Top Tips For Grilling In The Winter

Tom Gaffey
by Tom Gaffey
Credit: Shutterstock / John-Fs-Pic

Summer is the most popular season to grill, but there is no reason why you can’t enjoy delicious grilled foods during any season — even the winter. Just because it is cold outside shouldn’t mean you need to go without a delicious grilled meal. But grilling in the winter does pose its challenges, and so there are additional measures you should take to ensure ideal results.

When grilling in the winter, allow extra time for your grill to heat up. Remember to always keep the lid closed, so you can maintain proper heat. Use a thermometer to ensure you are cooking your food properly. Always maintain a safe area around the grill, dress appropriately, and remember to bring your food inside quickly after grilling.

Grilling in the winter is harder than in the summer, but it is possible with the right planning. As long as you follow the proper steps, you should have no problem safely grilling amazing food even on cold winter days. Before you fire up your grill on a frigid winter day, however, make sure you consider the following factors.

Three Considerations When Grilling In The Winter

1. The Type Of Grill You Use

There are hundreds of types of grills out there. They have different designs, and most importantly, they can run on all sorts of different kinds of fuel. Some grills connect to a home’s natural gas supply, others run on propane tanks, and others run on charcoal or wood.

2. Your Winter Climate

Not all winter climates are the same. Winter in Maine will be a lot different than winter in Georgia. If you live somewhere with mild winters, where freezing temperatures and snow are rare, grilling in the winter will be more or less the same as grilling in the autumn. If you live somewhere with harsh winters, you must take even further precautions than mentioned below.

3. Grill Location

The location of your grill is also something to consider. Grills that are on a covered patio need less constant maintenance and weather consideration than those exposed to elements like snow and ice. Also, measure how many steps away from your home the grill is located. The farther it is from your door, the more likely you'll have to do some extra things on cold or snowy days.

Top 10 Tips For Grilling Outside In The Winter

1. Give The Grill More Time To Heat Up

One of the main differences you will find when grilling in the winter is how long it takes your grill to heat up. In the summer, your grill can heat up in just a few minutes. In the winter, it takes much longer, often more than twice as long.

As a general rule, heat your grill at its highest temperature setting for 15 minutes with the lid closed at all times. Once you have let the grill heat for 15 minutes, check the internal temperature and proceed accordingly.

2. Plan To Cook The Food Longer And Slower

When you grill in the winter, food will generally take longer to cook. Therefore, it is best to cook food longer and slower. This is great for meat like poultry that must be slowly cooked through, and also vegetables and some seafood.

It might be harder to get a fast hot sear than it is in the winter, but as long as you work with the conditions, rather than against them, you will have no major issues grilling outside in the winter.

3. Be Diligent About Keeping The Lid Closed

In general, it’s always a good idea to keep the grill's lid closed if you want to ensure consistent hot temperatures inside. This tip is increasingly important when the outside temperatures drop. When you grill in the winter in cold weather, the heat from your grill quickly escapes, dropping the cooking temperatures dramatically. This causes low and uneven cooking conditions. It is best to only open the lid when you prepare to flip the food, checking on it minimally.

4. Keep Grill In A Well-Ventilated Space

It might be tempting to bring your grill into a protected area for the winter, especially if you plan on grilling frequently. It is a good idea to have the grill close (but still at a safe distance) from the home. Be very careful when you choose a winter location. Don't place it in a shed or enclosed space. Grills must be kept in a well-ventilated area. In addition to being a fire hazard, placing grills in a closed area significantly increases your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

5. Dress Accordingly

In the summer, you don’t need to think much about what you wear while cooking on a grill, apart from a festive apron and a protective glove. In the winter, there are more wardrobe considerations to think about.

Most importantly, you need to dress warmly when you grill in the winter. It is best to not wear any loose or hanging clothing, like long scarves, as these can drag in the flames and catch fire. Also, avoid any flammable materials. Make sure you use grill mitts that are fireproof and also warm.

6. Use Reliable Thermometers When In Doubt

Grilling in the winter takes time to master, and based on the weather on any given day, your cooking results are bound to vary. Therefore, even if you are a grill master in the summer, it is best to take extra precautions in the winter.

Use a reliable thermometer, especially when cooking meat. This ensures everything is at a safe and ideal temperature before you remove it from the grill. It is also a good idea to have a visible and reliable thermometer inside the grill,so you know exactly what temperature your food is cooking at.

7. Use A Grill Cover When The Grill Is Not In Use

A grill cover is great at preserving the integrity of your grill and helping to ensure it lasts a long time. It is a good accessory to use throughout the year, but even more so in the winter.

Winter weather like snow and ice can hurt the metal and other parts of a grill. Snow and ice are also very annoying and difficult to remove from a grill. With a grill cover, preparing your grill is easier, as you simply need to dust it off and remove it, revealing a ready-to-use surface.

8. Bring Food Inside Immediately After Grilling

When you grill in the warm months, it might be easy to take food off the grill and let it cool nearby while you clean up or prepare other items. In the winter, you do not have this luxury. You must bring food inside as soon as you finish cooking it. Consider using insulating containers with lids, so you can place grilled items inside and keep them warm on a cold day.

9. Keep The Area Surrounding The Grill Free Of Ice And Hazards

You must pay attention not only to your grill, but also to the surrounding area when grilling in the winter months. This is especially important if you live in an area that is prone to below freezing temperatures.

Make sure you the ground around the grill is firm and stable. The last thing you want is for the grill to be on a slippery surface. This is a major safety hazard. Before you fire up your grill, make sure the ground and surrounding area are free of ice, snow, and other potential hazards.

10. Stock Up On Extra Fuel

Lastly, remember that grilling in cold winter weather takes significantly more fuel than grilling on a hot summer day, so y our propane tank won’t last as long. Not only does it take longer for your grill to heat up, but it also means you need to cook food at a higher heat to combat the cold air outside. To make sure you never run out of fuel, always have a backup on hand when you grill in the winter.

Final Thoughts On Grilling In The Winter

Grilling in the winter is certainly possible, as long as you take proper measures. Make sure you always dress appropriately, wearing warm clothes that will not catch on fire. Take extra time to preheat the grill, and leave the grill lid closed at all times. Use a thermometer to ensure accuracy, and make sure your grill and the surrounding area are free of safety hazards like ice and snow before you start cooking.

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Tom Gaffey
Tom Gaffey

Tom Gaffey is an expert writer who currently resides in Washington D.C. Tom has a passion for real estate and home improvement writing, as well as travel and lifestyle writing. He lived the last twelve years in Hawaii where he worked closely with luxury resorts and event planners, mastering his knowledge of aesthetics and luxury products. This is where he found his passion for home improvement and a keen interest in DIY projects. Currently, Tom resides in Washington D.C, and also working on his debut fiction novel.

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