8 Outdoor Grilling Tips – for Winter!
If you’re not taking advantage of your grill during winter, you’re missing fantastic flavors you don’t have to sacrifice because the weather’s turned cold. More than 60 percent of Americans grilled year-round in 2011, according to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, while the makers of the Weber grill found almost 40 percent of owners still cook outdoors when the temperature dips below zero. Use these eight winter grilling tips to enjoy sizzling steaks and smoky ribs year-round.
Check Your Equipment in Advance
Don’t head out to your porch or patio expecting to quickly light your charcoal or gas grill and find everything working. Gas grills, especially, can be a problem for winter cooks for several reasons. This can include the chemical reaction of gas during freezing temperatures, and built-in safety regulators that reduce the flow of gas based on how and when you start your grill in cold weather.
Do a test run a day or two before you plan on grilling to make sure all of your equipment works. If your gas grill isn’t working, turn it off, disconnect the gas line to the tank, reconnect it, then try again, waiting about 30 seconds before you ignite the burners. If you have any old charcoal in the bottom of your grill, make sure it’s not wet or caked to your bottom vents. Finding problems a day or so before your cookout gives you time to search the Internet for solutions, call customer service or find replacement parts.
Keep Raw Proteins At the Right Temperature
Putting cold meat on a grill causes the slightly warmer outside of the meat to cook at a different rate than the colder interior of the steak, chop or roast. Take your proteins out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes before cooking to let them get closer to room temperature. When you bring them outside, don’t let them sit exposed on a platter and get cold again – you’ll have a colder outside and again, uneven heating of the meat, fish, fowl or pork.
Choose Seasonal Foods
Call your local grocer to find out which foods are in season, in terms of freshness and price. Although crops won’t be growing outdoors in snowy areas, certain plants are seasonal in other parts of the country, delivered fresh your city daily.
Plan on Longer Cook Times
It takes longer to cook foods in extreme outdoor temperatures, so plan on a longer cook time. This includes more time to get your charcoals hot or gas grill to your desired temperature. To help avoid one side of as rectangular grill being much colder than the other, turn your cooker 90 degrees to the wind so it blows evenly across the grill.
Watch Your Footing
Create a non-slip path from your door to the grill, using salt or a de-icer to prevent snow from freezing while you grill. Wear warm footwear you can easily slip on and off as you go indoors and out. If you wear shoes you can slip off so you won’t track water and dirt into your house each trip, but the shoes don’t keep your toes and feet warm, you can end up with frostbite.
Try to gauge where the heat from your grill will go to prevent it from melting icicles or snow accumulations on your roof, directly above where you’ll be cooking. This includes looking at tree branches, which might dump snow onto you, your grill, your food or your guests.
Even if you’ll only be outside a few minutes at a time, don’t go out in a T-shirt. The frequent trips into the cold will probably catch up to you, resulting in a cold or fever later. Wearing layers of clothing traps your body heat inside your clothing better and keeps you warm. A T-shirt, collared shirt, vest and winter coat not only keep you warm, but also let you stay comfortable when you’re inside by just removing your coat. Sweating outdoors can lead to chills and later illness if you move away from your heat source and cold winds blow across your wet body.
Darkness comes early in the winter, so make sure you have adequate lighting that lets you remain hands-free. This can include clipping a light source to your grill or wearing one attached to your hat. This eliminates the need for a blinding house spotlight that makes it difficult for you to interact with others, or attempts at one-handed burger flipping while you old a flashlight. Head outside the night before to determine your lighting needs.