There's no reason to close down your grill once the weather gets chilly. Keep the smells and tastes of summer year-round by becoming a seasoned pro at winter grilling.
Before you begin, follow these handy suggestions to learn all you need to know about mastering the art of winter grilling. Tried and true, these methods will set you on the right path to quality performance. Turn up the heat and tune out the cold with these helpful ideas.
Your grill is just like any other machine: it requires maintenance. After a summer of heavy use, give it a thorough cleaning before winter arrives, and stick to some periodic upkeep. This will ensure optimal performance, saving you time and money while sparing you from under- or overcooked meals.
Take the burners apart, and clear out the jets with toothpicks or drill bits. Scrub off the residue using a brass wire brush or balled-up aluminum foil. Burn off excess grease. Make sure that the inside and outside are free from food particles that can attract hungry rodents and insects looking to overwinter somewhere cozy.
Safety is a chief concern when grilling at any time of the year. Due to winter's temperament, it's even more important to keep an eye on how your grill is set up. You should situate it at least 10 feet away from anything that could catch fire, such as a house or fence. Hit a happy medium, where you're not walking too far to cook, but you're at a safe distance from potential tragedy.
Wind is another factor. Erratic breezes can instantly shift a flame from one direction to the next, creating a hazard if the grill is near a flammable area. Plus, drafts add to cooking time. Your food will take longer on a 30-degree day with gentle 10 mph gusts versus a 20-degree day with no wind.
Quality lighting is imperative for winter grilling. Daylight is fleeting, so ensure that you have the proper illumination to cook up a fantastic meal. When the sun goes down, your area needs to be well-lit for food safety and personal protection. Overhead lighting works well, but keep a couple of flashlights on hand, too. A hands-free headlamp can't hurt, either.
Don't wait till your steak is seared to realize you forgot something. Prior to grilling, be sure everything's ready to go. Shovel a clear and safe pathway through the snow, if necessary, and have plenty of rock salt nearby. Always keep extra fuel on hand — propane, charcoal, wood, or pellets; you'll use more in cold weather. Get all your accessories, such as tools, seasonings, and plate covers, lined up for easy access. It's a lot more hazardous in the winter to have to run into the house three times for things you forgot, plus your heating bill won't appreciate the repeatedly opened door!
Preparation isn't just limited to the outdoors. Inside, you should have a station set up for all your grilling needs. Clean off a place close to your exterior access, and maintain it to avoid cross-contamination. This will allow you to keep everything indoors and at room temperature to combat the cold. Be ready to go. Time is of the essence, so get organized for a stress-free experience every time.
Don't go outside without layering up, but remember: loose clothing isn't ideal. Steer clear of scarves and flared sleeves, if possible. Tuck away any fabric so it isn't exposed to the flame. Winter gloves are a fire hazard — that poly fill will catch fire in a split second — but grilling gloves are ideal. They'll protect your hands from the cold weather as well as the grill's high heat.
For obvious reasons, it takes longer to grill in the winter. To be efficient, think before you act. Efficient cook times require several steps.
Secure covers keep snow off your grill, saving you the time and fuel expenses of melting off ice chunks. Preheating can take twice as long in the winter, so allow for double the warming time before cooking. Also, constantly opening the lid to check on your food will add even more unnecessary minutes to your grilling process than in the summer.
A wireless meat thermometer is an excellent tool to invest in if you plan to grill a lot this chilly season. It will alert you to your food's progress without the need for repeated visual inspections.
Don't decide to try a complex or novel idea unless you're already a seasoned pro at winter grilling. If you're new to the job, only make what you know this season. Go with foods that cook quickly, saving fuel and sparing you from prolonged stints of standing in frigid temperatures.
Additionally, stay away from dishes that need excessive basting, flipping, or monitoring, for the reasons noted previously.
For an efficient grilling experience, you may want to look into infrared heat. Infrared grills are becoming more popular for several reasons and might be ideal for your winter grilling.
They use less fuel and require a shorter preheating time. They distribute temperatures evenly, heating the food and not the air, which allows for a tender and juicy meal without all the dryness and fiery flare-ups. Plus, cranking the heat after cooking turns any residual food to ash, making for an easy clean-up.
Slow and steady wins the race. Smoking could be a nice alternative to grilling. Thicker steel and efficient fireboxes contain heat much better than a propane or charcoal grill.
Sure, a slow smoke takes a while, but wood-burning lasts longer, and maintenance is minimal. Start early in the day, check on the status every once in a while, and you'll have an amazing dinner that's sure to impress.