Tips for Grilling in Cold Weather

Tips for Grilling in Cold Weather

Tips for Grilling in Cold Weather

As summer fades and temperatures begin to fall, it’s usually time to bring the party inside. But don’t pack your grill away just yet. Cold weather doesn’t mean you have to do all of your cooking indoors. Your grill is an extremely versatile piece of equipment that you can use year-round. So, don’t let frigid temperatures stop you from enjoying the delicious grilled food you love.

Here are some tips for grilling in cold weather.

Does cold weather affect grilling?

Cold weather affects grilling in many ways. Different grills perform differently, especially in cold temperatures. For example, when using a grill with thin outer walls, it’s more difficult to reach and maintain cooking temperatures. Thicker walls make it easier to maintain your desired temperature. From how the grill functions to how fuel is impacted, grilling in the winter can be more challenging. Knowing what you need to do before, during and after grilling when it's cold outside will make it easier. 


Winterize Your Grill

Can you really use a gas grill in cold weather?

Of course you can. But first, you need to winterize it. When using your grill in the winter, there are a few things you can do to keep it functioning at its best. The most important thing is to keep it cleaned and oiled. Use vegetable or canola oil to keep the grates lubricated throughout the cold weather season.

Before using your gas grill this winter, check the hoses for any cracks. Inspect the burners, jets and gas lines for blockages that can restrict gas flow. The flame should burn blue, not yellow. Yellow flames indicate clogged burners that need to be cleaned or adjusted.

Check that the lid and knobs aren’t stuck or frozen shut. If they are, move the grill into the garage or other warm place to defrost. You can also use a hair dryer to defrost it faster. Never force a frozen knob or lid open. Forcing a frozen knob to turn or lid to open can damage the grill.


Declare the Grill a Snow-Free Zone

Whether or not you use your grill in colder weather, never let snow accumulate on or around it. Leaving snow to melt on your grill leads to rust. Making it a snow-free zone will help to extend the life of your grill so that you don’t have to replace it before its time.

Clear any remaining snow or rain away and dry all surfaces with paper towels when you’re ready to grill. A dry grill is better for reaching and maintaining cooking temperatures, especially when you’re using a charcoal grill.  So, take a couple minutes to dry your grill thoroughly before turning on the heat or lighting the coals.


Protect Your Grill - Protect Your Home

Setting up your grill too close to anything flammable puts you and your home in danger. In fact, your grill should be no closer than 10 feet away from your home, flammable materials and other structures. Clear away dead leaves and other yard debris, that could interfere with your fall grilling enjoyment, from around your grill.

Always use your grill in a location where it’s protected from wind and other elements, but never in a closed area like an enclosed patio, porch or garage, even with the garage door open. Instead, position the grill at a 90-degree angle to the wind to keep the flames from blowing out. Not only is it a potential fire hazard to bring your grill inside a structure, gas grills produce carbon monoxide, which can be deadly.

If you’re skilled in construction, you can build a designated grilling zone for your grill or design a modular or built-in outdoor kitchen you can use throughout the year.


Increase Insulation

If you’re concerned with the amount of insulation your grill has, you can find products to improve performance and reduce fuel costs. For the best protection against cold weather elements, look into a grill jacket. A grill jacket wraps around the outside of your grill to prevent heat loss with additional insulation. If you can’t find a jacket for your grill model, you may be able to find a universal jacket That will fit most grills. Measure your grill’s dimensions to be sure the jacket will fit without blocking the vents to allow for proper airflow.

If you can't find a grill jacket, you can use furnace insulation or a welding blanket to insulate your grill. A welding blanket works really well to block the cold winds. Made from flame resistant materials withstand heat generated by welding equipment, they can be cut to fit your grill and vents. Like welding blankets, furnace insulation is heat resistant and can be wrapped around your grill to insulate it from freezing conditions.


Extra Fuel Required

When grilling in cold weather, one thing you can count on is that you’re going to use more fuel than in warmer months. Ensure that you have plenty of fuel before you start grilling to avoid running out at the worst possible time, when your food is only half-cooked. Whether you use gas, charcoal or wood to grill, stock up before the cold weather hits. Local stores don’t stock as much grilling fuel in colder months.

Can propane gas flow in extremely cold temperatures?

Yes. For propane to freeze, the outside temperature would have to be -44°F or below, which happens in very few parts of the world.


Factor Cook Time into Food Choices

When grilling outdoors in colder temperatures, consider foods that grill up faster, so you don't have to be outside in the cold any longer than necessary. Stay away from thick steaks because your grill won’t hold heat as well when it’s cold outside. Foods that require frequent flipping or basting should also be reserved for warmer weather. Avoid grilling anything that requires lots of attention, making it take longer to cook your food. Remember, every time you open that grill lid, you’re losing heat and letting cold air in.


Use Cast Iron Cooking Grates

If you’re just not willing to give up your New York strips for the season, use cast-iron cooking grates. They get hot very quickly and retain the heat for a long time. If your grill doesn't have cast iron grates, you could swap out stainless steel or aluminum grates for cast-iron, whenever you need to.


Seize the Daylight

Since most cold-weather grilling is done in the winter when the sun sets earlier in the day, there are fewer daylight hours than the rest of the year. So, you might want to check what time the sun will set and start grilling a little earlier.

When the day gets away from you or you plan to grill after dark, you need sufficient lighting to see the food you’re grilling clearly. You could install an outdoor lighting system for your designated grill zone or simply attach a light to the grill handle to light up the cooking surface.


Allow Extra Time to Preheat

Just like your car engine, you need to give your grill a little more time to warm up in the winter. In fact, preheating your gas grill can take up to twice as long in really cold weather. A grill that might typically take 15 minutes to preheat will likely to take more like 30 minutes.


Dress for the Weather Conditions

While this may seem obvious, if you’re uncomfortably cold, you won’t be able to give your food the attention it deserves. So, bundle up. Dress in layers but take care that nothing hangs loose enough to touch the fire. Wear warm gloves that give you full range of motion to handle your grilling tools. Fingerless gloves are great for winter grilling.


Invite Guests to Join You Outside

In the winter, the grill, like a fire pit, will keep everyone warm. Bundle everyone up to come outside and gather around the grill. Your friends and family can visit with you while you grill or lend a hand.


Keep the Lid Closed

As a general rule, you want to get into the habit of keeping the lid down while grilling, checking on it only when necessary. Keeping all that heat contained will ensure faster, even grilling and helps save on fuel too. Lifting the lid on your grill causes it to lose heat, which means it’s going to take longer to cook your food. In fact, even just a quick peek at your food will cost you an extra few minutes to get back up to temperature. This is true on warm days, but especially so on colder days.

HOT TIP: If you have an app-connected, wireless meat thermometer, use it to monitor temperature and cooking time.


Mind Your Meat Temps

It’s especially important to rely on meat temps when grilling in winter. Cold-weather grilling takes a little longer and it can be harder to determine doneness. To be absolutely sure your meat is thoroughly cooked, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the cut. When you reach desired doneness, allow your meat to rest for at least 3 minutes before slicing.


Cover Your Food

As soon as your food comes off the grill, cover it and take it into the house to keep the heat from escaping into the cold outside air. When you're grilling a lot of food, you might want to have a helper to assist you with food transport so you can continue to keep an eye on the grill.

Last but most definitely not least, always keep a fire extinguisher within easy reach for safety.