If you ask us, food with the smoky flavor that comes only from cooking over fire is not just for the warmer months. Summer is not the only time to light up the smoker or grill. For some people cooking outside year round is easy, but for others cooking outside in the winter can lead to frostbite (or even worse, partially cooked meat). No matter what climate you are grilling in, when you get that craving for a flame grilled steak or pulled pork, nothing else will do. We have 4 essential tips for barbecuing in the winter:
Give Yourself Extra Time
In frigid temps time is essential. It takes longer to get whatever grill you are working on to the right temperatures in the coldest months. Whether working with a cooker made from metal or ceramic, in freezing temperatures chances are that the grill is the same temperature as outside. It may seem obvious, but people don’t always plan for it: it’s going to take a lot longer to warm up in the winter than a cooker in the middle of summer. Give yourself an extra 20-30 minutes to get your fire going and grill warmed up.
After the cooker is warmed up fully you can put food on. Expect your food to potentially take an extra 20-30% longer than usual to get to its final temperatures on longer smokes. If you think your brisket cook is going to take 10 hours, in the middle of winter give yourself 12 hours just to be safe. Remember, if it finishes early just wrap it in foil and towels, throw it in a well insulated cooler indoors and let it rest.
One of the ways to really get in trouble cooking in cold weather is to constantly be opening and closing the lid. Checking food too often is not a great habit even in hot weather, but in cold weather it will dramatically impact the cook time. Every time the lid is open the cooking chamber will drop in temperature so fast it can take substantial time to get the temperature back to where it was. Our recommendation: invest in some quality temperature monitoring equipment so you can always know the temperature the cooker and your meat are running at without opening the lid.
Have Extra Fuel on Hand
This one seems obvious but it’s a tip to really consider during the winter. Have extra fuel on hand. Whether you are cooking with charcoal, pellets, wood or propane make sure you have more on hand than you think you will need. In freezing temperatures your cooker will use a lot more fuel than you realize. One of the worst things that could happen would be running out of fuel mid cook , ending up with a half cooked chicken or pork shoulder.
Think “Quick Cooks” in Cold Weather
Last, when thinking of what to cook in the winter in an outside grill we tend to look for the shorter cooks. Think of things that can be cooked over direct heat. We like, steak, burgers, chops, shrimp, or chicken… the possibilities are endless.
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