The official start of winter is coming up soon this month, but many parts of the country have already been seeing cold temperatures and even snow for several months. For the serious outdoor cooker (or even those of you just starting to get serious), a little cold weather won’t deter you from wanting to cook some great meat. And it doesn’t have to.
One of the most important things to keep in mind cooking outside is the effect the cold weather will have on temperature consistency for your smoker or grill. For great BBQ, consistent cooking temperatures is critical. Maintaining that consistency in the cold will be tough but not impossible.
The exterior of your cooker will be cold. That cold metal will absorb the heat from the warm air inside which will decrease the inside temperature. Also, the cooker will draw in cold exterior air during the combustion process. This can also decrease the temperature. So, you will need to preheat your cooker until the exterior metal is too hot to touch and you’ll need more fuel to do that. Also, be prepared to use more fuel throughout the cooking to maintain the necessary temperature.
You don’t have to pack away your smoker or barbecue grill for the winter season. But, there are some tips & tricks to keep in mind when barbecuing and smoking in cold weather to make sure you achieve the best results. Let’s take a look:
While opening your smoker or grill’s lid in the summer doesn’t make too much of a difference, in the cold it can have a huge impact. So, it is important to try and keep your cooker’s lid closed as much as possible when barbecuing or smoking in cold weather. This will help maintain the constant proper temperature inside. There are better ways to check the temperature of the meat when needed. (See below)
You can help maintain proper temperature inside your cooker by keeping it warm and dry. One trick to do this is to use a welding blanket as insulation over the cooking chamber. Rated for high temperatures, these blankets will protect the cooking chamber from snow, wind, and cold temperatures without catching fire. You can also use furnace insulation. It’s best to only use any type of insulation on the cooking chamber and avoid covering the firebox.
Make sure when you are using a welding blanket or similar type of insulation that you still provide for enough airflow. You don’t want to block the flow of oxygen in and keep too much smoke in. Then your fire can go out or your meat ends up tainted with a gnarly smoke taste.
Source: Smokin’ MAK
Barbecuing and smoking in cold weather is definitely a situation where having a good wireless digital thermometer on hand is extremely useful. Especially if it is multi-probe. Then you can easily and constantly monitor the temperature of the inside of your cooker as well as the current temperature of your meat.
Many of these digital thermometers have capabilities to set alarms for a particular temperature range. So you are immediately alerted if the internal temperature of your cooker falls below that range. Then, you can jump into action before it falls too low and add more fuel.
As we mentioned above, when cooking in cold weather you are definitely going to burn through more fuel. So, it’s important to make sure that you are stocked up and ready to go, with whatever fuel source you are using, before you even start heating up your cooker. The last thing you want to happen when it’s time to refuel is to not have more readily available on hand, your internal temperature crashes, and you have to start all over.
If you are using wood, make sure you’ve got your stockpile already chopped up, stored in a nearby dry place, and ready to go. If you are using charcoal or gas, make sure you’ve got enough on hand to make it through the entire cook before you start. For any type of fuel source, it’s a good idea to have on-hand double the amount of fuel as you would when cooking in warm outdoor temperatures.
While you are getting your fuel stocked up and ready to go, it’s also a good idea to get any tools, utensils, seasonings, etc ready to go while you are at it. You want to make sure you are totally prepared before you even start cooking.
Cold winter weather almost always means cold gusty wind as well. Dealing with and adjusting for the wind is going to be crucial to maintain good temperatures inside your smoker or grill.
One way to do this is to find a spot outside to put your cooker that is a little more sheltered or protected from direct wind flow. This will help maintain a little more consistency in cooking temperature in the cold weather. But, definitely make sure you are not cooking in an enclosed space in or near your home. Especially not in a garage.
Also, you should monitor the wind direction. You should know how the air flows through your cooker and from what direction and you can make adjustments based on this and the wind direction. Positioning your cooker perpendicular to the wind is often most effective. You don’t want to get too much wind flowing into your cooker or else your fire will be stoked and it will raise temperatures quickly. You also don’t want to be getting too little airflow and lose your fuel source.
By monitoring the wind direction, you can also adjust your air intakes on your cooker accordingly. You may need to use another vent to adjust temperature and completely close off the vent facing the wind.
These are just a few tips and tricks for barbecuing and smoking in cold weather. As you can see, the most important thing to remember is to prepare to have to do a little more to maintain constant internal temperatures inside your cooker. The more you can do to keep your cooker dry and warm, the easier it will be to do that.
Treat your cooker like you would yourself in cold weather. When outside, both of you must be kept warm and sheltered (safely) as much as possible to keep cooking great BBQ.
With the first of their kind BBQ cooking classes available from us here at BBQ Champs Academy, you’ll learn all the tips and tricks from champion BBQ pitmasters and grillmasters. You’ll be excited all year round, even in the cold weather, to show off your skills and cook championship-quality barbecue.
Have you been cooking outdoors in the cold weather lately? Have you figured out another great way to keep those internal temperatures warm in the cold? Tell us about it below. We want to hear from you!