Many 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
1. 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.)
3. 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.