What’s Cooler Than a Winter BBQ?
There’s something about grilling in the winter months. If you‘ve not tried it you should.
There’s Halloween parties to be had, and in the UK you have events like firework night (keep those rockets well away from any barbecue). They’re perfect for grilling get togethers – not that you need an excuse to break out the barbecue.
And with a little preparation you don’t need to limit your cookouts to long evenings in the summertime.
Just wrap up and get outdoors.
It Pays to Prep
Naturally, before you start, make sure your grill is in good working condition. You might not have used it for a while, so check for any rust, leaks or malfunctioning parts. Clean the grill grates and burners and replace any worn-out components.
In colder weather, grills tend to consume fuel more quickly. Make sure you have enough charcoal, propane, or whatever fuel source you use.
Winter grilling means longer cooking times and more fuel to reach the temperatures you need. For most things plan on cooking slowly and, longer.
Tip: Gas pressure is affected by cold temperatures and if you’re a charcoal-lover a starter chimney will be your new best friend in the colder months.
Start preheating your grill well in advance, as it may take longer to reach the right cooking temperature in cold weather. Aim for a temperature 15-20°F (8-11°C) higher than your planned temperature. Keep your charcoal or propane supply nearby so that you can easily replenish it if needed.
In winter the days are shorter, so make sure you have sufficient lighting near the grill and dining area if you plan to barbecue in the evening. If you’re starting out in the evening, it can get dark quicker than you think.
What About Tools?
- A meat thermometer for accurate temperature readings. It’s an indispensable tool in winter.
- Grill mitts or gloves.
- Extra fuel and fire starters for charcoal.
- Aluminium foil for wrapping and cooking certain foods.
- Plates, serving platters, and utensils ready before you start.
- Cleaning supplies for post-grilling maintenance.
Oddly, a cool box can help keep things warm. Wrap meats in foil and place in a cool box. The insulated space helps to retain the heat from the food.
Choose the Right Food
One issue with cold is that it takes longer for your grill to get to the temperature you want and keep it there.
In general, select recipes and dishes that are not overly complex and can be prepared without too much time on the grill.
But some foods are well-suited for grilling in colder weather.
Burgers and sausages are easy. Thicker cuts of meat and chicken thighs, also work well. Larger cuts of meat, such as steaks or roasts, can withstand longer cooking times and retain more heat. If the meat is carved it will retain its heat for longer. If you’re choosing thinner slices of meat, sear them and eat quickly.
Vegetables like root vegetables and winter squash are also great choices.
Having a well-thought-out menu will help you stay organised. If you’re using frozen meat, make sure to thaw it in the refrigerator well ahead of time. Marinate your meat for added flavour but do so indoors to prevent the marinade from freezing on the meat.
Spicy foods will keep you warm from the inside and include a selection of warm drinks.
The placement of your barbecue is crucial, especially when grilling in winter.
Whenever possible, choose a location that is sheltered from strong winds and elements. This can include setting up on a patio with walls, near the side of a house or under an awning. Sheltered areas help maintain a stable cooking temperature and protect you from the cold and wind.
Strong winds can make grilling in winter challenging. Position your grill so that it’s shielded from the wind. You can use windbreaks like temporary screens but be cautious when creating windbreaks. You don’t want anything blowing over onto your grill and catching fire.
Never use charcoal grills indoors.
Tip: Keep a safe distance between the grill and any flammable materials, such as wooden structures, bushes, or outdoor furniture. Don’t place the grill directly under overhanging structures, such as roofs, eaves, or tree branches. These can pose a fire hazard if the grill emits sparks or hot embers.
Ice or snow can create slippery conditions, so be cautious when selecting a location, so make sure there is a clear and safe pathway from your kitchen or prep area to the grill. You don’t want to navigate slippery or obstructions while carrying hot food or equipment.
Talking of Snow… Dressing for the Weather
Dress warmly, wearing layers and insulated, waterproof clothing. Layering is the key to your winter BBQ outfit. You need to stay warm while allowing you to adjust your clothing as needed. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep sweat away from your skin, add an insulating layer like fleece or wool for warmth, and finish with a waterproof and windproof outer layer.
Wear a heavy winter coat or insulated jacket to protect yourself from the cold. Your feet and hands will likely feel it first. Wear warm socks to prevent your feet from getting cold and damp. You can also wear an extra pair of socks for added insulation.
Choose a pair of gloves that allows you to maintain dexterity (don’t be tempted to handle hot utensils without swapping to your grilling mitts first), a hat, and insulated boots to keep yourself comfortable while grilling in the cold. Grab a wetsuit if you need to. You don’t want to get distracted by the cold. Imagine you’re skiing.
And just in case… avoid loose clothing that can catch fire.
When grilling in the winter, you may find that using certain pots and pans can be helpful for certain cooking tasks or keeping things toasty.
Cast iron skillets are versatile and can be placed directly on the grill grates. They are ideal for cooking foods like bacon, eggs, or even delicate items like fish fillets. They provide even heat distribution and can handle high temperatures. They’ll keep your food warmer for longer too. If you can transfer the skillet straight to a table, where everyone can serve themselves, you’re on to a winner in the keeping-your-food-warm stakes.
Food likes to cool fast in winter. High-sided bowls help keep the wind and cold away for longer.
Cooking Your Feast
The cold weather can slow down the cooking process, so be patient and plan for extra cooking time, especially for larger cuts of meat.
- Remember to keep the grill’s hood closed as much as possible to trap heat and maintain a consistent cooking temperature. Only open the hood when necessary to check or turn the food.
- For foods that require longer cooking times, use the indirect grilling method. This involves placing food on a part of the grill that is not directly over the heat source.
- Reverse searing is great in lower temperatures. Here you cook meat indirectly first and then sear it over high heat. It’s a great technique for achieving a perfect doneness while imparting a smoky flavour.
- Save time and keep warm by prepping your food indoors. Season, marinate and chop ingredients in the comfort of your kitchen, so you can focus on grilling once you’re outside.
Check the weather forecast leading up to your BBQ. Grilling in the winter can be fun, but there are times when too much winter is too much.