Tips & Tricks

You may have your fair-weather barbecue game down, but winter throws many new elements and challenges your way. With determination and a good pair of gloves, you’ll be a better barbecuer for it.

Besides, deep-down you know real grill marks are worth it.

  • “Flavor and color are by far the best in winter. Smoking or grilling in colder temperatures produces a much richer smoke ring and adds flavor to meats.” – Jayna Todisco, champion pitmaster for A Mazie Q, facebook.com/amazieq
  • “Invest in a good grill cover to keep rain, wet leaves and ice from gunking up the equipment. Always keep fuel stored in a dry area or storage bin.” – Robb Walsh, barbecue expert and cookbook author, http://zenbbq.com/
  • “Wind is half the battle, especially in colder temps. Cut a full sheet of plywoo in half and construct a homemade wind block for the smoker or grill.” – Steve Coddington, award-winning pitmaster, http://www.woodpilebbqshack.com/
  • A trusty shovel and ice melt are the first tools you’ll need. Clear snow and ice from the grill area, your path to and from the grill and social gathering spaces.
  • Of course, propane patio heaters can make barbecuing and entertaining in winter much more comfortable.
  • Make shorter trips outside by moving your barbecue grill a little closer to the house – keeping it at least 10 feet from any buildings or structures. Never grill in enclosed spaces, such as a garage or under an overhang, that can trap deadly carbon monoxide.
  • Position gas grills so the wind is perpendicular to the gas flow, and not blowing the flame down the burner tubes. A sturdy patio umbrella set on its side can also serve as a wind block. When lighting the grill, do not turn the handwheel on the propane tank all the way on. Instead, use a single turn before lighting.
  • Check that everything is in working order before using your grill. Don’t force a frozen knob or grill lid – you’ll risk cracking it or breaking the seal. Instead, move your grill to a garage where it can thaw or use a hair dryer.
  • You’ll want to dress warmly, but avoid hazardous bulky clothing and tuck in loose scarves. A pair of easily-removable boots or shoes is a good idea when making trips in and out of the house. You’ll find heat-resistant gloves with plenty of dexterity are worth the investment.
  • “During the wicked winter months, throw on a pair of long johns to stay warm and toasty. This will allow for longer exposure to the cold and more time tending to the flame.” – Ted Reader, “Godfather of the Grill,” award-wining barbecue chef, www.tedreader.com.
  • “For those wanting to hit the cold and fire up the grill, it’s important to wear a warm hat to keep your noggin from the fold. A warm head helps keep the whole body a little warmer and protects the ears from Jack Frost.” – Ted Reader, “Godfather of the Grill,” award-winning barbecue chef, www.tedreader.com.
  •  “With heavy winds and cold, fires can be more volatile. Be sure to close the dampers on the grill more than normal to ensure consistent heat throughout.” – Jayna Todisco, champion pitmaster for A Mazie Q, www.facebook.com/amazieq
  • It will take longer to heat the grill in cold temperatures. Be sure to allow more time for the grill or smoker to heart up. The cooker will also require more fuel so keep plenty of dry wood, charcoal, propane or pellets on hand.” – Matt Pittman, barbecue pitmaster, http://www.meatchurch.com/
  • The days are shorter in the winter, and you’ll likely be grilling in the dark. While your favorite flashlight works, it can be hard to juggle with your grill tools. Clip-on or magnetic grill lamps are a handy upgrade for monitoring your cooking.
  • Always store charcoal and wood chips in a cool, dry place, such as a garage, basement or air-tight container. Be prepared with extra fuel as cooking will typically take longer, requiring more fuel than during warm weather.
  • It will take longer to heat your grill in cold temperatures (start by tacking on an extra 5-10 minutes) and it’s best to allow the temperature to stabilize before cooking. If using charcoal, keep extra coals in a separate grill or chimney so you can maintain your desired cooking temperature.
  • Consider a wireless remote or instant read thermometer your new best friend. A leave-in remote thermometer allows you to monitor cooking temperature while you stay warm inside, and an instant read thermometer will minimize your time in the cold.
  • While the grill is still hot is the best time to do clean-up of the cooking grids and racks, plus your grill will be ready for next time!
  • When not in use (and only when completely cooled), protect your grill from the elements with a snug cover.