The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke

WInter Grilling Season

First Image
If your grill looks like the picture above: Buried in the snow all winter, that is a shame. I’ve written before and I’m going to do it again here now: Grilling Season doesn’t have to end when the weather turns cold. I’m going to write a little bit about winter Grilling with the perspective of having done it regularly the last 4 seasons. There a few people who regularly read my blog. If I go a while between posts they will send an email either asking if everything is all right or if I have been goofing off and not grilling, or sometimes both. I just got one of those emails at Christmas.

The answer was: I have been grilling and smoking regularly. While I’ve put up some picture posts of a couple of the new meals, I haven’t been writing about it. Now I already have written a bit about winter grilling, and will link to those blogs below. This blog will be more of a big picture article from the perspective of winter grilling becoming natural and commonplace. I’m also hopeful that perhaps photos from the last 4 weeks will entice some of you to shovel out your grill.

We’ve had over two feet (2/3 m) of snow in Northern Massachusetts, and we’ll probably break our all time December record. That hasn’t stopped me from grilling and smoking. The picture above is a picture of my grill & smoker BEFORE I shoveled them out. The picture below is the representative picture: The grill and smoker are shoveled out and ready for use. I’m going to illustrate this blog entry with pictures of the various items that came off the grill or smoker between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year.


It was 20 degrees (-7 C) outside but 225 (110 C) degrees inside the smoker. As long as you keep the lid closed not much difference between a winter smoke.

Now grilling season isn’t over, but certain types of grilling are much better suited to cold weather grilling. Direct grilling of small items like steaks and burgers is out. For that matter anything that requires a lot of opening of the grill or smoker is better left to the warmer seasons. So for me direct grilling is pretty much out until April. The winter months become the season of big roasts, either indirect grilled or rotisserie grilled on the gas grill or smoked on the CG. When I smoke something, I tend pick a recipe that requires less frequent mopping.

Smoked turkey. This cook required a flip and turn at the mid-point. Other than that the smoker lid remains closed

Indirect grilled roasts are great on the grill or smoker. Sure you can do them on the oven, but you don’t get that great smoked flavor. Large roasts are typically quite linear in their temperature rises which makes them very predictable in their timing. Once the temperatures starts climbing and I get a couple readings I can usually predict the done time within 5-10 minutes. A lot of these roasts are cooked to a low temperature, so you are not involved with a plateau at 160 degrees (70 C). This type roast usually requires little to no attention while it is cooking. There’s about zero maintenance on the gas grill. In the smoker I simply rotate the roast 180 degrees because the side nearest the Side Fire Box gets more heat. A turn midway through evens this out. This gets back to knowing your grill. I have gotten very comfortable with my smoker and I am happy to say I am able to achieve and hold very steady temperature. In fact they have been so steady I have found myself going out ti the smoker to make sure that the transmitter of the remote read thermometer is still synched with the remote receiver. If they loose synch the indoor unit takes a while to register the synch loss. In the meantime you look like you have steady temps.

Sirloin Tip roast on the rotisserie. You did not have to open the grill lid for this self basting roast other than to check the temperatures

The other key item is a remote read thermometer so that you can put the probes n the meat and close the lid and keep it closed. Every time you have to lift the lid on the smoker it can take 10 minutes plus or minus to recover. So remote read thermometers and low maintenance meats are a good choice for the winter. The other advantage dong the roast on the grill is it frees up your oven.

Bone-in Pork Loin Roast is the pork equivalent of the beef standing rib roast. Other than a mid smoke turn it is a low maintenance roast

Rotisserie roasts are the other thing I do more of in the winter. Rotisserie roasts are good year round-you can’t beat the self-basted rotisserie roasts for moistness and flavor. My gas grill’s rotisserie is an infra red rotisserie tat is mounted on the back wall of the grill. The idea is the glowing red hot grill plate unit heats the food without having to heat the air in between. In theory this makes is somewhat less susceptible to the air temperature. Having said that, I have noticed it does seem to take longer in the winter, but not significantly so. Once again I try to use rotisserie recipes the don’t require the use of a glaze, to help keep from having to constantly open the lid.

The snow was starting to fall, but the uncured ham was warm and toasty under the infra-red rotisserie.

So what does having a few years of doing this under your belt do for you? It’s a lot of little things:

  • You are definitely more relaxed-you’ve done it before and you know it is possible.
  • You lean towards recipes that require little opening and closing of the lid.
  • Learn how to use your rotisserie and how to indirect grill. Preferably do this when the weather isn’t too cold so you are comfortable with the process by the time the weather gets real cold.
  • You learn to allow more time to compensate for the larger temperature drops you get every time you open the lid. Having BBQ logs of prior cooks from this same time of year help you gauge your cook time.
  • You know your grill so that you know where the hot and cold areas are.
  • You know the settings for the gas burners on the gas grill and the grate & smokestack settings for the smoker for the winter. In some ways it is easier to compensate for high temps in the winter.
  • You learn to keep fresh batteries around for your remote read thermometers. The cold weather burns through batteries very quickly.
  • You know not to cover the grill if it is wet. The cover may be stuck onto the grill like it was glued.
  • You learn to make sure the bottom of the grill cover is not dangling in melting snow or ice where it may get frozen in place.
  • If there are to be hot then cold temps I will often uncover the grill or smoker the day before while it is warmer and hopefully above freezing. This avoids issues of the grill cover not coming off when you need to fire up the grill. The grill cover is more brittle and easily torn the colder it is.

Smoked Prime Ribs & Smoked Potatoes. This roast is very easy to indirect grill or smoke even in the winter.

Tomorrow is New Years Eve. I’ll be cooking a beef tenderloin roast in the afternoon. This is one of those days where my grill is shoveled out before the car is. If you don’t use your grill during the winter, shovel it off and try an indirect grilled roast. You may be surprised that it isn’t too hard. Bottom line, winter grilling is well worth the little extra preparation and work required. Check out some of the other blog links below where I’ve gone into some of the topics in more depth. But in looking at the pictures above, I know I wouldn’t want to go 4 or 5 months before I could fire up the grill or CG and cook some of these great meals..



Addendum 2009

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.

  HOT DOG Blog Entry


blog comments powered by Disqus