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Imagine temperatures outside being well below freezing, and you’re inside, chowing down on brats or another of your grilled favorites that you had previously associated with summertime. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? You can experience that every day of winter if you’d like. In fact, it’s believed that 10% of grillers don’t let grilling in the winter slow them down while about half of grilling enthusiasts may slow down some once the snow starts falling but don’t let that stop them completely.
The Joys of Grilling in Winter
In addition to the joys of enjoying your finished products, there’s just something special about clearing a path in the snow to your grill, bundling up in your heavy jacket, hat and gloves and being the hardy person who continues grilling when it gets cold, and nearly everybody else in your community is inside. Some grilling enthusiasts also enjoy combining this experience with football tailgating, whether that’s at the stadium or at home prior to watching the big game on television with your freshly grilled food.
Does Cold Weather Affect Grilling?
Does cold weather affect a propane grill? Does cold weather affect a charcoal grill? Yes and yes.
There truly are challenges to grilling in the snow. They can be overcome, of course, but they do need to be considered as the conditions are obviously different than grilling on a nice summer afternoon. The bitter cold itself is one as it will affect the grilling process. That factor also affects your grill’s ability to work, so you’ll most likely need to use more gas or charcoal. You’ll also likely want to keep the setup and cleanup processes as simple as possible. You want to be hardy, but you don’t need to overdo it!
To ensure that your winter grilling experience is a positive one, take advantage of these nine tips.
1. Remove Snow
You need to make sure that your path to the grill is clear. Imagine going through all of the work to create a delicious meal and then you drop it in the snow after tripping over a non-shovelled path. That would be tragic. So, get that taken care of prior to starting the grilling process. You also want to clear an area around the grill in addition to removing all of the snow that might have accumulated on top of it. One way to make the latter step easier would be to use a grill cover so that all that you would need to do is to remove it.
2. Avoid the Wind
Winter is known to be an especially windy time of the year. However, this is something that you don’t want to be affecting your food. At least you want to minimize its effect. If wind generally comes from the same direction, place your grill in a place that avoids that. Better yet, secure it in a spot that doesn’t receive much wind at all, if possible. However, ensure that it’s not placed under overhangs, and your grill must be placed outside. Cooking in an enclosed area is dangerous.
3. Stock Up on Fuel
Since grilling in winter causes your grill to work harder than it did in the summer, it’s important to stock up on gas or charcoal. A rough estimate is that you’ll use about 150% of what you would in the summer although this will vary a bit depending on just how cold it is and how windy it is. Store all charcoal in a dry area that’s safe from the snow until it’s time for it to be put to use. If you’re grilling with gas, preheat for 15 or more minutes with your burners at the high setting.
4. Keep Grill Closed
You know how you’re not supposed to open the oven when your food’s cooking as it’ll let the cold air in? And that you shouldn’t leave your refrigerator open for long periods of time for the opposite reason? Well, your grill is the same, and the effect is exceptional when grilling in the winter. Any time you open the lid, you’re causing a tremendous amount of heat to escape, especially if the temperature is below zero.
5. Test Your Food’s Temperature
While keeping the last point in mind, you do want to use a ThermoPro food meat thermometer from time to time to ensure that your meat has been thoroughly cooked. This is a step that is obviously important to do every single time that you cook, but it’s even more so when you’re getting the hang of the challenges of grilling in cold weather.
6. Be Smartly Dressed
Since you live in a cold climate, you likely know how to dress for the weather, including to be out in it for long periods of time. However, you should also take into account some grill-related suggestions. The most important of which is to not wear a scarf, or, if you must, keep it tightly tucked away, and don’t have anything else on that could dangle into the flames.
Also, although you may walk out to and carry stuff out to your grill with winter gloves on, you need to take those off when you’re grilling and use your heat-resistant ones then.
7. Prepare a Staging Place Indoors
Before you head out, prepare a staging place indoors where you can bring your food. This is especially important if you’re going to be making multiple trips in and out, such as if you’re preparing food for a number of people. You will usually want this place to be as close to the outside as possible so that you don’t track an excessive amount of snow inside. Another benefit of doing this is that you could use this area to keep your plates at room temperature until they’re needed to be brought outside.
8. Go With the Tried and True
You’re more likely to have an enjoyable experience if you go with the recipes that you know like the back of your hand or at least are pretty experienced at. The time for experimenting is not now. At least not until you’ve developed into a veteran winter griller. Keeping it simple ensures that you still get to enjoy great food while not adding unnecessary stresses. Unless you want to challenge yourself further, of course. In that case, feel free to experiment all that you want! Just make sure that you’re being safe.
9. Be Patient
It may take more time to get that delicious meal prepared, but rest assured that you will. It just might take a few minutes longer when taking into account the preheating process, the cooking stage and preparing for and cleaning up from the experience. But it’ll be so worth it when you’re all settled down with your food.
If you had always thought that winter was the time to put your grill away and forlornly think of all of those eating experiences that you used to have, change that. Get your grill out, get dressed, get out there, and get your food cooking again. There’s no reason why you can’t enjoy grilled food today.
If you need the instant-read meat thermometers alternatives, here are some good choices.