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

Weather Independence

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The other day I had one of those “ah-ha” moments and it was a great feeling that I’d like to share with you. This is the year I discovered my gas grill can be used in much colder weather than I ever imagined. There used to be 2 grilling seasons around here: April through October where I would use the gas grill for direct, indirect and rotisserie grilling. Then November through March where I would only do large roasts via indirect grilling and use the rotisserie. The smoker wold be used year round, the only concession I would make to the weather is I’d use recipes that didn’t involve lifting the lid as much. But what would happen is Spring would arrive and I’d be grilling lots of hot dogs, hamburgers, steaks etc. because I had been deprived all winter. I would also back off on the roasts because they had been my winter fare. So what is it I realized this week that made me feel so great? Simply that I have become somewhat weather independent, and that means great things.


Now your grills can look like the picture on the left, or you can still go ahead and fire them up in the snowy weather. Actually these pictures are both from 12-26-08 where we got about 6” (15 cm) of snow. The point is: Your gear doesn’t mind the snow if you don’t.

Now in the past I’ve written blog entries about grilling and smoking in all kinds of weather even when it wasn’t necessary. The goal for me was to push the envelope and allow me to see just what could be done. Then if it became necessary to try to cook outside in bad weather on a holiday or some family event, I would know if I could even pull it off. The part I didn’t know until this year, was that the gas grill I own now was capable of taking me into some of the coldest winter weather. I already have detailed that to death in some blog entries this winter, which you can read if you are interested. So far I have been successful down to 12 degrees (-11 C). Since my last blog entry about winter direct grilling I have done it at least a dozen times more and it has becoming somewhat routine. A little longer warm up, a little higher setting on the temperature knobs-no biggie.


The biggest problem you may face is do you shovel a path to the grill or your driveway?

I came to this weather independence realization from a couple of directions. The first was I noticed this winter that I was not following the weather as closely as I had in the past. About all I cared about was whether it was going to rain or not. In early November my EZ-Up shelter comes down, it is not meant to handle snow or ice. In the past I didn’t necessarily miss it because this marked an end to any direct grilling. With the EZ-Up gone I needed to think about rain if I planned to grill something where I’d need to keep the lid up for any length of time. If it was going to rain I might need to rethink what I was making or find someone silly enough, I mean nice enough, to hold an umbrella - not over themselves, but the food. Other than that, I really began paying a lot less attention to the weather. There were many times this winter where I walked outside to light the grill or the smoker and it would be far colder and often windier than I expected. But I’d make allowances for it in my setup and while a few meals took a little longer that was the worst of it.


TEver longed for a grilled hot dog in the middle of the winter? Why not try it and see?

The other thing that made me realize I have obtained weather independence was earlier this week when I was meal planning for coming weekend’s cook. I had a stack of about 8 grilling cookbooks I was going through and I suddenly realized something. I was looking for what I wanted to have, not what I thought the weather was allowing me to make. This felt great! I am now eating the food I like year round and it makes meal planning fun. It’s “What do we want to have?” and not “What can we have?” This time of year it would either be a rotisserie roast or a big roast cooked indirectly if I was using the gas grill at all. Instead it’s “What sounds good?” Thinking about this made me formally realize my point above about not paying as much attention to the weather. Sure it still matters to some extent, but I have far fewer limitations imposed on me.


Neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night....gaining weather independence isn’t always easy but practice runs like these allow you to know your limitations when a special event arrives.

Now there are still some weather related concessions I might make. I still need to experiment with direct grilling at temperatures below 12 degrees (-11 C). That will have to wait for next winter and a non-Holiday, non event weekend. In the meantime I know I can use my smoker in this weather for sure. Secondly if it is going to be raining all day I might switch to something that doesn’t involve direct grilling and lots of basting and open lid time like chicken wings. In the summer I might avoid rotisserie grilling in a day of continuous bad thunderstorm where we might loose power. My rotisserie doesn’t have a battery backup like some do. But these concessions to the weather are relatively minor in nature. These are specific weather events that don’t occur all that often and even then you can still come up with something to make.


These are the days you practice for: New Years ’09 Temps in the teens (-9 C), winds in the 20’s (32 kph) but I was able to grill a roast that cost 3 figures and smoke some baked potatoes & an apple dessert. Thanksgiving ’05 where 9” of snow didn’t stop the Thanksgiving turkey from getting smoked.

I really can’t tell you how good it felt this week when I realized I’d become fairly weather independent. Now the only way to achieve this is to experiment with your equipment and see what you and it are capable of doing. Use it in the cold weather, use it in the rain and snow. Start off with indirect meals like roasts and get comfortable with those. Then mix in some direct cooks. The only thing I would say is: Don’t try this for the first time on Thanksgiving Day or Mom’s birthday. I still hear stories in my family about a Thanksgiving where a turkey on the grill went on at 9AM and didn’t come off till 9PM. Fortunately it wasn’t me they were talking about, but this scared me for years and kept me from trying it. So do some experimenting when you aren’t going to create a lifetime long family horror story with you as the main character. Experiment on some weekends where the worst thing that happens is you send out for pizza. Bottom line: The more you push yourself, the more times you will get to enjoy some great food. Plus it will be when you want it.

  HOT DOG Blog Entry


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