Well folks, here we go again. Summer has come and gone, the breeze is chillier than just a few weeks ago, and the leaves have that subtle crunch. Winter is coming. Every year we get loads of questions on how to "winter proof" the barbecue experience. Honestly, there's no sure-fire way to make it perfect; however, we've compiled a list of our Top 10 Tips for Winter Grilling to keep you doing what you love all-year-round!
1. Safety First
We don't take the saying "safety first" lightly, especially when you're playing with gas. When you get that first cold pocket every winter and the frost hits, we recommend checking and leak testing all of your gas connections, hoses, and fittings to make sure any of those potentially old or brittle parts didn't crack. It might be good to also do this throughout the winter.
The best practice is to turn all of your control knobs to make sure everything is moving freely and nothing has seized. After that, apply some leak detector to your gas connections (such as where the hose meets the manifold). If you see bubbles arise, that means you've suffered a crack and gas is leaking through the connection. Shut the gas off immediately and replace the leaking or broken part with a new one.
Not sure what parts fit for your barbecue? Check out our Parts Directory here.
2. Early Bird Gets The Worm
Grilling in Canadian winters is completely different than grilling in the summers. Heating up your grill from -20°C takes a bit of time. If you're in a rush to take your kids to hockey practice, or if you've got guests arriving for a timely dinner, be sure to start your grill an extra 15 minutes earlier than normal to get it pre-heated to your desired temperature. Nobody likes waiting around, especially when they're hungry!
3. What Temperature Did You Say?
Cooking with proteins and their desired "doneness" is always a tricky thing when temperatures are normal, let alone during winter. The temperature of your grill can change in a flash every time you pop open your lid. Why flirt with an undercooked chicken breast or an overcooked steak as tough as leather? Grab yourself a Thermometer so you can know exactly what temperature your protein is at. From Digital Thermometers, to Instant Read and all the way over to Remote Thermometers for those low and slow cooks, we have everything to ensure you get the perfect cook, every time.
4. No Peaking!
As we mentioned in the previous tip, opening and closing your grill can drastically impact the temperature of your grill. The more you open the lid, the more heat you lose, the longer it's going to take to heat back up, and the more inconsistent your cook will be. It's a simple tip, but one of the most effective at keeping the integrity of your cook. Only open your lid when flipping, turning or removing your food. Save the grill-gazing and patty-cake flipping techniques for summer.
5. Hello Darkness, My Old Friend
Not only do we see some eye-popping and nose-freezing temperatures in the winter time, we also see less sunlight (or do we see more darkness?). Some barbecues come equipped with interior grill lights to make for easy nighttime grilling; however, a large portion of barbecues are still left grilling in the dark. Make sure to pick yourself up a grill light before winter hits, so you can keep a fully visible grilling surface - because nobody likes avoidable food poisoning.
If you're looking for a light that can mount on your side shelf, check out our Brander Barbecue Beacon, a flexible LED grill light. If you use your side shelves during grilling, you can check out this Handle Mounted LED Grill Light.
6. Don't Forget To Fill Up
When grilling in cold temperatures, you're naturally going to be using up more fuel to keep your grill up to temperature. Whether you're a gas, charcoal, pellet or even electric griller, this is simply a fact you'll have to face. Don't get caught in the middle of a cook without having a provisional top up on fuel, if needed. If you have a propane barbecue, we recommend having a second filled tank on hand (just be sure to know to follow the safety precautions, please click here). For our pellet and charcoal pit masters our there, be sure to load up on a couple extra bags this winter. In the winter, the roads may become too risky to drive on to get more charcoal and pellets, and then you'll be stranded at home wishing you had more fuel.
Here's our collection of Charcoal and Pellets for all you pit masters.
7. What's Your Step Count At?
If you're in the position where you can move your barbecue closer to your door, absolutely do so. Most grills have a clearance to combustibles limit (check your manual!). With that being said, you can't put it RIGHT next to your home, but the closer, the less time you'll send in the cold. Less time in the cold is better for both you and your hot food. If you have a natural gas barbecue, you can safely extend your hose to a total of 20 feet. Most barbecues come with a standard 10 foot hose on the unit, so you can add an extra 5 or 10 feet to get yourself a little closer to your door.
Check out our available Hoses & Fittings Here.
8. Nobody Likes Wet Chips
Throwing soaked wood chips and chunks directly on your coals can quickly change the temperature of your grill. It's pretty easy to recoup that heat in the summer time, but it takes a bit more time in the winter. Instead, try using foil to create a smoker pouch, or try out a smoker box like the Brander Smoker Box.
Check out our selection of Wood Chips and Wood Chunks Here.
9. Layer Up
As with just about every other activity during winter time, you're going to want to bundle up. Jackets, hats, gloves, and scarves are all essentials in the great, white, outdoors. The same goes for grilling; when you're playing with fire, always be sure to use barbecue gloves or mitts when operating or moving hot items. The only things we want to get crispy are on the barbecue - not you. Stay safe and make sure all strings, tassels, and pom-pom's are safely tucked away from the open flames.
10. How I Met Your Cover
Last, but certainly not least, you'll definitely want to pick yourself up a cover before the snow hits. Keeping your barbecue under the safety of a cover has many benefits. Whenever there's a big snow fall, it's a lot easier to take off a cover (and all the snow on top) rather than scrape all the snow and ice off the top of your barbecue lid, side shelves, and inside any crevices (for example, ice-covered knobs). Along with that, your barbecue won't have to burn off all that ice and snow on the exterior of the grill. Lastly, relating back to step one, SAFETY. Keeping a layer between your grill and the ice helps protect parts like your valves from freezing.
Click Here to check out our barbecue cover selection.
If you have any more questions regarding winter barbecuing, ask a question in our chat feature, or visit any of our 5 locations across Canada to talk to an expert. We have two locations in Alberta with our Calgary North and Calgary South locations, as well as 3 across the GTA: Burlington, Oakville & Etobicoke, Ontario.