Our family loves firing up the grill for a BBQ at any time of year, but how do you do this in the winter and is it really a good idea?
You can BBQ in winter on charcoal and gas grills, but you’ll have to use more fuel and wait longer for the grill to heat up. You should also check your deck or patio is not slippery, and wrap up warm. You could also invest in a gazebo to keep the BBQ dry, but check with local planners first.
Let’s dive down into the subject of winter BBQing in more detail, and discover how you do it, what you should cook – and some precautions you should take when it gets really freezing…
Is It Hard to BBQ in Winter? (What To Look Out For)
It’s not hard to BBQ in winter, but it does require a little more thought (especially if you’ve winterized your BBQ properly). Here are a few things to take into account when it comes to cold-weather grilling:
- Give your grill a check over if it’s been in storage
- Allow more fuel: it’ll use more in lower temperatures
- Be patient: the BBQ will take longer to get to temperature
- Because cooking can also be slower, it’s a good idea to use a thermometer to check everything is properly cooked and keep that cover on for the rest of the cooking time
- You’ll be colder, too, so wrap up warm
- If it’s safe, move your BBQ closer to the house
- Think about lighting: it might be darker
- Plan the menu. Folks like heartier food in colder weather!
Why Do People Not BBQ in Winter? (Safety Considerations)
There are a few reasons why people don’t BBQ in the winter, not least because a cold yard isn’t such an appealing place to hang out as a summer garden. There are also a few safety considerations.
- The deck or patio might be slippy underfoot
- Poorer light makes it harder to cook
- Because things cook slower, there’s a risk of undercooked meat and fish if you don’t check it properly
- The temptation to cook under cover is high, but this can be dangerous (there are both fire and carbon monoxide risks)
- Winter clothing: too little and you’ll get too cold, too much and you’re a slow-moving, bulky fire hazard. Dress warmly, but make sure you can still physically do the cooking
- Rain and wind generally make grilling harder and less pleasant. Take a rain check
How Cold is Too Cold to BBQ? (Is It Ok to Grill in the Snow?)
You can grill in the snow, and many of us find this great fun. Allow time to clear the snow and make sure the access isn’t slippy.
A word of warning: propane doesn’t like being below freezing. While it won’t turn into liquid until -44 degrees fahrenheit, it still struggles in freezing temperatures. Switch to something like an insulated smoker.
What Can You Cook on a BBQ in the Winter?
Think of cozy BBQ dishes for the winter. Chicken cooked with a sticky glaze, accompanied by a tray of potatoes, sweet potato fries, and vegetables. Spicy food warms you up, so anything Mexican is fantastic in winter.
Dining outdoors too? Slow-cooked, smoky meat is good, especially if you’re using something like a smoker. Pulled pork, served in a roll with onions is the most perfect winter meal, because it’s easy to hold if you’re eating outside (the same goes for hot dogs).
We have heard of people cooking their whole Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner on the BBQ, and hats off to them! Just look at this delicious Thanksgiving turkey that’s been cooked on an outdoor grill. Here’s how to cook a turkey on a gas grill. (Top tip: this really saves space in your kitchen when you’re preparing the big feast.)
Can You Charcoal BBQ in Winter?
You certainly can use your charcoal BBQ in the winter. The hot, smoky charcoal creates a lovely warm space, almost like a fireside, and your family or guests will really enjoy the experience. You can also charcoal grill at lower temperatures, so this is a good option if it gets really cold where you live.
The main issue with winter charcoal grilling is damp. The BBQ and tools will be cold from storage, and any leftover charcoal could even be wet. Plus of course, the air will be colder and retain more moisture.
Make sure everything is dry, and warm up your grill nice and slowly. Get rid of the old charcoal, and open a fresh new bag (same goes for matches). Heating up and cooking will both take longer, so allow more time. Keep the lid down as you cook, only raising it to check on the food.
Can You Use a Gas BBQ in the Winter?
Yes, you can use your gas BBQ in the winter, although bear in mind that propane doesn’t perform as well in lower temperatures. Keep a spare gas canister handy in case you run out, because propane burns a lot faster in cold temperatures.
While gas isn’t as romantic or as evocative as a charcoal barbecue or smoker, it’s a lot easier to use, and you won’t have the problem of damp charcoal.
The same principle applies for gas cooking as it does for charcoal cooking: give it longer to heat up, and make sure you keep that lid down as much as possible. Check temperatures with a meat thermometer, as your food won’t cook as quickly as you’re used to.
How Do I Keep My BBQ Warm in the Winter?
If you have the time and the budget, it might be worth investing in an undercover gazebo for winter grilling. This will keep the worst of the weather off you and your grill, making cooking outdoors that bit easier.
Of course, you’ll have to watch out for fire and carbon monoxide risks, and we’d suggest speaking with your local planning authority first. But imagine: a space where you can comfortably stand to cook without fighting against the wind and rain, and where the BBQ itself will remain reasonably safe from the elements. You can find out more about grill gazebos in our helpful article.
That’s the ideal. In reality, the best most of us can do is to pick a safe but sheltered part of the yard, and make sure we cook with the cover on. Your diners may choose to remain in the kitchen or covered porch to eat!
After you’ve finished cooking, prevent the BBQ becoming exposed to cold and damp by cleaning it, drying it, then covering it. Hopefully it can be carried or wheeled into a shed or other outbuilding, or if it has to stay in situ, has a tough cover over it.
Summary: Can You Grill Year Round?
Yes, you can grill all year round if you want to. A spiced brisket, broiled on the BBQ and served outdoors around the fire pit really is one of life’s great pleasures.
Sure, the whole occasion takes more prep than a summer evening BBQ (you may even need to shovel snow before you cook), but if you’re prepared for this, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Just remember, you’ll need to thoroughly clean your grill and put it away safely in between each use in the winter. In the summer, it won’t do much damage if you leave it outside for a few days; however, in the winter, that could cause damage.
So, be prepared to winterize your BBQ – again – in between each cooking session. We still reckon it’s worth it, and on the plus side, it cools down much faster after use!
Of course, this all depends on where in the US you live. In some states, grilling outdoors all year round is a no-brainer, while in others, you may simply not be able to see your BBQ through the blizzards. 🙂
Homeowner and property investor Larry Jones 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 >