While roasting vegetables and steak over a charcoal grill may seem like only a summertime activity, it doesn't have to be. Many people enjoy the flavor of food grilled over open flames but wonder how to grill with charcoal in the wintertime. We get it. Your grill might produce a mean flame in the warmer months, but the question is, can it stand up to freezing temperatures in the winter?
- charcoal in flames
Because many people like you have similar questions, including how to start a charcoal grill, we decided to write this article to give you a few pointers on how to achieve delicious charcoal flavored food all year round
#1 - Don't grill under a covered area.
One of the most interesting things I will tell you today is charcoal isn't actually coal. It is wood that has been heated under certain conditions that creates black pellets useful for lighting fires. Charcoal actually burns much hotter than regular wood. So while it may be tempting to pull your small charcoal grill underneath a covered porch or in a garage during colder months; don't do it.
- grilling outdoors
The fire can get out of control very quickly, or cause carbon monoxide build-up, and put you and your loved ones into a dangerous position. Find a well-ventilated area outside that is perpendicular to the direction the wind is blowing. So when you open the top of your charcoal grill, it becomes a shield and the wind blows into the back of it. This will ensure you get the most heat from your flames and don't have to re-light them every time you open the top to check your food.
#2 - Be prepared for changes in cook time
Here's a fun word we all know and love. PATIENCE!
Yeah, not so much? Me either. But that is another tip I want to offer you for learning how to cook on a charcoal grill in the winter. You need to have lots of patience.
Because of high winds and lower temperatures, food can take anywhere between 30% to 100% longer to cook. Yes, sometimes it can take twice as long. So, be prepared by bundling up in warm clothes and resist the temptation to open the top every 30 seconds. No, checking on it won't make it cook faster. And no, rushing it won't get you inside any quicker. In fact, opening the top over and over will release the heat inside the grill and cause your food to cook slower. So... you just have to wait.
#3 - Reconsider your charcoal storage
Because temperatures are low and winds will fight against your grilling success, you will probably need more charcoal than usual. Keep charcoal stored in a dry area, like the garage, to protect it from snow and rain. Having extra, dry, charcoal will ensure your fire stays lit for as long as you need. Lump charcoal tends to burn hotter than pressed, briquette charcoal. So, keep that in mind if it is extra chilly and you want to get cooking as fast as possible.
#4 - Maximize your time so you aren't stuck outdoors forever
There are a few simple things you can do to maximize (or more importantly, minimize) the time you spend outdoors cooking.
First, preheat your grill. Stack the charcoal, saturate it with lighter fluid, put a lit match or lighter against the coals, close the lid, and let it warm up for about 20 minutes. This will help ensure it is as hot as possible when you are ready to throw on the food.
Also, lining the grill with aluminum foil will help retain heat. You may also need to poke holes with a toothpick to allow for some ventilation and flavor to seep through the foil. So keep that in mind.
- grilling outdoors
Lastly, save the ribs for another night. I know, it's a terrible suggestion, but hear me out. Trying to grill ribs or other labor-intensive foods will keep you outdoors longer than you have to be. So, save those meals for a warmer day. You can cook burgers, chicken, steak, and shrimp all in under 30 minutes. Those are some great options if you want a meal full of flavor and short on cook time.
Now, we have come to the end of this article. It was short and sweet, hopefully like your wintertime cooking experiences will be. Let our NFI certified technicians know if you have any questions about our selection of charcoal grills. Click here to email us or call 800.203.1642 for more information.