More and more people are discovering that grilling food outdoors is not just a summer activity and that it can be extended right into the cold season. Sometimes this is to avoid the high cost of eating out at restaurants, sometimes it’s just because food tastes so good off the grill, and sometimes it’s because grilling outdoors is a real event, and can bring together friends and neighbors to enjoy a fun time together. Here are some tips you should keep in mind when you’re thinking of grilling food during the cold season.
When is it too cold?
The simple answer to this question is – never. You can literally grill outdoors even in the midst of a huge snowstorm. However, there are some steps you’ll need to take in order to pull it off. For one thing, you’ll need to shovel away any snow between your grill and the house, so you don’t end up tracking snow inside whenever you make trips back and forth. Make sure to equip yourself with actual gloves rather than oven mitts during cold weather, so you can withstand the cold temperatures. You’ll need to be a little more patient with winter cooking than you would during summer, because it will take longer for your grill to warm up, and it will use about 50% more fuel than in the summertime, just to maintain cooking temperature.
Location of your grill
During winter, you’ll want to avoid those strong, cold gusts of wind that can make grilling a difficult experience. That means you should locate your grill in a spot that offers some kind of protection from winds, but which is still far enough away from any building that nothing can catch fire. Make note of which direction the wind comes from most often, and shelter your grilling area away from that direction. It goes without saying that you should never cook in an area which is completely enclosed.
Preparing the grill
You should allow a lot more time for your grill to warm up during the cold season, especially if it hasn’t been used in a while. All grills are a little different, but practically all of them will require more time to heat up during the cold season. Every part of your grill will be cold, and some parts may even be frozen solid, so you’ll need extra time in order to get all these parts warmed up and ready to function. Expect to take a good 10 or 15 minutes longer to get your grill all warmed up before cooking anything.
While you’re cooking
If some foods are finished cooking before others, you should temporarily store them in a cast-iron pan while waiting for the other foods to finish. However, you need to be aware that while being stored in a cast-iron pan, these foods will continue to cook a little bit, and that means you should take them off the grill a little sooner. You should be aware that many foods, primarily thicker cuts of chicken, beef, and ribs, will take substantially longer to cook than they might have in summertime. As a rule of thumb, you can expect to add 20 minutes of extra cooking time per pound, for every five degrees under 45 degrees Fahrenheit that the temperature is outdoors.
Charcoal vs. propane
The great thing about using a charcoal grill is that you don’t have to worry as much about warming up your grill, using extra fuel, or cooking longer because of the cold. However, the drawback to using charcoal is that you don’t have the control over the cooking temperature that you would with a gas grill. When you use a propane grill, you’ll have much more control over the temperature, but you’ll then be subject to the impact of the cold weather on your grilling operation.