Grilling in the Winter

Photo by Brian AmbrozyOnce winter strikes some think it signals the end of grilling season. Surprisingly, however, more than half of all grillers operate throughout the year in the United States. Even when the temperature drops below freezing, as many as 37 percent keep up with the activity. With the right methods grilling can continue even in the coldest weather.

Safety Precautions 
One of the most important aspects of any grilling session is to maintain proper safety measures at all times. When grilling in cold weather, extra clothing or accessories may hinder you in ways to which you are not accustomed. Make adjustments, as necessary, to your grilling posture as well as the space around you.

  • Make a clear path toward the grill and remove any snow or ice before lighting it. The surrounding temperature will lower that inside the grill and additional cold around the grill will exacerbate the problem. It will also affect the time it takes to safely prepare meats.
  • Keep loose clothing items such as scarves, drawstrings or tassels from coming into contact with the grill while igniting or cooking. Failure to do so could ignite your clothing, leading to serious burn injuries or damage to property.
  • For gas grills, perform an inspection of burners, gas lines and jets for any debris or obstacles that may restrict gas flow. Ensure the flame is blue as yellow flames may indicate clogged air lines.
  • No matter how cold it becomes, how windy it is or if snow or rain fall, never grill under overhangs or inside sheds or garages. Keep your grill in an open well-ventilated area at least five feet from any combustible materials.

Maintaining Grilling Quality 
Grilling in the cold requires different methods than those used in warmer weather. Your goal is to make sure the grill reaches a normal cooking temperature and maintains it. Your food should not suffer (nor should your dinner guests) because of poor planning or unstable grilling conditions.

  • Give the grill enough time to pre-heat, as it will take much longer in the cold. In the most frigid temperatures, pre-heating may take up to twice the normal time. Plan ahead based on scheduling.
  • Once grilling has begun, be patient. The outside temperature is likely to have an effect on the grill’s ability to maintain constant temperature. Use a meat thermometer to ensure any meats reach safe internal temperatures before removing them to serve.
  • Keep the grill closed as long as possible when cooking. Temperatures below freezing lead to even longer cooking times, and the more the grill is left open the longer the food will take to cook.
  • Charcoal grillers should be prepared with additional coals to add along the way. Even with pre-heating and a closed lid, the grilling process may require additional fuel to reach ideal temperatures.
  • Gas grillers should position the grill as close as possible to a 90-degree angle against the wind. This helps keep the temperature under control inside the grill despite the coldest breezes.

Tips for Comfort 
To keep yourself as comfortable as possible in the icy weather, try to stay warm and keep everything you may need within close reach. This will keep you from becoming insufferably cold or having to go in and out of your home tracking snow and ice inside.

  • Before venturing out into the snow, be sure to cover up in your warmest clothes. Add enough layers to resist the cold for as long as you expect your food to cook.
  • Make enough room around the grill so that you may move around freely or store necessary items.

Grilling is a year-round practice that can be just as enjoyable even when the weather is unforgiving. Because many still grill throughout the year, several retailers continue to sell grills at all times, and some may be found on sale in winter.

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