Barbecue season doesn’t end when there is snow on the ground. It not only takes us back to our roots as Canadians but can be a nice treat when you’re feeling those winter blues.
Winter grilling works best on two types of barbecues. The first is a gas grill that has a cook box made of double-walled steel or cast aluminum. The other is a ceramic charcoal barbecue. They are great at holding in the heat in cold temperatures.
Infrared barbecues are a growing trend. They can be especially good in winter when propane doesn’t flow well, natural gas doesn’t heat up fast enough, and charcoal is too much work. They use burning gas to heat ceramic burners through thousands of microscopic flame ports. The ceramic burners absorb the heat, then glow and emit infrared energy, which cooks food with the same intense, dry heat that charcoal does. But unlike charcoal, an infrared model heats up fast, doesn’t add ash to your food and distributes its heat with absolute regularity.
10 Tips For Winter Grilling
- Invest in a grill cover if you don’t already have one. This will keep snow and ice off the barbecue and allow you to get grilling with the least amount of hassle. When possible, make sure your barbecue is shielded from the wind to help it heat up quickly and to maintain the desired cooking temperature. However, you should always keep the barbecue 10 feet away from your house or any flammable structure or overhang.
- Never barbecue in your garage or any enclosed space. This is a fire hazard, and there is also the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless and tasteless by-product of burning fuel incompletely and can build up quickly in an enclosed area without your knowledge.
- Take time to put on boots, a coat and a toque. If you’re underdressed, chances are you’re going to rush and be careless. Snow gloves are designed for cold, not heat, and can melt if brought too close to a hot barbecue. Many types of snow parkas are also not meant for exposure to extreme heat or open flames, so be very careful not to get too close and keep sleeves away. Don’t wear anything that could dangle into or over the grill – that means scarves are out.
- Have lots of fuel. There’s nothing worse than running out of fuel halfway through grilling. In cooler temperatures, you lose heat more quickly and use more fuel to keep your grill hot. Your barbecue may use an extra 20-30% of fuel to help get up to and maintain temperatures.
- Watch for critters. Some animals will crawl into barbecues in the winter and hole up. Give your grill an inspection before you start.
- Some electronic igniters do not perform well in cold weather. Keep a barbecue lighter handy just in case. If the control knobs are stiff or difficult to turn, do not force them because it is much easier to break off the knob or damage the valve stem in freezing temperatures. Light only the burners for which you can freely turn the control knobs and preheat the grill with a closed lid until the rest of the control knobs turn freely. If you can’t turn any of the control knobs, position the grill away from the wind in a sunlit area to help them free up.
- Make sure all your tools are in place before lighting the grill. A grill light, clip-on light or headlamp can be one of the most useful barbecue accessories in winter. It will definitely help to make sure your medium-rare steak doesn’t end up charred beyond recognition. Get your tongs, a bottle of water and you might want to have a fire extinguisher ready. In cool weather grease can pool on the bottom of your grill and catch fire. Be prepared for flare-ups.
- Preheat the grill at a higher setting than you normally would. Your gas grill will need to be on a higher setting to reach the same cooking temperature under more moderate conditions. Preheat your serving platter as well so when you’re ready to take your food off the grill you can bring out the warm plate and ensure your food doesn’t cool too quickly.
- Keep the top lid closed as much as possible. Every time the lid is opened heat escapes and the grill has to heat up again, which will ultimately increase cooking time. Invest in a digital thermometer. Bluetooth-enabled thermometers that send the temperature measurements right to a phone or laptop give you the chance to take shelter inside and monitor your meat at the same time. Always keep an eye on the barbecue though because flare ups can still occur in cold weather.
- To keep in the heat, the best foods for grilling in winter are either foods that grill really quickly or low and slow-cooking foods that require very little attention. This will reduce your need to lift the lid.
Flow Limiting Device
You’re more likely to accidentally activate the Flow Limiting Device (a safety feature that limits the flow of gas in the event of a leak) in cold temperatures.
Here’s how to avoid activating the Flow Limiting Device when grilling in the winter:
- Slowly open the gas tank no more than half a turn.
- Wait 30 seconds after opening the gas tank before opening the main control knob and lighting the grill. This will allow time for the gas pressure to equalize, thus reducing the likelihood of triggering the Flow Limiting Device (FLD).
- If you’ve accidentally activated the FLD, you might experience low heat and/or low flames. If you think you may have accidentally tripped the FLD, read how to reset it in the manual.
Recipe Ideas For Winter Grilling
Slow Cooking in the Winter
Gently smoked pork butt with a sweet/spicy rub, a classic beer-can chicken, juicy rib-eyes, a roast of pork or beef, or pulled pork or brisket.
Clams and oysters are at their peak in the winter months and can be popped open on a hot, smoky grill. A generous spread of cilantro chili butter and a squeeze of lime is a taste of milder seasons. Dungeness crab is also at its best in winter. If you’re partial to chilled crabs, a quick toss into a handy snowbank after a turn on the grill is a quick and excellent way to cool them down.
Quicker Grill Options
Spatchcocked chicken (this method helps to cook the chicken faster and more evenly), kebobs, pizza, thin pork chops or steak, or butterflied chicken breast.