Winter Grilling Hacks for Avid Grill Chefs
Do you love having grilled food all year long, but can’t seem to find the conviction to make your way out to the grill in those frosty, freezing temperatures? We believe delicious grilled food should be a year-round indulgence.
In this article, we’re giving you nine winter grilling hacks that will make barbequing on even the chilliest days as simple, easy, and fun as grilling on a hot summer’s day.
9 winter grilling tips
Photo by Matt Connor on Unsplash
1. Preheat your grill.
The most frustrating grilling faux pas is when food gets stuck to the grill. In winter, food is more likely to stick to the grill due to differences in temperature between the cold air and the hot grill grates. This is especially true when you lift the grill lid and get ready to remove your food, and that frosty air hits your cooked food.
One of the easiest and simplest ways to stop food from sticking is by preheating your grill before using it. Putting food down on cold grill grates is always going to end up with a tacky, gummy mess. The hotter your grill, the easier it will be for you to flip and remove your food.
To preheat charcoal grills, you’ll first want to let your coal burn until it’s covered in a whitish-gray ash. In the summertime, this usually takes about 10 minutes for medium heat cooks (like chicken, pork chops, fish, light veggies, and fruits) and about 25 to 30 minutes for high heat cooks (like for steaks, burgers, and thick veggies). However, in the winter, you may need to add on another 5 to 10 minutes since the fire will have to battle the cold temperature and wind in order to reach the ideal internal temperature before cooking. The best way to ensure you have the right internal temperature of your grill is with a grill thermometer, like Thermoworks’ Smoke Remote BBQ Alarm Thermometer.
Takeaway tip: Get your grill to the right temperature before cooking to avoid food sticking, long cook times, and inconsistently cooked food.
2. Cook fish on top of citrus.
Another easy way to prevent food, particularly fish, from sticking to grill grates in the cold weather? Cook your fish on top of citrus slices. Cut thin slices of lemon and place them next to one another directly on the grill grates. This should create a “plate” or bed that you can put the fish on. This will prevent delicate fish from flaking and sticking to the grill, while also infusing your dish with a gentle citrus flavor that’s particularly delicious for livening up a winter meal.
Salt blocks are another useful tool to prevent sticking while adding delicious flavor to fish, meats, and even veggies. Check out these salt blocks that can upgrade your prepping and grilling.
If citrus and salt blocks aren't your speed, try grilling fish on top of cedar planks (best with salmon).
3. Use cast iron skillets for winter BBQs.
We love cast iron skillets for two main reasons: they prevent sticking on your grill (or losing small food pieces between the grates) and they keep your food warm on the trip from the outdoor grill to the indoor kitchen table.
Cast iron skillets withstand and hold a lot of heat, which means you can grill your food right in the skillet (rather than directly on the grill grates) and you can then easily transfer that hot food right to your kitchen table using the right heat-proof mitts and trivets). Plus, cast-iron skillets add a beautifully charred crust to meats, veggies, and cheese. Cast iron skillets are essentially stick-proof so you don’t have to fight with your food to get it on the plate.
Even if you don’t cook the food directly in the cast iron, you can transfer the food to a pre-warmed cast iron to keep your food toasty in transit from the backyard to the table.
Keep in mind that cast irons can stay really hot, so some food dishes might continue to cook even after it’s taken off the grill. You may want to remove your food a degree or two before the desired internal temperature if you’re going to be letting your food sit in the skillet for a while.
4. Protect your grill from the wind.
You might have your grill in the middle of the backyard to be the center of attention during summer BBQs, but that’s probably too exposed a spot for your grill in the winter. If the wind is strong in the winter, those gusts can get into your barbeque and cause the coal to burn much faster and/or cause flare-ups that can burn your food. It can also be a major safety and fire hazard.
So, minimize wind exposure by moving your grill out of the direct line of “fire,” but don’t put it too close to your house for obvious reasons. Consider using windscreens to prevent gusts from getting in and adding insulated grill covers to keep the grill warm. You’ll also want to close the vents a little more than usual, which will keep the cold air out while retaining the warmth and smokiness of your food.
The wind might even move the grill itself if it’s not properly anchored, and you don’t want your grill running away from you. If you don’t have locks on your grill, add blocks or bricks around its wheels to prevent it from moving. Bungee cords can also help tie your grill to something stationary.
Learn more about grilling in the wind here.
Note: Don’t be a dumb ash! Keep your grill away from anything combustible or flammable! Do not grill in any enclosed spaces, like sheds or garages. Know your grill fire safety inside and out to prevent any incidents this winter.
5. Get extra everything.
For winter barbequing, you’ll need extra charcoal, extra propane, extra warm clothing, and even extra time. Fighting the cold winter weather takes a toll on both the grill and the griller, so be prepared with a little “extra” of everything. Keep in mind that grilling can take one and a half to three times more fuel and time in the winter. You may want to add a few extra lumps into your Kick Ash Basket in preparation for cooler temperatures.
During winter grilling, you may need to add more charcoal to the grill halfway through the cook if it’s burning quickly. You also may need to add another 5 to 10 minutes of cook time to ensure your food is cooked all the way through. We know you want to minimize your time out in the cold weather during your winter BBQ, but you’ll want to remember that keeping your grill and food hot takes a little extra TLC against the cold winter air.
Tip: We love using natural Rockwood Charcoal because it has a clean burn and it’s environmentally responsible, but also because it has a slower burn time that’s great for smoking and low-and-slow cooks, especially up against that chilly winter weather.
6. Clip on a grill light.
Another “extra” you could benefit from… a grill light! The days are shorter in the winter, so you may end up grilling in the dark, which can be dangerous. You need to be able to see the grill to make sure you don’t burn yourself and undercook or overcook your food. A clip-on grill light or a headlamp can be a savior for those dark, cold winter grill sessions. Seriously, you’ll thank us for this one!
7. Throw on protective gloves.
In case you have any missteps in the cold, you want to protect your hands and forearms from any potential burns with heat-resistant gloves. Plus, a pair of gloves can also keep your fingers warm!
We recommend gloves that are heat resistant but not too thick, so you can still maneuver your grill tools easily. Check out our heat resistant gloves for protection up to 932 degrees F for short-term use. Plus, the non-slip silicone grip is flexible and comfortable, so you won’t have clunky gloves getting in the way of your cook.
8. Know your grill.
We prefer cooking with kamado-style grills in the winter because they tend to retain heat better than other types of grills. However, winter grilling will require extra charcoal and can be harder to maintain temperature. Gas grills can be easier to control, but you’ll want to check lines and connections for leaks; in the cold, gas parts can become brittle or cracked, which can lead to serious leaks if not cared for properly. Whatever kind of grill you’re using, make sure you read the manual and learn the ins and outs of how to properly use it in the winter.
If you’re familiar with Kick Ash Basket, you know that we strongly prefer charcoal grills over gas grills. Find out which charcoal grill is best for you here.
9. Keep the lid down.
Minimize how often you open and close the lid of your grill. Now is not the time to “check” on your meat all the time. Every time you lift the lid, you’ll lose heat and let in the cold, which can make the cook time a lot slower and more inconsistent.
Get yourself a remote meat thermometer from Thermoworks, stick it in your meat, fish, or veggies, and let it tell you when it’s time to go back out and check on your goodies. Plus, this will let you stay warm in your house, so you don’t get frost-bitten ears, nose, and toes while waiting for your food to cook.
Psst… How does grilling work?
Do you like to grill all year long? With the right tools and tricks, a winter BBQ can be an awesome way to whip up some healthy comfort food for your family and friends. Don’t forget to make charcoal prep and cleanup a breeze with a Kick Ash Basket for your grill. Find out why Kick Ash Basket is the premier tool for every grill aficionado looking for safe, easy charcoal grilling.
If your passion for grilling extends beyond the food itself, you’re not alone. Hundreds of people just like you are connecting now in the Kick Ash Crew on Facebook! Join our members-only community now for exclusive deals on grilling essentials, seasonal recipes and event-themed menus, engaged grill discussion, community-vetted tips and tricks, and much much more. Join the Crew today!