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I’ve started making smoked baked potatoes with my meals and I use the temperature zones to slow down or speed up the process. I start with the potatoes behind the meat. If the meat is going faster than expected I can move the potatoes to the cool end of the main chamber. If I need to speed them up they go to the hot end near the SFB. I still need to experiment to see how things cook up on the back shelf.
Another thing that is important to learn is how long the grill takes to recover when you open the lid. This is good to know in warm weather and is ESSENTIAL to know in the cold. In my cooking logs (See KEEPING A COOKING LOG blog entry) I note when I open the lid to mop or turn the meat. I also note how far the temps dropped and how long it took to recover. Cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving in the snow, I lost 100 degrees (55 C) lifting the lid for 30 seconds.. So as the weather gets colder start taking more and better notes. If you need to mop 6 times and it takes 15 minutes at the current air temperature to recover, that will add up to 90 minutes to your cooking time. So as you are experiencing these things, write them down in your log or on a piece of paper. Next time you’ll know what to expect.
A final important thing to note is your fuel consumption. This will help you make sure you have enough on hand. Nothing worse than running out midway through a cook. Cooking a roast indirectly in the winter you can always finish it in the oven, but you don’t want to do that.
Two Winters ago I started learning what I could do with my gas grill. I kept cooking in colder and colder temperatures to learn when I had to stop doing direct and switch to indirect cooking for the winter. Then I kept pushing the envelope with cold temperatures and indirect cooking. With no wind, I now know I can cook in most any temperature, provided I have a good supply of propane. This winter I’ve been doing the same with the Smoker. The results are similar. As long as there is no wind and I don’t mind using more charcoal I’m good into at least the single digits.
Start learning and jotting down notes about your grills performance. If you do, your grill won’t look the ones at the top of this page-covered and out of commission for the season. I noted in an earlier blog entry that the three best meals to come off my grill or smoker came when the temps were below freezing.
“Knowledge is Power”
I discovered in the winter of 2008/2009 that some of my prior ASSumptions about winter direct grilling were wrong. Turns out with my current grill I CAN direct grill in the cold weather. The information in this blog entry still applies for indirect or rotisserie grilling in the winter.. But you may also find your grill is up to the task of turning out direct grilled food year round. There is one good way to find out. Here are some links for some of my recent blogs which describe what became my on going winter grilling experiment. You might want to start with my Direct Grilling in the Winter??? blog where I describe why I think my current grill can still put out enough heat in the winter.