While there are lots of wonderful things to be said for summer in New York City, unless you're lucky enough to have a backyard or deck, you tend to miss out on one of suburban summer's most relaxing and fun activities: grilling in the great outdoors. It may be tempting to set up a grill on your fire escape, roof or local patch of green, but there are strict rules against that sort of thing. Instead, the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation has a handy list of barbecue pits, searchable by borough or by zip code, and designated areas where you can bring your own grill.

We've put together a handy list of tips to make sure your grill party runs smoothly:

  • Barbecue pits are highly coveted, so arrive early (like, 9:30 a.m. early on the weekends) to secure your grill. If you plan on having a big party with over 20 people, you might want to apply for a permit at least a month in advance.
  • Undoubtedly, not everyone will be as fastidious as you are, so you'll likely have to do some cleanup before you get grilling. You should know by now to eschew a metal brush: a simple onion plus a damp, soapy cloth should do the trick. The same goes for you when you leave! Bring a few heavy duty garbage bags for refuse and remember to discard the coals, too (after they've been doused in water, of course).
  • City barbecues are charcoal only, so make sure you stock up on the necessities before arriving in the park: briquettes, newspaper, lighter fluid, etc. If this is your first time using charcoal, make sure you know how to do it! And don't get any clever ideas.
  • A cooler of cold ones would be fantastic but, as we know, boozing and smoking in our city parks is verboten, so if you must swill while you grill, make sure it's of the non-alcoholic variety, or be very discreet. Parks police love issuing summons for boozing in the park.

Finally, a barbecue needs food, of course. The tried and true hamburger/hot dog combo might be the easiest option, but thinking outside the box will get you big barbecue brownie points. Try wrapping salmon filets in aluminum foil with olive oil and veggies, make "healthier" grilled chicken wings or even make your own grilled pizza! You can even grill up fruit, like watermelon, for a refreshing dessert.