Last Updated on September 22, 2023 by Melissa Reome
I’ll be the first to admit that I am jealous of my friends who live down south. I live in upstate New York where the winters are about seven months long and we get decent weather for about five months. It’s normal for us to receive over one-hundred inches of snow each winter. When you are someone who loves to grill, that can pose some problems. Learn from my mistakes as I share ten tips for grilling in the winter.
I learned some of these lessons the hard way as I started to acquire more grills. My hardest lesson learned was the first on this list.
1. Cover your grills and grill equipment
Because I am someone who grills frequently year round, in the past I wouldn’t cover my grills or grill tables thinking “but I’m using it tomorrow”. Other times, I’d wait for the grill to cool down and then forget about it. Not covering your grills subjects them to the elements which can damage the coating on some grills or cause others to rust.
This happened to me with a powder coated surface on one of my grills. I dusted the snow off one day and the entire front shelf coating had rusted and flaked right off. Years ago, I had a beautiful grill table that I forgot to cover and the finish was destroyed. Cover your grill year round to keep it beautiful for years to come.
2. Keep extra fuel on-hand
Regardless of what type of fuel you use for your grill, keep extra on-on hand during the winter months. Propane isn’t as efficient in cold temperatures causing you to use more than you might expect. I always keep a couple extra tanks of propane so I don’t have to get them refilled as often. It’s worth the small investment.
Pellet grills will go through more pellets and charcoal grills more charcoal to maintain temperature. If you burn wood logs in a smoker, cut plenty of extra wood prior to the cold weather coming. Remember to always keep your fuel stored somewhere it will not be subjected to excess moisture like a garage or shed.
3. Keep your grilling space clear of snow and clutter
I have a shovel that I keep on my grill patio just for shoveling snow in the winter. The last thing I want to do is risk falling going between the front and back of the house just to find a shovel. Snow, sleet and freezing rain make surfaces slippery and a falling is a big risk.
Remove any unnecessary clutter from your grill space prior to the cold weather falling. It makes it easier to shovel snow and let’s face it, it makes the space look nicer as well. Keep salt or cinders available to put down on the ground depending on what surface your grill area is. Always have a clear path to go from your grill to back indoors.
If you are in a pinch, throw a towel down on the ground on an icy surface. The towel will stick to the ice and you will have a sturdy area to stand on. Just remember to bring the towel back inside before it freezes to the ground.
4. Do not move your grill to a confined space to grill
There is no shortage of pictures of grills catching on fire online anymore. Resist the urge to move your grill into a garage to grill or close to the house. I always approach it with the “if this grill was to catch on fire, what’s my perimeter of safety” around it? Then move the grill at least a few feet outside of that safe area.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a real risk in confined areas. Do not bring grills into the house, do not grill under an overhang or in any enclosed area as tempting as it may be when the weather is less than ideal. Your safety and health is more important than getting snowed on.
5. Give yourself plenty of time to grill
Grills take longer to warm up in the winter which means it can potentially take longer to cook your meal. If there is snow on the ground shoveling is a must prior to walking to your grill. Plan on it taking longer and you won’t be frustrated if dinner isn’t finished on time.
6. Wear proper attire for cold weather
If you’ve ever tried to brush snow off of your car with your bare hand in winter, you know exactly where I’m going with this. Wear proper gloves in cold weather. Do not, I repeat do not use your winter gloves to grill with. They are not made to resist high temperatures and you will burn yourself.
I have a “grilling coat”. What’s a grilling coat? It’s a warm old coat that probably should be in the trash, but when it’s cold outside I will wear it only to grill (or shovel snow). It smells like smoke from grilling and I don’t care. If I get dirt, grease, salt, or anything else on it, it doesn’t matter. Personally, I don’t like smelling like a wood fire when I have to go to work.
Be cautious of wearing a scarf or anything that might fall into the grill when you are cooking. If you do wear a scarf, tuck it into your coat. Loose clothing can easily catch on fire in any weather.
7. Close the grill lid
Opening the lid of your grill lets the heat escape causing your food to take longer to cook. Using a thermometer in the meat which you can monitor the temperature indoors is very handy during winter months.
8. Keeping food warm
In winter months I will often warm a plate or container in the microwave for a minute or two when I know I’m about to pull food off the grill. Don’t carry a clean plate outside when you start cooking with the intent of transferring your food there when it’s done cooking. Nothing is worse than spending time making a nice meal on the grill only to put it on an ice cold plate before serving.
9. Keep an eye on the weather report
Sometimes bad weather can sneak up on us and snow isn’t the only thing that causes havoc on winter grillers. I have memories of my poor neighbor trying to create wind blocks around his grill that wasn’t insulated during winter. The grill would struggle to maintain a consistent temperature.
I’ve had the fire on my gas grills blow out before under windy conditions. If this happens immediately turn off the gas, wait at least a few minutes, then relight the grill. You can also try to reposition the grill so the wind isn’t hitting it from the same side. If it is extremely windy out, it might be best to wait until another day to cook.
10. Have fun with it, get others involved
We have to be able to laugh at ourselves sometimes. Sure, I might look like an eskimo that has seen better days grilling during a storm, but that is part of the fun of it! If you have family or friends that can lend you a hand when grilling under less than ideal conditions, utilize them. At the end of the day, grilling should be an enjoyable experience regardless of the time of year. Do your best, have fun and always enjoy the experience.