11 Tips for Winter Grilling
Think you have to mothball your grill for the winter? Then think again. Winter grilling can be wonderfully atmospheric—there are no pesky bugs and you don't need to worry about keeping food chilled!
Do a Little Cleaning
If your grill has worked hard all summer, it will appreciate a little TLC before winter sets in. Give everything a thorough cleaning, including all the hidden spots that don’t often see the light of day. Our easy-to-follow guide to tuning up your outdoor gas grill will show you everything you need to do to have your grill in tip-top shape for winter grilling.
Look for Warming Recipes
Winter grilling is all about keeping the chill at bay, so choose recipes that are warm and comforting. If you want to serve a winter favorite like chili, grill some chicken or beef first, cut it into hearty chunks and use that in the chili. If you’re a die-hard grilled foodie, consider using spicy marinades on your meat and side dishes that offer a tasty boost of heat. Serving soup on the side is also a welcome cupful of warmth when the temperature drops and you can keep a pot warm on the grill.
Check Your Fuel
Fuel such as propane doesn’t burn so efficiently in cold temperatures, and food also takes longer to cook, so be prepared to use more fuel than you do when the temperature is higher. Use our handy guide to check your propane fuel levels, and keep a spare on stand-by (stored safely away from any heat source).
You’ll need more charcoal if you prefer solid fuel, so again, keep enough spare charcoal in a cool and dry place, ready for use when you need it.
No one wants an accident at a winter barbecue, and the best way to avoid problems is to be well-prepared. Place your grill on a firm level surface—a wooden deck is not the best choice for obvious reasons! Keep your spare fuel away from the lit grill.
Winter clothing like scarves can trail into the flames, so be sure you’re safely dressed when grilling.
If you’re grilling after dark, you’ll need to choose outdoor lighting, both for atmosphere and for practicality. Light strings are an attractive feature when draped around your deck. Don’t rely on a trailing extension cords as your power source because they are a trip hazard. And beware of naked flames like candles if children and pets are around.
For grilling, a good overhead light is best, but you can get excellent visibility with a powerful headlamp that leaves your hands free for cooking.
Photo: papa studio/Shutterstock
Grill Thermometer and App
When Jack Frost is nipping at your nose, you want to spend as little time in the cold as possible. So rather than huddling over the burning coals, invest in a grilling thermometer and app that monitors the temperature of your food while you sit warm and toasty indoors. Insert the probe into your food, then wait for your smartphone app to alert you that it’s reached the correct temperature—no more prodding and turning to see if your burgers are cooked.
A winter grilling party presents numerous underfoot hazards, especially if you’re cooking at night. Snow will need to be removed from the area. See our great tips for removing ice and snow.
Darkness also increases the risk of trip and slip hazards. Remove extension cords and other possible tripping hazards such as garden statues and outdoor furniture that could be partially covered with snow.
Wear Grilling Gloves
Normal winter gloves might keep out the cold, but they won’t cut it for grilling. Purposely designed grilling gloves are made to withstand extremely high temperatures, and have long cuffs to protect your hands and wrists against burns. Made from fire-resistant material such as silicone, they won’t wear into holes, and they often have special non-slip grip for safety when handling hot food and utensils. And best of all, they’re easy to clean—some are even dishwasher-safe.
Photo: Courtesy of Jolly Green Products
Planning is key: Locate your grill at least 10 feet away from fences, buildings or other flammable materials, and keep additional fuel in a safe place. Have a designated place for raw and cooked food and don’t mix the two—no one wants food poisoning to follow a great barbecue! Use separate utensils, too.
Put as much as possible out for your guests to help themselves—condiments, napkins, plates, cups and glasses, etc. Avoid glass in case of accidents and remember children’s safety if you’re serving hot drinks or soup. Small tables are useful for serving and for eating—check out this woodworking project for building a picnic table.
Once you’re prepared, you’ll be able to relax with your guests when your winter grilling party gets going.
Photo: Nikolaev Mikhail/Shutterstock
Smoke for Added Flavor
Winter is the perfect time to use a cold smoker to add superb flavor to your food before grilling. You can smoke fish, bacon and steak, which all taste delicious when grilled. You can also make your own pulled pork. Smoking food is a long and slow process, requiring a constant low heat, so investing in a thermal blanket to insulate against the cold helps reduce the amount of fuel you need.
Once smoked, your fish and meat will be ready for grilling when your guests arrive, giving you a whole new range of delicious flavors to explore.
Photo: Stuart Monk/Shutterstock
Build a Permanent Grill Shelter
For confirmed winter grilling fanatics, the best solution is to construct a purpose-built shelter that houses your grill, and also has a wide range of customizable features like built-in cooler space, storage for barware and beverages, lighting and bench seating.
Our comprehensive plan for building a grill-gazebo has detailed instructions, including advice on your choice of lumber, and everything you need to complete the project successfully.