Now that winter is coming, most people are prepping their grills for a long storage nap. If you’re like me though and believe that grilling is a year-round sport and crave the unmistakable flavors of barbecued food year round, then it’s time to discuss how to grill in winter and tips on overcoming the elements.
According to the NPD Group, a market researching firm, 26.5 American households fit into the category of “extreme grillers,” meaning they grill in the wintertime. The advantage of winter grilling is that your family and friends can enjoy barbecued food year round.
Make no mistake about it, there are always challenges when mother nature gets involved. Gas and charcoal grills act differently in cold weather. Cold weather and wind reduce your grills heating capacity and cooking efficiency.
There is a need to adjust your methods and there are additional safety precautions to take into consideration. By being prepared and having the right information, you can overcome most weather related obstacles.
The following are some of my cold weather grilling tips to help you in joining the “extreme griller” ranks.
Dress For Success:
Winter clothing is a must on those cold windy days. You will often need to be outside for extended periods of time so make sure you stay warm and dry. Most winter clothing is not only bulky but often extremely flammable too. Always be aware of your surroundings in relation to your grill.
Tuck the loose ends of scarfs and hood strings inside your jacket and remember winter gloves are not heat resistant. Make sure to wear gloves made for grilling when operating your grill. Leave a pair of slippers inside by the door so you won’t track mud or snow through the house.
Location, Location, Location:
Consider moving your grill to an outside area closer to your door for shorter trips to and from the house. Look for a spot with the most wind protection available. Up against a structure or the house can help block strong gusts of wind.
If it is snowy or icy, make sure to clear a path from your door to the grill before starting so you do not slip and fall. Make sure any trees or branches with a buildup of snow are not directly overhead as the heat from the grill may cause it to melt.
Let There Be Light:
It gets darker earlier during the winter months. If you are not already in a well-lighted area, make sure to use some sort of clip-on grill light or headband, a light that fits on the handle of your grill or have a flashlight available.
It’s time to dust off the snow and chip away any ice buildup that may have accumulated on your grill. If your grilling with a gas grill, make sure to check all hoses and connections that may have come loose or cracked from being exposed to the elements. Check to make sure control knobs move freely. Make sure your lid is closing properly and there are no gaps where heat may escape.
Fuel Is Your Friend:
Always make sure you have extra fuel on hand. The cold weather will cause your food to cook more slowly, and sometimes it may take up to a half times more fuel to
maintain your desired cooking temperature. Having a chimney starter loaded up and ready during your cook in case you need to add additional coals is a good idea.
Patience Is A Virtue:
Just as you normally would, make sure to heat up the grill in advance but give it up to an additional 5 or so minutes to get to temperature on cold days. Plan for additional cooking times as most foods will take longer to grill to completion.
(Quick tip: in extreme cold, line the inside of a charcoal grill with heavy duty tinfoil. This will help contain and reflect the heat. Make sure to make holes where the vents are to allow airflow.)
If You're Looking, You’re Not Cooking:
I am sure you have heard this one before. This really applies to every season but is especially true in the cold winter months. Every time you open the lid, you’re allowing precious heat to escape and prolonging the cooking time.
Using an easy read grill thermometer and a digital meat probe will help you resist the urge to check the progress by opening the lid. Be patient and trust the process.
One Last Note:
No matter how desperate you are for the flavor of barbecued food, never ever grill in an enclosed area like your garage or under a porch overhang. The buildup of carbon monoxide fumes can be deadly, not to mention a serious fire hazard.
If the weather is too extreme, put it off for another day or better yet, head to your favorite local barbecue joint and share your weather-related woes with other grilling enthusiasts. This is also a good time to get to know the owner/chef and pick their brains for new ideas or techniques.
That is all I have for today. If anybody else has a tip that I missed or an “extreme grilling” story to share, please do so in the comments.
I hope this information was helpful to you and you are one step closer to joining me in “The Extreme Grilling Life”!