Our family never stops grilling – whatever the weather. But should you indulge in some cold weather BBQ too?
You can use both a propane and charcoal grill in cold weather and snow, although at minus 44 degrees propane will become a liquid. So provided you wrap up warm against the chill and rain, you can officially keep the BBQ going throughout the whole winter.
Let’s dive down into the subject of cold weather grilling in more detail, and discover what types of grill you can use when the temperature drops – and if it can ever get too cold for BBQ… (no of course not!)
What’s The Best Type of Grill For Winter Grilling?
In an ideal world, we all have an upscale outdoor kitchen in our yards, ready to be fired up for delicious al fresco food at any time of year. In reality, most of us will have a propane or charcoal BBQ in the garage, which will need brushing down and wheeling out.
These popular types of BBQ are great for summertime cooking. But which one stands up best to cooking in the winter?
Can I Use My Propane Grill in Winter?
Yes, you can. Whatever you may have heard, propane does continue to work as a fuel at low temperatures (although if you start to head under minus 44 degrees, the gas will become a liquid and grilled food is definitely off the menu…)
Be prepared for cooking to take longer, and you will burn through more gas than usual. It’s not always easy to tell how much gas is left in the propane cylinder, so make sure you have a spare ready.
Before you get started, you’ll need to “de-winterize” your grill. Having painstakingly cleaned it, covered it and put it away, you’ll now need to get it back into working order. Before you connect the propane cylinder, check that all the components are clean and free from debris, and that no chilly little critters have made it their winter home.
We’ll take a look at some winter grilling tips further on. It may require a bit more thought and planning than a standard summer BBQ, but outdoor cooking in the winter can be way more fun!
Can I Grill With Charcoal in Winter?
Grilling on a charcoal BBQ on a cold day is one of life’s small pleasures. The warmth of the coals and those delicious, smoky smells are just perfect in wintry weather.
Charcoal is trickier to get going in the winter. Firstly, you need to make sure that everything is dry: the grill, the tools, and the charcoal. Ideally, when you first get your BBQ out, you can dry brush it clean rather than having to hose it. This will give you a head start.
Don’t be tempted to save a few dollars and use the half-empty sack of charcoal that you dumped in the shed in September. It’s likely to be damp. Your grill is going to need all the help it can get, and good quality, bone-dry charcoal is essential.
As with the propane grill, your charcoal BBQ will take longer to get to temperature in cold conditions. Be patient, and focus on building up a really fierce heat. Don’t be surprised when you realize you’re powering through the charcoal: you will use more in the winter.
Keep the lid down while it’s heating and cooking. This keeps the heat in, and prevents any wind or moisture in the air from cooling down the food as it cooks.
The winter can be a good time for a bit of smoking on your BBQ, provided you can keep the temperature consistent. Set it up, go indoors, and keep an eye on your meat or fish using a remote thermometer.
So which is best in the winter, the propane or the charcoal BBQ? We reckon they’re each as good as the other, and if you’re used to one type of fuel, stick with it. Both types will use more fuel in the winter, so just be prepared for that.
If you want to know more about different types of BBQs, take a look through our reviews of grills. We talk about some of the most popular grill names in the States.
Can You BBQ in The Rain?
Grilling on a crisp, cold winter’s day is one thing. Standing out in the yard as the rain runs down your nose and onto your steak is quite another. However, with a bit of planning, you can BBQ in the rain.
Two things first. We’re looking at light rain here, not a torrential downpour. Also, there’s a big difference between planning for a rainy BBQ and being hit by a sudden sharp shower.
The takeaway here is to keep an eye on the forecast before you embark on your rainy-day BBQ. Any signs of heavy showers or high winds, and to be honest, the gain isn’t worth the pain.
Here are a few rainy BBQ ideas:
- Have a prep table indoors by the door, so you can grab dry tools and ingredients, and also keep the plates dry
- Go undercover. Now, this is something you have to watch, because you don’t want a scorched awning or a build-up of carbon monoxide. If you have a high (9 feet plus) awning or cover on a verandah or other open space, this should do well. Or, you could always move under a tall tree…
- If you’re using a charcoal grill, keep the charcoal bone dry, and let it reach really hot temperatures before you start cooking
- If you have a lid, even better. Cook with the lid shut
- Want to stay indoors while your food cooks? Invest in a remote thermometer, then relax indoors while the grill braves the elements.
- To protect your grill, you’ll need to dry it after you’ve used it and then winterize it again. Just make sure it’s cool before you dry it
- We know you wouldn’t, but just for safety’s sake, we have to say it: don’t use an electric grill in the rain
When Is it Too Cold To Grill Outside?
Because we love outdoor cooking so much, we’d say “never!” However, if you’re using a propane grill, propane is a liquid at -44 degrees Fahrenheit, so won’t be able to power your gas grill. Although to be honest, would anyone really want to be flipping burgers in those conditions?
That aside, you can grill outdoors surrounded by snow and ice if that’s what you want to do. Obviously, if there’s actual snowfall or an icy wind, it’ll be an unpleasant experience and one to avoid (unless you have a power outage and need to make dinner). But on one of those dry, sunny winter’s days? Al fresco cooking is perfect.
Here are our favorite cold-weather cooking tips.
- Wear lots of clothes and accessories. Even if you’re near the grill, your feet will be freezing… Choose old gloves, as they’ll probably get grease and/or charcoal marks
- Watch out for slippery surfaces (imagine sliding on ice and dropping all your cooking!). Wear grippy boots, and if possible, clear and sand the path between the grill and the kitchen
- As with your wet-weather plan, have a prep table just within the door
- Warm plates and bowls indoors so they’re not icy cold for your food
- Make sure the grill is good and hot, then put the lid down. Bear in mind that it will take longer to heat up than it will on a warm day
We say really go for it! Light the fire pit, and take the patio furniture out of retirement for the day. Yes, it may involve effort to winterize everything again, but it will be worth it.
Invite friends and neighbors round, and gather around the fire as the delicious aroma of grilled food wafts over the snowy yard. Could there be a nicer way to spend a cold weekend afternoon or evening?
If you’re looking for some real inspiration, watch the Grilling Show’s guide to cooking your Thanksgiving dinner outdoors in a Big Green Egg. It can be done…
When it comes to cold weather grilling – here at Take a Yard our view is very much that of ‘wrap up warm and keep BBQing’ – and that’s certainly what our family does when the temperature drops.
It really is one of our favorite things to gather some friends around the grill and get stuck in – even in the rain and snow.
You only live once! 🙂
Homeowner and property investor Larry James founded Take a Yard in 2020 to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >