Grilling in the winter is a Canadian right of passage. Nothing beats getting out of the house during the winter months, enjoying the crisp air and creating a delicious grilled meal on your barbecue.
Here at “Turn Up The Heat” there’s nothing we love more than winter grilling. In this segment our in-house grill masters have decided to divulge some of our own tips, tricks and product recommendations that will improve your winter grilling experience, taking it to the next level. Here’s some of our key advice for successful grilling during the winter season.
Start with the right Grill. Trying to get a quality sear on steaks using a flimsy, substandard grill may force you into the unthinkable (finishing them in your oven - ugh!) Choose a quality grill from a reputable manufacturer that will provide the proper temperature and heat retention during winter months.
Pro Tip: Position your grill perpendicular to wind to help achieve and control proper temperature
Ceramics are best. Ceramic grills provide unparalleled levels of heat retention, since ceramic arguably performs better than any other material in cold weather. There are several quality options available on the market. At the top of the list are the ceramic charcoal barbecues-, Primo, Kamado Joe. In addition, there are also several gas fueled models and brands that offer ceramic components, such as radiant tray systems that will aid with heat retention and even heating in the harshest of climates. Some of our favorite examples include Crown Verity, Kalamazoo and Broil Master. With a little help other more familiar brands such as Broil King and Sterling are North American and perfect for grilling in a Canadian winter.
If you’re cooking using a wood pellet grill such as the Green Mountain Prime series, insulated blankets are available to assist with heat retention and ensure you maintain proper grilling temperatures in cold climates and save a little bit on fuel. Even though insulated blankets are not manufactured specifically for most gas grills, we often sell the GMG pellet blankets to guests regardless of their fit for a gas grill, as it still performs admirably.
Have you ever had the lid on your grill freeze shut during or after a deep freeze? A quick and easy trick for avoiding this is to simply cut strips from a Grilling Sheet to line the lid of your unit. This will ensure your lid not to freeze shut and your grill will be ready to go whenever you need it. Saving you time and frustration. For those of you with Ceramic grills, it also saves you money by significantly prolonging the life of your felt gasket. When the gasket absorbs moisture from your last cook the base and dome often freeze together. A simple fix that I use religiously from November through March.
Cover your Barbecue with a quality, proper fitting cover. This will keep snow and ice from building up on the grill or getting into the cook box, burners, and other components. In addition, this will also keep your grill ready to go. Simply pull the cover off when you’re ready to cook. You already brush the snow off your car every morning, so save yourself the trouble of having to do it to your barbecue before you use it as well.
“If you’re looking, you’re not cooking!” This is one motto a true winter griller should always keep in mind. Cook with the lid down and avoid opening it during the cooking process as much as possible. You can expect to add significantly to your cook time every time you lift the lid. This can also affect your results by allowing heat, flavour, and moisture to escape and by exposing food to extreme temperature variations. We recommend using a digital wireless thermometer such as the ThermoWorks Smoke or Signal, Flame Boss, Maverick RediChek, Meater or Stake. These will allow you to monitor the temperature of your food very accurately and conveniently without opening the lid.
Pro Tip: Be prepared to ‘tent’ your food after pulling it from the grill. This will allow the cooking process to continue during the all-important resting period, saving it from being exposed to cold temperatures that could ‘shock’ the food. We recommend using unwaxed butcher paper for tenting as well as wrapping meats while cooking over indirect heat during winter weather.
Remember winter gloves are not the same as barbecue gloves. While grilling in the winter always make sure you have proper heat resistant gloves ready so that you are prepared to handle hot cooking grates or for use when adding additional fuel or wood to your cook. These will also come in very handy when carrying hot cast iron pans, skillets, planchas, etc. Insulated food gloves are also amazing should you need to handle food for precise manipulation.
Be prepared with extra fuel. All fuel sources react differently in cold weather. Grilling time may need to be extended and you will use additional fuel in cold temperatures. Don’t be caught short-handed. Have extra charcoal/briquettes, wood pellets, or an extra propane tank on hand. Be patient. Allow for some extra pre-heating time to get your grill up to proper temperatures.
Use the proper charcoal. If you use a charcoal grill, substandard charcoal or briquettes may prevent you from achieving desired results - especially during the winter months. We recommend charcoals produced from quality hardwoods such as Solid Oak. Some of the brands we suggest include Carbon Del sur, Kamado Joe Big Block, and B&B. These brands of larger lump charcoal are made of white oak hardwoods and burn up to 40% longer and hotter than average charcoals. No issues getting your grill to desired temperatures and holding it throughout your cook.
These are just a few of our key pointers and suggestions for grilling in colder climates. We’d love your feedback and are sure that you’ve developed some of your own methods, tips, and tricks as well. So let us know your secrets for winter grilling success. You may even see them shared in one of our future segments!