Grilling isn’t just for cottage season—it’s a year-round pleasure across our nation, even when we have to wear parkas and snow boots to do it. Of course, cold weather does present unique challenges when it comes to firing up the ‘cue, but you can still enjoy your favourite dishes when the mercury dips. Here’s our expert advice for easy winter grilling.
Stock up on fuel. Barbecues work harder in the cold, so make sure you have extra propane or charcoal briquettes on hand. Running out partway through a recipe will definitely put a damper on your chilly grilling.
Scrape off the snowflakes. A layer of snow or ice will keep your barbecue cool, making it work even harder. Grab a snow brush or scraper and get rid of any buildup on your grill’s lid and body before you start.
Check inside before you light. Little critters love to seek winter shelter in a barbecue. Before you click the starter or strike a match, take a peek, especially under the grates, to be sure no nests or animals are hidden inside.
Get organized before going out. Running back and forth for forgotten ingredients and tools is the last thing you want to do when it’s freezing out. While most grilling prep is done indoors regardless of season, you can minimize your time outside by double-checking the recipe and assembling the all tools you’ll need before putting your boots on.
Sufficiently preheat the barbecue. This step may take just a few minutes in the summer, but preheating your grill can require a lot more time in colder temps. Set aside an extra five to 10 minutes to let your barbecue shake off the chill and reach the proper cooking temperature. The colder and windier the conditions, the longer this can take.
Cook with the lid closed. Cover your food snugly on the grill to help it cook through more quickly. Every time you open the lid, you increase the grilling time, so keep peeking to a minimum.
Shed some light on your food. Winter means an earlier sunset, so grab a clip-on light or headlamp before going out to the barbecue. Either one will let you check your food without juggling a flashlight.
Keep loose clothing away. Bundling up against the cold makes winter grilling more comfortable, but long scarves and tassels are dangerous around open flames and high heat. Stick to wearing close-fitting items instead.
Use proper barbecuing gloves. Mittens and padded oven mitts are warm, but they’re not safe for grilling. Wear heatproof barbecue gloves to protect your hands.
Always use a thermometer. A good-quality instant-read thermometer is the best tool for checking whether meat is cooked through to a safe internal temperature. Want to stay extra cozy indoors? Invest in a barbecue thermometer with a remote readout or one that sends the data via Bluetooth to your smartphone or tablet.
Relocate your barbecue. Cold air coupled with strong winds will make maintaining the correct temperature a struggle—meaning grilling becomes slower and more difficult. A simple solution is to move the barbecue to a more sheltered location in your yard, preferably at a 90-degree angle to the wind. That said…
Keep your distance. Place your barbecue at least three metres away from your house to ensure good ventilation and to reduce fire risk. Stay clear of anything made from combustible materials: Tree branches, wooden fences and overhanging porch roofs are flammable even when covered with ice and snow.
Never bring your grill inside. It may be tempting to pull your barbecue into your garage, shed or another enclosed space, but don’t. As it burns, charcoal gives off carbon monoxide gas, which can build up to a deadly level in an improperly ventilated space. And any barbecue, whether gas or charcoal, creates a huge amount of heat, which can cause a fire. We know it’s cold, but always operate your grill outdoors!
Ready to take on the ice and snow to grill up a meal? These hearty recipes require minimal time outside so you can get back to the cozy indoors with hot, delicious food.