding your BBQ supplies. Some simple metal kitchen shelves attached to your walls will usually do the trick, but you’ve got tons of options. If you’re handy, you could even build your own custom shelves above your grill.
Try adding a spice rack to hold a selection of your favorite meat rubs and other seasonings. Small hooks and hangers are good for tools like your spatula and grill brush. You might add a magnetic strip to hold a few of your go-to knives. Whatever enhances your grill workflow, do it!
Choose a grill that requires minimal tending.
A major part of the reason some grills are a pain in a small space is that they need frequent tending. For example, a standard charcoal grill requires the grillmaster to monitor the coals closely and flip the food regularly. Standing around in a cramped space to watch over your food can be less than enjoyable.
That’s not how it is with all grills, though! Most pellet grill recipes, for example, don’t require much tending once you’ve put the food on. Many grills, particularly pellet grills, now also offer smart grill features that allow you to control your grill remotely through an app. With a few regular check-ins on your smart grill app, you might barely have to be in front of the grill at all.
Do your prep work in a separate area.
Sometimes, there just isn’t enough space to prep and grill all in the same place. In that case, the best idea is to get your prep done in a separate area, usually the kitchen. There, you’ll also have access to more space and your full range of tools.
If you don’t have access to a kitchen at all, such as cooking at a tailgate, bringing food that you’ve prepped at home is usually the right move. You might even partially cook some foods so that they’ll be ready to go on the grill and cook quickly when it’s time.
Clean your work area as you go.
A messy space feels smaller and more hectic. By proactively cleaning as you go, you can help your grilling space feel a lot cleaner and more manageable. Find a few seconds between tasks to give your workspace a quick wipe-down, and declutter by putting away tools and throwing away packaging. You might be surprised at the difference it makes!
If you have room for a trash can in your grill space, adding one can be a huge time and effort saver for cleaning. Just make sure that it’s not so close to your grill that it creates a fire hazard, and never throw any kind of hot ashes or hot grease into it.
Source: Nick Paschalis/Shutterstock
If you love to grill, there’s no reason to let a small work area stop you! So long as you’re being safe, the simple hacks we’ve talked about here will help you enjoy grilling no matter what kind of space you’re working with.