City flippers: Grill season opens on the balcony
Special to the Seattle Times
Here are some safety tips for grilling on your apartment or condo balcony, from Kirkland Fire Marshal Ken Carlson.
Check: Before you buy a grill, ask your building manager whether it's OK to grill on the balcony. Also ask whether there are restrictions about what type of grill you can use; some places may allow gas but not charcoal grills, for instance.
Read: Grill manufacturers should provide instructions saying how much clearance is needed between the grill, wall and ceiling. Read them.
Look: Be sure there's plenty of space between the heat and combustible material such as exposed wood joists on the balcony above you and siding next to the grill. Carlson said grillers usually need at least 5 feet of clearance between the grill surface and the balcony above. Watch also for banners, flags or other material hanging anywhere near the grill.
Stay: Don't leave a grill unattended. It's a good idea to have a fire extinguisher handy, as well.
Weight: If it's a party, be sure the balcony is well-built and maintained. Balconies built to code should have no problem holding you and your friends, Carlson said. Accidents can happen when balconies or decks are poorly built, particularly if they aren't properly attached to the building.
Cleanup: The Seattle Fire Department advises people using charcoal to let the coals cool for 48 hours before disposing of them, or thoroughly douse them with water if you can't wait. Dump them into a metal container only, not wood or plastic. If using a gas grill, be sure to shut off the cylinder when you're done.
Online: The Seattle Fire Department has barbecue safety tips online, including a suggestion that one-pound propane cylinders are the safest fuel source for balcony grilling: www.seattle.gov
What's an urban foodie to do?
It's a beautiful afternoon, salmon's on sale and you're in the mood for a barbecue. But you live in an apartment, not a place with a yard.
And if you have a balcony, you might wonder whether you can grill at all, after a flap last year over whether the building code would allow grilling on apartment and condo balconies.
Here's a quick guide to what's allowed, and a look at how several apartment dwellers found a way to get grilling in the city.
Cooking on the corner
Tareyn Gillilan is a barista by day, and a balcony barbecue master by night.
Gillilan, 27, said a big balcony — large enough to hold a gas grill — always has been a prerequisite when looking for an apartment.
Last September, she and her husband, who is in construction, found a place pretty close to perfect. They scored a corner unit at the Fountain Court in Belltown with an extra-large balcony where they grill year-round.
Gillilan said 80 percent of the building's corner balconies have gas grills.
She's also lucky to live in an apartment where grilling is allowed. Some buildings forbid barbecues because of concerns about fire safety or smoke bothering other residents.
That ban didn't fly
Last year, the state nearly banned balcony barbecues altogether. A new building-code manual used by the state calls for such a ban, but the state made an exception after an outcry from apartment and condo dwellers.
"We had lots of e-mail flying around questioning our sensitivity, our infringement on their civil rights and that sort of thing," said Ken Carlson, Kirkland fire marshal and building official.
Carlson said apartment and condo dwellers should check with their building manager before they invest in a grill for their balcony. His daughter lives in a Mill Creek apartment, for instance, where there are covenants against barbecues "because people have done dumb things and melted siding or burned places down."
Some places avoid the balcony question altogether by providing alternative solutions.
Allison Ure, a culinary-school graduate who works at a produce stand in the Pike Place Market, chose her apartment on Capitol Hill largely because it has a cool communal barbecue.
The lush, enclosed courtyard at the building, not far from Coffee Messiah, has a built-in grill. Tenants sign up with the manager to reserve the space, and the grill is cooking away most weekends through the summer.
One woman with a nearby garden often shares her produce, and it becomes a neighborhood party. And Ure, 24, taps into the underground network of market workers, who bring supplies such as fresh sausages.
"Working at the market, everyone knows I have this grill. I'm like, 'Dude, I'm grilling outside!' "
Cooking inside just isn't the same for Ure. Her favorite grill food is steak rubbed with a French seasoning blend she gets from Dish D'Lish in the market, where she worked before moving over to the produce stand.
Rollin Fatland, a Seattle public-affairs consultant, treats his balcony like the yard he had before he moved to Pioneer Square a few years ago. The balcony has room for potted plants, his cat and, of course, a barbecue.
"That's my outdoors, so I do with it what other people do with their back yards," he said.
Throw it all on
Gillilan doesn't have a favorite barbecue food. Grill it, she'll eat it.
"We do anything from grilling ribs to chicken to slow-roasted pork loin, kebabs, fish, across the board," she said. "You can grill just about anything; anything that suits your food tastes can get good flavor from a grill."
It's an especially good way to cook in the summer, she said, "when no one has air-conditioning and you can use your heat source outside."
Gillilan's grill is practically in the shadow of the Space Needle, and the monorail whizzes past her building every 10 minutes or so. But it still reminds her of cookouts back in her native Boston.
"We always had a grill when I was a kid — it was simpler, burgers and stuff," she said. "Once I started cooking, it was a natural progression."
Before a recent promotion at Starbucks, Gillilan worked a second job at City Kitchens, a cooking equipment store downtown. Her professional advice on what tools you need to get started? Keep it simple.
"I think you just need a good grill brush, a spatula and a pair of tongs," she said.
Brier Dudley: 206-515-5687 or email@example.com
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