3 Winter Grilling Challenges and Solutions

IMG_20140102_080117_496-PPMany of us chuckle when we hear someone speak of “grilling season” as if there is a certain time of year that is suitable for firing up our Weber kettles. For us, grilling season is 12 months long, regardless of region or climate. One of the strengths of the covered kettle is that you can use it in any weather and any season – including winter.

The most obvious issue with winter grilling is the colder temperatures. The difference between 70°F and 20°F is 50 degrees. The difference between 70°F and 350°F is 280 degrees. Cooking in 20°F weather is really not that much different to a hot kettle than cooking on a beautiful summer day. It is a big difference for the cook; you just need to bundle up!

The 3 Big Winter Grilling Challenges

evadugav1. Fuel – Expect to use more fuel during the coldest months. Heat will dissipate fast, especially if it’s snowy or windy. Start with more fuel, or You might also consider switching to lump charcoal if you normally use briquettes. Lump typically burns hotter and produces less ash – which means you can load your grill up and not worry about the ash smothering the fuel.

2. Wind – Cold winds can also be a problem, particularly if you are accustomed to trees which block the wind during the warmer months. You may need to fashion a wind block or situate your grill or smoker where it is sheltered form the wind. (DO NOT cook in a garage or porch or other indoor area where a fire and carbon monoxide could lead to disaster. It’s just not worth the risk.)

adavaram3. Darkness – The 3rd challenge with winter grilling, even for those who live in balmy southern California, is the short daylight. During the summer dinner will be ready long before the sun sets. During winter months you’re cooking in the dark after 5:00 PM. You really need some lighting. One particularly elegant solution is the lamps that Brian (zavod44) made to light up his “Mesa Azul.” I personally use a LED head lamp or one of those flashlights that attaches to the rechargeable tool batteries. Those stand on the battery and allow you to set the light on a convenient surface with the beam aimed at the grill. There are LED lights that can clamp to the handle on a gas grill but I have not figured out to make them work on a kettle – so you’ll have to clamp them on something nearby.

Other miscellaneous winter grilling tips:

  • Brush snow off the kettle before it freezes so you can get it open when you want to use it. This is particularly important with the storage compartment lid on the older stainless steel Performers as they can freeze shut.
  • Clear snow away from the wheels if there is a chance you will want to move it. Also provide snow and ice free access around it so you don’t slip and fall. (Don’t ask me how I know…)
  • Leave a cover off a grill you may wish to use in cold weather. Cold makes the covers stiff and they can freeze to the grill.
  • If you have a gas grill, it makes an ideal spot to hold food and keep it warm as it comes off the grill.
  • Keep the lid closed! this is even more important than in warm weather.
  • Add extra fuel early in or even before you start cooking to keep kettle temperature from dropping.

The most important tip? Bundle up, get outside and do it! There is no reason not to enjoy the best food you can cook on your kettle when the cold winds DSC_8578-PPblow.



6 comments… add one
  • Nick Griller Diller Link Reply

    I grill year ’round. I have done so for over 40 years and always using my trusty Weber kettles.
    What I did was replace my falling-apart garage with a shed containing a cement floor and window and of course a door
    I planned the shed with the door facing east. So it’s shaded from the wind. I set up grills in the doorway and open the south-facing window.
    If its really inclement, I close the door part way and use a box fan to move the smoke out. My south-facing window is open.
    I have never had any problem with ventilation and a result have cooked in all kinds of weather, year ’round.
    But when the temps hover near zero, I do not grill with charcoal.
    I use my Weber 3-burner gas grill out on my south-facing porch just off the kitchen.
    Man! Grilling and barbecuing is so much fun.
    Thanks for this site.

    And, can I join?

    Nick Griller Diller
    Great Barrington Ma.

  • hank Link Reply

    Can you join? Of course!

    Well… OK, only if you promise to post pictures of your setup. 😉

  • Corey Link Reply

    I’m looking for tips on grilling in cold weather. I’m Canadian, and I’m relatively new to charcoal grilling, but still don’t feel there is much value in the majority of tips and tricks I’ve seen posted on various sites. I was hoping for a tip on an easy way to insulate a weber kettle grill or some other insight I hadn’t contemplated. I will say one thing that I’m really surprised that hasn’t been mentioned as a tip for cold weather grilling, fire bricks! As a newbie, I’ve already figured out that fire bricks are helpful in retaining heat as the thermal mass from the bricks will help keep the grill from getting cold / help it get back up to desired temp each time you lift the lid to check your meat. As a newbie, I do this too often, but less and less as I get more confident in grilling/bbqing. I am still looking for tips, so please, if you have any, I’m all ears. In the meantime, I’ll be sure to use lump charcoal (my preferred fuel in all seasons) with a bunch more ready to go in the charcoal stash of my weber performer delux, keep the lid open for as little and infrequently as possible, use a meat thermometer, and use as many fire bricks as I can without interfering with my grilling space, vents etc. I’m going to hit a buddy up for a couple scraps of silicone fire blanket (fiberglass fabric with a silicone coating) to try and use as a makeshift insulating blanket. I’ll let you know how it works once I try it. I’m planning on grilling in up to -20 C / -4 F or so which is fairly normal, albeit cold weather in N.B. Canada. Happy Grilling Folks!

  • suzanne Link Reply

    love a big WEBER——LOL

  • MIKE (Chewabacca) Link Reply

    I live in the Montreal area, and the temps get pretty brisk in the winter, about -5…to -40 (believe it or not) but when it hits minus 40 here, that is when Fahrenheit and Celsius meet…So I read your article on Winter Smoking with the Kettle, and I am looking forward to this challenge, it’s my first winter owning my Weber Kettle. Love the forum by the way…thank you for all your posts.

    • Troy Link Reply

      Thanks Mike! -40 is damn cold. Looking forward to hearing about your winter cooks! Congrats on joining the Weber club!

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