Winter Grilling

Winter Grilling

Freezing where you are? Read on for tips on successful winter grilling.

I’m in Texas now, but I grew up in the cold northeast. I’m inspired to write a little bit about winter grilling because we’re having some uncharacteristically cold weather and it’s reminding me of the days when I had to trudge out in the snow for a good chunk of the year if I wanted a good steak or burger.

I’m assuming if you’re reading this, I don’t need to win you over on the value of grilling, but you may benefit from a quick bit of positive reinforcement. Here’s what I love about firing up the grill when it’s cold.

  • It’s a reason to get outside.
  • You get to laugh at nature.
  • Fire and snow go really well together.
  • It’s satisfying to come inside – freezing – to a hot grilled meal.
  • Your neighbors could be impressed by your fortitude.
  • Your neighbors could be intimidated by your craziness.

If you’re ready to get out there, you need to be able to deal with a few challenges; it’s cold, preparation takes longer, food cooks differently, and some foods simply will not fare well.

First things first. Obviously it’s cold out. It’s important to dress for success – make sure that you will be adequately protected from the elements. More than once I’ve assumed that I could just hop outside in whatever I happened to be wearing only to find I had to spend a little more time than I thought and rushed back in. Good grilling takes precision and precision takes time.

Don’t forget hand protection. You’re going to be exposed to the elements but you’ll also need dexterity.

You can also hedge your bets against the cold. Can you move your grill closer to the door and still maintain a safe distance between the grill and the house? If so, go for it. It’s important to consider the wind as well – cold wind has an incredible effect on cooking times and can cool off hot food extremely quickly. If you can adjust to block the wind – again, safely – your efforts will be rewarded.

Remember that your grill will heat up much differently when it’s freezing outside. It will also cook differently. The air above the food in the grill will be colder than normal, so indirect heat cooking will be greatly affected. Plan on more time for preheating and paying more attention to how your food is being cooked. Depending on the conditions, effects will vary, so it pays to be dynamic.

Some foods simply do not respond well to winter grilling. They will be cold before you even get back to the door. When it’s freezing out, the heartier the food being cooked the better. Things I don’t like to grill when it’s very cold out include:

  • Delicate fish
  • Chicken less than 1/4″ in thickness
  • Sides like mushrooms, asparagus, onions
  • Bread or pizza
  • Shrimp
  • Basically… anything smaller than a closed fist

Steaks, burgers, significant cuts of meat; these are the things that make for successful winter grilling.

The key here is basic – prepare. Think about how the cooking will be affected, what you can do to reduce the weather’s effect on your efforts, and be ready for the cold. My final tip – have fun with it. If you find a way to enjoy yourself when grilling in the cold, you’ll be able to stay out there much longer, and the results will show in your food. What better way is there to enjoy the cold than lighting a fire?

How do you deal with grilling in the cold? What do you like to grill? Comment below!

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