Grilling doesn’t have to stop when the summer ends. These winter grilling tips will ensure your winter grilling is safe, fun, and delicious.
Awhile ago, I wrote a post on how to clean off your grill at the end of the season and get it ready to store for winter.
And, my word, did I ever hear from you guys! You all delivered a clear message, and that message was: people like to grill in winter, too!
I suppose it depends on where you live and how tough you are when it comes to cold weather. Even though I’m a total cold weather wimp, I do agree that grilling in winter should be celebrated! Grilling makes your food taste great, and can be a super healthy way to cook. So why pack those grills away just because there’s snow on the ground?
After many comments and emails letting me know grills do not need to be stored during the cold months, I decided to write this winter grilling guide.
While I still think it’s great to clean your grill at the end of a season, I do love grilled food year round! And with that, I offer you my top winter grilling tips!
My Top Winter Grilling Tips
#1 Move Your Grill Closer
If possible, move your grill closer to your house. We’ve lived in houses where our grill is in a back corner of the yard. Great in the summer, but it just doesn’t cut it in the middle of winter! If you have to trek through snow to grill a perfect steak, you’ll probably give it a miss, and opt for a smokeless indoor grill instead.
As summer winds down and the leaves start to fall, move your grill to your patio or even a sidewalk if necessary. You’ll thank me when the mercury starts to drop.
#2 Make Sure Your Grill is in a Safe Location
Piggybacking on tip number one, you still have to make sure you stay safe.
As much as you might want to be out of the winter elements, never move your grill inside a garage. Grilling outside is a must for safety! In fact, you shouldn’t even have it under an overhang or within 10′ of your house due to it being a fire hazard.
So yes – move it closer. However, still keep it a safe distance away from your house.
It’s really important to toe the line on this safety tip, friends.
#3 Bundle Up, But Consider Safety
As you bundle up to head out to your grill, avoid wearing accessories that might dangle and graze the grill. Leave your scarf off or make sure it’s securely tucked into your jacket. And choose a hat without tassels and hanging bits.
While you want to dress to stay warm in the cold weather, you don’t want anything that could graze the grill and ignite.
#4 Trust Your Recipes
When it comes to grilling in the winter, you need to put a bit of faith in your recipes and the recommended cooking times.
After all, you don’t want to be running back and forth between the house and the grill, opening the lid. It’s too cold for that! Additionally, however, you don’t want to let the heat of the grill escape too often, as this will impact your recipe.
Trust your recipe for the most part, and keep the grill lid closed (with vents open) as much as you can.
#5 Adjust Cook Times
I realize that this contradicts point number 4 slightly, but it’s worth noting that meat can take longer to grill in cold temperatures. Once you get close to freezing, you might need to add some extra cook time. A meat thermometer is your friend here, as you can monitor
#6 Plan for Longer Pre-Heating
In cold weather, it might take a little longer to preheat your grill in winter. Plan your timing accordingly.
I usually give it an extra 5 to 10 minutes to preheat the grill over what I do in the summer. For steaks and recipes that call for high heat, you might need about 20 minutes of pre-heating total.
#7 Do the Recipe’s Heavy Lifting while Inside
Try to make dishes that you can prep indoors, rather than food that you need to stand over the grill constantly basting or assembling.
In winter, you want your grill to do the cooking, but you want all the pre-work to be completed in the warmth of your kitchen.
#8 Keep a Flashlight Handy or Get a Headlamp
Where I live, it starts getting dark around 4:30 or 5:00 during the winter. That’s way too early for me to be preparing dinner!
I compensate by having a flashlight handy for grilling in the dark.
Even better than trying to hold a flashlight while you maneuver food, consider getting a headlamp. They’re inexpensive and versatile, and will give you a direct, overhead light.
#9 Go With Charcoal if You Can
Propane doesn’t burn very efficiently in cold temperatures and you’ll end up using more of it in winter than you do during the warmer months.
I recommend swapping your gas grill and getting a charcoal grill for winter grilling. It will be less expensive to heat, and you can also start it faster and get a more consistent heat if you use something like a grill starter.
#10 Use Lump Charcoal, Not Briquettes
With your charcoal grill, use lump charcoal instead of briquettes.
Lump charcoal burns hotter and will give you a more consistent heat while grilling. Just pile your lump charcoal in the bottom of your grill and use a good grill starter, and then start cooking!
#11 Choose Quick Cooking Recipes in Winter
In terms of which food is best for winter grilling, I like to make food that doesn’t take quite as long to cook.
You probably won’t find me cooking a giant pork roast on our grill in the winter. I’m a wimp, remember?
Instead, opt for foods that cook fairly quickly on the grill, like my Asian Pork Burgers, Grilled Teriyaki Shrimp and Pineapple, Marinated Chicken for a Salad, Grilled Shrimp Pizza, Grilled Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs, or Fruit on the Grill.
Along the same line of thinking, when you’re at the butcher, ask for thinner cuts of meat for quicker cooking.
#12 Have a Plan to Keep Your Food Warm When Transferring Back Inside
At bare minimum, bring some tin foil outside with you, and cover your food with it once you pull it off the grill. When it’s cold outside, your food will cool quickly when its done cooking, and it’d be a shame to have to reheat it once inside.
Even better, have a ceramic dish with a lid on hand to keep your cooked food in. Ceramic is great a retaining heat, making it a great choice for winter grilling.
I hope these tips are helpful, and inspire you to get outside and grill this winter!