Die-hard grill masters use their BBQ year-round so don’t let the sub-zero temperatures stop you from enjoying freshly grilled or smoked foods.
The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association reports that nearly 60 percent of charcoal grill owners and 69 percent of gas grill owners in a recent survey cook out year-round— demonstrating that outdoor cooking is no longer limited to the warmer months. But grilling and cooking barbecue during the winter does require a bit of extra preparation and effort. So here are our 7 tips for the future BBQ winter warrior-fanatic:
1. Obviously, dress accordingly!
Deck yourself out in all your best cold-weather clothing even if you think your BBQ will heat you up. Watch out for scarfs, tassels or other loose clothing items that might come in contact with the grill during use and make sure that accessories such as hats or cooking gloves are tight enough so that they do not fall off as you cook.
Also, mittens or snow gloves are not grilling gloves, make sure to wear heat-resistant gloves when operating your grill.
You will find that your hands, feet, ears and face will thank you later. (And no, a beer doesn’t count in keeping you warm.)
2. Reposition your cooking area
Identify the direction that the wind blows most often and try to find a spot that offers the best protection from the blusters of winter.
Never grill inside your garage or under an overhang, no matter the weather—snow, rain, sleet or wind, you can give yourself smoke poisoning. Grilling safely is always the best policy, make sure to respect the distance required by the manufacturer from your house and any combustible material.
Finally, make sure your path from the house to the grill is clear and dry so you don’t slip. Get a shovel out and clear a path to an appropriate spot for grilling that’s away from your house. Nothing would ruin your dinner more than a trip to the ER.
3. Be prepared with extra fuel
Have lots of fuel. There’s nothing worse than running out of fuel halfway through grilling. In cooler temperatures, you lose heat quicker and use more fuel to keep your grill hot.
To be safe, consider using twice as much charcoal as you would during the warmer months so make sure you have an adequate supply on hand. To maintain the temperature of a charcoal grill, use long-handled tongs to add 10 to 12 pieces of lump charwood to the edges of burning coals every 30 to 45 minutes. Add all-natural hardwood pellets and briquettes if needed.
4. Keep the right tools close
Make sure all your tools are in place before lighting the BBQ. Get your tongs, a bottle of water and a light or lamp ready before you start. In the summer you can grill into the evening, but you don’t want to be caught grilling in the dark come winter. A clip-on light or a headlamp will help you see how your food is cooking.
You also might want to have a fire extinguisher ready. In cool weather, grease can pool on the bottom of your grill and catch fire. Be prepared for flare-ups.
Finally keep a snow brush and shovel nearby when you plan to grill in the cold. You never know when you might need to clear away some snow.
5. Be patient!
Allow more time for your grill to heat up. Colder temperatures outside mean the temperature inside your grill will take a bit longer to rise. The amount of time you should compensate for depends on your grill and the weather.
Keep in mind that the grill that needs 20 minutes to heat in the summertime may well need 40 in the winter. It’s a particularly good notion to keep in mind if you’ve invited guests; you don’t want to keep them starving.
Adjust your cooking time each time you open the lid or add more fuel or wood. Protect the smoker from the wind, but remember to never use it in an enclosed space such as a garage.
6. Consider fast-cooking food
You can minimize the time you spend in the cold by selecting foods that require little cooking time and do not require a lot of supervision to flip, turn or baste them. The more special care your meal requires, the more often you will have to open the grill, which will not help your cooking.
Thin or smaller cuts of meat cook quickly over high heat. Thin steaks, pork loins, chicken breasts and kebabs grill to perfection in minutes, reducing your exposure and the number of visits to your barbecue. You can also try cold smoking or slow grilling. It’s time to spend an afternoon slowly roasting pulled pork for a weekend dinner. Pizza is also a great thing to consider, it’s the perfect time to use your Ooni.
One final tip, do as much preparation as possible inside. You don’t want to be out in the cold preparing your spices or sauces.
7. Preserve your heat
For starters, you need a barbecue with a lid. When you barbecue in winter, you do it with the lid closed. This way, you keep the heat in the barbecue.
Make sure to leave the lid down on the grill with the vents open. Every time you open the grill you will lose heat in the cooking chamber. Add 15 minutes of cooking time every time you open the lid to add more fuel or wood. Set it and forget it, for real.
Bonus: Use technology
To make sure the meat is properly cooked use a remote-reading thermometer so you don’t need to stay out in the cold. Here are some of our choices:
Weber: The WEBER CONNECT SMART GRILLING HUB is what it takes! It will send the temperature of your food to your smart phone up to 200 meters. It is the most reliable and complete gadget we have tested.
Kamado Joe: iKamand cooking algorithms are tried, tested, and proven to cook your food to perfection. Simply attach the breakthrough smart device to the bottom vent of your charcoal grill, and total control over heat, smoke, and target temperature is in your hands.
Twin Eagle Pellet: If you own this BBQ, you already have the latest technology from Twin Eagle. This BBQ comes with 3 Temperature Probes. Monitor the temperature of multiple food items simultaneously. Food temperatures can be monitored on the grills control panel or remotely with the Wi-Fi enabled App.
Big Green Egg: The Egg Genius effortlessly controls the temperature of your EGG through your smartphone, tablet or computer. Remotely manage and monitor cooking temperatures for worry-free cooking and monitor the temperature of your food. You can also view graphs of your past cooks. Lastly, you will receive alerts when your cook is finished or when the EGG temperature is too high or low.
Napoleon: The magnetic base means that this BBQ thermometer stays where you put it. Grill steaks and roasts exactly how you want them by setting custom temperatures, ensuring everyone gets exactly what they want. The Napoleon ACCU-PROBE™ Bluetooth® Thermometer comes with two probes and probe markers to know exactly which steak is which.
With these winter BBQ tips, you can enjoy your favorite grills year round and stay safe.