Public grills get a bad rap. I can definitely see why. They’re always coated in the mysterious carbony remains of meals past. There’s usually some bird poop on or around them. The ash pile inside is a ghastly reminder that anything — anything — could’ve been cooked on these rusty little public servants.
I promise with just a little work, a public grill can be a totally serviceable cooking option. Whether your back yard is too small for get-togethers, you don’t have a grill of your own, or you just want a change of scenery, grilling in the park is a completely doable thing!
Clean the top
The cooking surface needs a little scrubbing — even if you plan to cover it with tin foil (which I recommend. More on that later.) If you happen to have a grill brush, awesome, use it. If you don’t, a wadded up ball of aluminum foil will do just fine. If you’d like to add some soapy water, even better! Just scrub the grates until the big chunks of burn stuff flake away.
Empty Out the ashes
I find it easiest to wrap my hand in a plastic bag, then scoop the ashes out into another plastic or paper bag for disposal. If you see anything weird in the ashes, move to a new grill.
Cover it with foil
Build a fire as normal. When the coals get close to ready, rip off a sheet of aluminum foil and spread it out over the grill using a spatula. Pierce holes in it with a fork or the edge of the spatula. This sheet of foil will protect your food from the grill’s surface. If you love char marks and feel particularly brave, remove the food from the surface and carefully remove the foil, then plop everything on for a quick scorch at the end of cooking.
Clean it up?
It takes a long time for grills to cool down completely. If you happen to be around when it’s safe to clean, then feel free to do so. However, it’s pretty much expected that you’ll leave your ashes and char. Some parks will have posted signs asking you to clean up afterwards, but for the most part, it’s not considered rude or anything. Just clean anything you might’ve dropped and pick up after your picnic.
What are your tips on de-grossing public grills? Because they’re awesome in theory, but in practice can be quite disgusting.