Even though we use our grills more in the warmer months, winter shouldn’t completely freeze your desire to get outside and char some delicious meat. Grilling in the winter can be just as, if not more, satisfying than sunny day barbecues, especially if you’re prepared for the elements. So we asked Traeger culinary director Matthew Domingo to give us a few expert tips on how to pull off winter grilling safely and successfully. Bust out the wood or charcoal; season some thick-cut pork chops, steaks, or ribs; and light that fire.
Are there any winter grill maintenance tips that people absolutely should know?
Keeping your pellets dry is key. Store them in an airtight container instead of the grill so they can burn at maximum efficiency.
In general, when people light up the grill in cold temperatures, is there anything they should do differently than they would on a nice summer day?
There’s no real difference in the startup process. If the temperature is below freezing, we recommend an insulation blanket to help the grill hold heat better.
What about safety tips?
You always want to keep your grill nice and clean because most issues arise from a dirty grill. Whether it’s cold weather or warm weather, grill cleanliness is key to optimum performance.
Are there specific meats, veggies, or other foods that are more ideal to cook in cold weather?
The great thing about outdoor cooking is that it’s suited to every season. While winter brings with it a long list of seasonal citrus and produce that are at their freshest and peak flavor, a beautifully seared steak or a slow-cooked brisket or pork shoulder are equally welcomed at the winter table. Although some say that winter cooking is about hearty, stick-to-your-ribs recipes, the real key is to combine the highest quality ingredients with the proper cooking technique.
Note: Beer is one of the best accompaniments to barbecue. However, since winter is also red wine season, here are our top picks for pairing with grilled meat.
Will the food take longer to cook in cold weather? Can you offer any pointers on how to keep food cooking evenly and smoothly?
There shouldn’t be a difference in how long the food takes to cook if you’re hitting the right temperature. In winter weather, you want to minimize the amount of times you open the grill. Each time you lift the lid, the temperature drops drastically in the cooking chamber. Use an integrated meat probe to track your cooking progress and only open the cook chamber if needed.
Note: If you insist on packing up your grill for the winter, then check out our tips on how to clean and storeit.
Article first published February 20, 2017.