How to Grill When It’s Freaking Cold Outside

By on December 20, 2016

Pellet Grill Blanket on a SmokePro Pellet Grill in the Snow
There’s a few feet of snow on the patio and the thermometer reads single digits, so you’re strapping on your boots, buttoning up your coat, and…grabbing your spatula? A little sleet and snow shouldn’t stop you from grilling in the winter. Smoked ribs, tender brisket, juicy prime rib—you should be able to cook what you love no matter what. With Camp Chef on your team, you can keep the wood-fired flavor going 365 days a year. Here’s how to make it happen.

1. Load Up on Pellets

When the temperature drops outside, it chills the metal body of your pellet grill. This, in turn, cools the inside of your grill. Additionally, your grill needs to suck in some oxygen to keep the burn cup going. It’s pulling in cold air even as it’s trying to heat things up. What does this mean for you and your winter grilling? You’re going to need plenty of fuel. Make sure you stock up on pure hardwood pellets—the kind without chemical fillers or recycled wood materials. A high quality pellet, like what you’ll find from Camp Chef, should contain only premium virgin hardwood because it burns the hottest and the most efficiently. In cold weather, your grill is going to use more fuel to reach the right temperature; plan on using about 50% more than you would in the summer.

2. Insulate, Insulate, Insulate

When it gets cold outside, you bundle up in layers, right? The same principle applies to your pellet grill. It needs insulation to keep the heat in and the cold out. Make sure you brush off any snow from the surface (that doesn’t count as insulation). Then cover it with a pellet grill blanket—it’s heat-proof and weather-resistant for cooking in the rain, sleet, snow, or wind. You’ll notice a huge difference with preheating times and temperature stability when you’re grilling in the winter with a pellet grill blanket.

3. Keep the Lid Closed

While we’re on the topic of insulation, there’s one rule you should keep in mind for cold weather grilling: never open the lid unless you have to. Each time you crack open the pellet grill lid to take a peek at the 3-2-1 ribs you’re smoking, a massive amount of heat escapes the cooking chamber. Your grill will have to work much harder and burn even more fuel to keep the heat up if you check your food every 15 minutes. Instead of opening the lid, use the stainless steel meat probe thermometer to read your meat’s internal temperature. You can also use a wireless digital thermometer to keep track. In fact, you can set your wireless thermometer to alert you when the desired temperature is reached—that means you can stay warm in the house while your prime rib cooks to perfection.

4. Plan Ahead

When you’re grilling in cold weather, you should plan on every meal taking a bit longer to cook than it does in the summer. Your grill will take longer to preheat—15-20 minutes instead of 10—and your food will probably take longer to cook because the temperature will fall roughly 10° lower than usual. For this reason, it’s easier to cook recipes that are low-and-slow in the winter. You won’t be crunched for time with a slow-smoked meat, and you can count on the Smart Smoke Technology of Camp Chef to keep the temp steady while you wait. That being said, you can certainly grill up some burgers and brats if that’s what you’re craving. Just keep a close watch on the internal temperature, and you’ll have an incredible wood-fired dinner ready to eat.

5. Cast Iron is Your Ally

One of the biggest challenges with winter grilling once you get past the cooking stage is keeping food warm. You don’t want to overcook your meat, but you don’t want it to freeze the second you take it out of the grill if you’re waiting for a few other dishes to finish. Bring on the cast iron! Cast iron is famous for holding heat. Try placing a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven with a lid (depending on what you want to keep warm) inside your pellet grill or oven for a few minutes to heat. When you remove your food from the grill, place it inside the cast iron dish and place the lid on top. You can then bring this dish inside to keep warm while you wait for the rest of your meal to come together.

6. Stay Safe While Grilling in the Winter

Above all, make sure you’re using safe cooking methods in the winter. As wonderful as it might sound to grill inside your garage, you should never do it. Dangerous carbon monoxide can collect in an enclosed area, which would be bad news for you and your family. Also, check that your grill is far enough away from your home’s vinyl siding and eaves so nothing melts or catches fire. And of course, be sure that you are bundled up enough to brave the cold winter weather. The neighbors might think you’re a lunatic, but at Camp Chef we understand how you feel. Your craving for delicious, wood-fired food can’t be stopped by a little snow. So get out there, and grill away all year long. What do you like to grill in the winter? Let us know in the comments or share with us on Facebook.

4 thoughts on “How to Grill When It’s Freaking Cold Outside”

  1. I snake smoke on my 26.75 Weber kettle. Does anybody make a blanket? Any other suggestions?
    12/22 already hungry for ribs and meatloaf.

    Tks, Ron

  2. Go to Harbor Freight and buy a fiberglass welding blanket and wrap it around your grill. Works just fine. Doug

  3. I smoked a Boston butt last weekend with the temperature outside of -5.6. Had just a little drama when I got a SENSR error on my smoke pro, but after warming the grill up in the house for about a half hour, It lit up well when I moved it back outside. It maintained its heat for 18 hours. The meet was fabulous. The neighbor was jealous.

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