As temperatures drop, many people reluctantly bid farewell to their beloved BBQ grills, resigning themselves to months without those smoky, char-grilled flavors we all love. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Winter grilling can be just as enjoyable as summer barbecues. With the right approach and some practical tips, you can turn your grill into a year-round culinary companion, defying the cold to keep serving up delicious meals for family and friends.
Winter grilling ideas
If you want to use your grill during the winter months, start by learning how to do it safely and effectively, ensuring that your BBQ game remains strong, no matter the weather.
While it is possible to mimic grill flavor in the oven, it’s never quite the same. So, dust off that grill cover and get ready — it’s time to grill through the chill with these hot winter BBQ tips.
Location, location, location
When it comes to winter grilling, selecting the right spot for your BBQ is crucial. Unlike the leisurely days of summer when any spot in the backyard suffices, winter demands a more strategic approach. You want a location that provides some shield against the harsh elements while still being safe and ventilated.
First and foremost, safety is paramount. Always ensure your grill is outdoors in a well-ventilated area, even in winter. Grilling inside a garage, even with the door open, or under an enclosed porch is risky due to the potential buildup of carbon monoxide. Look for a spot that’s close enough to your house for convenience but far enough to keep smoke and potential fire hazards away from structures and overhangs.
The ideal winter grilling spot also offers some natural protection from the wind. If the spot you choose is too exposed, it will not only be less comfortable for the grill master but it can also make it harder to maintain consistent temperatures. If you don’t have a natural windbreak like a fence or wall, consider setting up a temporary one. However, ensure that this windbreak is non-flammable and placed at a safe distance from the grill.
Additionally, consider the accessibility of your grilling area. You’ll likely be making a few trips back and forth to your kitchen, so you want a clear, safe path. Regularly shovel and de-ice this path to prevent slips and falls. With a well-chosen location, you set the stage for a successful and enjoyable grilling experience, even in the coldest months.
Choose the right foods
Selecting appropriate foods for winter grilling is not just about taste preferences; it’s also about understanding how different foods react to colder temperatures and fluctuating grill heat. In winter, it’s wise to opt for foods that are forgiving and robust enough to withstand these conditions.
Hearty meats like thick steaks, pork chops and sausages are excellent choices for winter grilling. These cuts are less likely to dry out and can handle heat changes better. They also require less frequent flipping, which means you can keep the grill l lid closed, conserving heat. For those who enjoy slow cooking, winter is the perfect time for smoking larger cuts like brisket or pork shoulder. The longer cooking time is ideal for a cold day spent mostly indoors, with just occasional trips to the grill.
Vegetables also take well to winter grilling. Root vegetables like carrots, potatoes and beets can be wrapped in foil and cooked directly in the coals. For a quicker option, skewered vegetables like bell peppers, onions and mushrooms are great for grilling and can add color and variety to your winter BBQ.
Remember, winter grilling doesn’t mean you have to give up on your favorite summer BBQ dishes. However, you might need to make some adjustments. You can still grill burgers and chicken breasts, for instance, but pay extra attention to cooking them evenly and keeping them moist. Marinating can be particularly helpful in this regard.
“I love to grill in winter, but for really cold days, I prefer food with a shorter cook time like hamburgers, sausages, chicken tenderloins, pineapple slices, grilled veggies, etc. Placing the grill outside under the awning but away from the house is ideal.”— Gena Lazcano, GingerCasa.com
Lastly, don’t forget about the sides. Grilled bread, stuffed with cheese and herbs, can be a warm, comforting addition to any winter BBQ. Similarly, foil packets filled with seasoned beans or corn can be easily cooked alongside your main dish, rounding out the meal with minimal fuss.
Keep warm while grilling
Keeping the grill master warm is important, too. Standing out in the cold for an extended period can be challenging, but with the right preparations, you can stay toasty and enjoy the experience.
Outdoor heating is a great way to add warmth to your grilling area. Fire pits or patio heaters can be excellent investments. They provide a significant amount of heat and create an inviting atmosphere at the same time. Position them strategically to enjoy the warmth without compromising safety or the grill’s performance.
Dressing appropriately is crucial for winter grilling. Layer up with thermal wear to retain body heat. Opt for a warm, fitted jacket that doesn’t have loose ends or fringes that could catch fire. Insulated, waterproof boots will keep your feet warm and provide stability on potentially slippery surfaces. Don’t forget a pair of insulated grilling gloves. These gloves should protect your hands from the cold while also giving you enough dexterity to handle grilling tools safely.
Sipping on warm drinks can also keep the chill at bay. Hot beverages like coffee, tea, or hot chocolate are always comforting. For an adult twist, consider warm winter cocktails like mulled wine, hot toddies or spiked hot chocolate. These drinks not only warm your hands but also your insides, making the grilling experience more enjoyable.
Lastly, consider incorporating some physical activity to keep warm. Simple actions like light stretching, moving around, or even just clapping your hands can improve blood circulation and generate body heat. The less you move, the colder you’ll get.
Grilling in winter
By creating a warm and comfortable grilling environment and dressing appropriately for the weather, winter grilling can be a delightful experience.
These practices ensure you stay warm and safe, allowing you to focus on cooking up a delicious BBQ feast for family and friends. With a roaring fire pit, a warm drink in hand and a thick jacket, you’ll find that grilling in winter can be just as good as in the summer.
Daniel Morris is the New Zealand-based founder of Fire and Saw, a blog that focuses on chainsaws, wood stoves, fireplaces, axes and related topics. Along with his wife Naomi, Daniel operates the site, where he shares his passion for these subjects.
This article originally appeared on Fire and Saw.