Wintertime Grilling: Cooking Safely in Comfort

January 28, 2013


So what if it’s January? Our friend Mike Stines over at says it’s still great to be grilling! Here are some tips on the right way to grill in the chill.

winter grilling

In the northern climes, outdoor cooking can present some challenges during late fall, winter and early spring when the winds are blustery and the temperatures hover near–or well below–the freezing mark. Cooking times will be longer…the grill or smoker will have a hard time holding temperature…and the cook will be cold!

But there are ways to defeat Mother Nature. Propane heaters for your deck or patio provide a comfort zone while cooking. Layering clothing keeps the cook comfortable walking to and from the grill. Preheated plates and serving dishes keep the food warm from the grill to the table.

A few tips for cold weather grilling:


• Plan on using more fuel. My formula is to plan on using 50 percent more charcoal in the grill.

• Preheating will take longer. Allow an additional ten to 15 minutes to preheat your grill. Be sure to take snow and ice off of the grill.

• Cooking will take longer. I guesstimate an additional four minutes of cooking time for every five degrees below 45 degrees F. but always use a thermometer to check for doneness. Placing ceramic fire bricks around the cooking grate will help maintain the grill’s temperature by reducing convection heat loss.

• Wind is your enemy. Wind and rain have a greater impact on cooking times than cold temperatures. Both wick heat away from the grill, so try to find a location that is at least partially shielded from the elements. (Of course, never use your grill in an enclosed area such as a carport or garage, and keep your grill a safe distance from your house.)

• Keep the grill cover closed. Every time the grill is opened to tend to the food (or just to peek), the temperature will drop. On average, opening the grill’s cover will add 15 minutes to the cooking time.

• Dress warmly. Unlike cooking barbecue, grilling won’t expose you to frigid temperatures for too long of a time, so you won’t need heavy-duty winter clothing. My preference is to wear a medium-weight crew base layer, a wool shirt, jeans (with a medium-weight base layer if it’s really cold), boots with ski socks and a hooded canvas work jacket.

• It gets dark early. While some grills are equipped with LED lights in the handle most are not. Invest in a good grill light (such as the Maverick GL-03) or a backpacking headlamp so you can see what’s cooking.

• Be sure to clear the pathway to the grill. Carrying food and utensils to the grill can become out-right dangerous climbing over snow drifts or sliding on ice-covered decks. Shovel a pathway to–and around–the grill, and use sand to create some traction on slippery surfaces.

• Not all grills are created equal. Thick-walled ceramic cookers provide more insulation than thin-walled steel grills. Infrared grills also work better in the cold, as they cook by radiation instead of convection.

• Use preheated platters. Preheat platters in a microwave or atop the grill to keep the food warm from the grill to the table.

• While a multi-course gourmet meal might sound tempting, keep the menu simple.




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