My husband and I love grilled foods year round even though we live in beautiful Ontario, Canada where the temperatures dip below zero. We have no problem grilling in rain, freezing rain, sleet, snow or sub-zero temperatures. This love of grilling has taught us a lot and is reflected in where our outdoor grill is located, as close to the kitchen as possible. Grilling outdoors during in-climate weather especially the colder temperatures takes a bit more time for the grill to heat properly but the prep work is the same. I thought I would share a few winter grilling tips with you today.
Winter Grilling Tips:
- place the outdoor grill in a protected location away - Our grill is located in the corner formed between the side of the house and attached garage, on the deck about two feet from the kitchen patio doors. It is shielded from the northeast winds (house side), south winds (garage side), and west winds (neighbour's house). It does get some wind but it is considerably reduced than if the grill were out in the open. Some grill in their garage in the winter but that is not advisable with an attached garage or if you don't want everything in the garage to smell like smoke.
- keep the outdoor grill covered - There are two schools of thought on covering outdoor grills. The first is a cover protects them and it does as long as moisture does not get under the cover, hence the second school of thought that covering promotes rusting. It also provides cover for rodents although that is not usually a huge concern in most areas. We keep our outdoor grill covered as it is stainless steel so there aren't the rusting concerns and we don't have to clean off the grill before using it in the winter months.
- use an easy fuel - Although you can use charcoal, natural gas or propane is considerably easier at getting the grill to temperature quickly. There's less going in and out to check the temperature of the grill meaning less of the indoor heated air is being lost.
- mainly meats and vegetables - We use our outdoor grill as an oven for many foods but during the winter months, the focus is mainly on meats, tender vegetables (eg. zucchini, red pepper, onions) and portabello mushrooms. In other words, those foods that are finished grilling within 20 minutes or less. In a pinch, if the power is out you could still use the outdoor grill as an oven in the winter but you will go through more fuel. Or, if you don't mind going through more propane just to get that flavour for longer foods using the grill as an oven, by all means do so.
- mise en place - It is very important when grilling outdoors during the winter months to have everything in place before you start heating the grill. The less times you have to open the door between the house and grill the less heated air will escape from the house. We set up the various dishes assembly line style based on cooking time.
- timing - Timing of the side dishes should be such that they are ready when the meat is finished grilling. In this respect, grilling during the winter is no different than grilling during the nicer weather. The only difference is meat will quickly cool once removed from the grill in the chilly air.