Wintertime Grilling: Cooking Safely in Comfort

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This is Part 2 of a Two-Part Series on Wintertime Outdoor Cooking by Mike Stines, Ph.B. Part 1 is here.

In the northern climes, outdoor cooking can present some challenges during late fall, winter and early spring when the winds are blustery and the temperatures hover near–or well below–the freezing mark. Cooking times will be longer…the grill or smoker will have a hard time holding temperature…and the cook will be cold!

But there are ways to defeat Mother Nature. Propane heaters for your deck or patio provide a comfort zone while cooking. Layering clothing keeps the cook comfortable walking to and from the grill. Preheated plates and serving dishes keep the food warm from the grill to the table.

A few tips for cold weather grilling:

  • Plan on using more fuel. My formula is to plan on using 50 percent more charcoal in the grill. Lump charwood is the preferred fuel for charcoal grills, as it burns hotter than briquettes.
  • Propane acts differently at lower temperatures. As the temperature decreases pressure in the tank also decreases, resulting in a lower flow. If it’s extremely cold, a partially filled tank might not develop enough pressure to keep the grill burning. Be sure your tank is at least one-half filled before beginning to cook.
  • Preheating will take longer. Allow an additional ten to 15 minutes to preheat your grill (whether charcoal or gas). Be sure to take snow and ice off of the grill.
  • Cooking will take longer. I guesstimate an additional four minutes of cooking time for every five degrees below 45 degrees F. but always use a thermometer to check for doneness. Placing ceramic fire bricks around the cooking grate will help maintain the grill’s temperature by reducing convection heat loss.
  • Wind is your enemy. Wind and rain have a greater impact on cooking times than cold temperatures. Both wick heat away from the grill, so try to find a location that is at least partially shielded from the elements. (Of course, never use your grill in an enclosed area such as a car port or garage, and keep your grill a safe distance from your house.)
  • Keep the grill cover closed. Every time the grill is opened to tend to the food (or just to peek), the temperature will drop. On average, opening the grill’s cover will add 15 minutes to the cooking time.
  • Dress warmly. Unlike cooking barbecue, grilling won’t expose you to frigid temperatures for too long of a time, so you won’t need heavy-duty winter clothing. My preference is to wear a medium-weight crew base layer, a wool shirt, jeans (with a medium-weight base layer if it’s really cold), boots with ski socks and a hooded canvas work jacket.
  • In my research for this article I contacted three major “outfitters” seeking recommendations on appropriate clothing. Only one company–Cabela’s–responded with a detailed list of suggested attire and included URL links.
  • Don’t wear anything loose such as bulky down jackets or anything flowing like scarfs. While I like welders’ gloves or Lodge leather gloves for moving large pieces of meat around the grill they are bulky and make handling tongs and spatulas difficult. One alternative is the Pit Mitt by Charcoal Companion. The Pit Mitt is an aramid fiber (think Nomex and Kevlar) glove with a cotton liner than will withstand temperatures up to 475 degrees F.
  • It gets dark early. While some grills are equipped with LED lights in the handle most are not. Invest in a good grill light (such as the Maverick GL-03) or a backpacking headlamp so you can see what’s cooking.
  • Be sure to clear the pathway to the grill. Carrying food and utensils to the grill can become out-right dangerous climbing over snow drifts or sliding on ice-covered decks. Shovel a pathway to–and around–the grill, and use sand to create some traction on slippery surfaces.
  • Not all grills are created equal. Thick-walled ceramic cookers such as the Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe or Grill Dome provide more insulation than thin-walled steel grills. Infrared grills also work better in the cold, as they cook by radiation instead of convection.
  • Use preheated platters. Preheat platters in a microwave or atop the grill to keep the food warm from the grill to the table.
  • While a multi-course gourmet meal might sound tempting, keep the menu simple.

Editor’s note: Mike Stines is the author of “Mastering Barbecue,” a compendium of barbecue tips, techniques and more than 250 recipes. A resident of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, he is a culinary instructor, a food writer and former professional chef. He is a Kansas City Barbeque Society certified judge and table captain.

grilled potatoes
Grilled Dijon New Potatoes
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grilled potatoes
Grilled Dijon New Potatoes
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Servings
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Servings
2 servings
Instructions
  1. Scrub the potatoes. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, boil potatoes in salted water until barely tender, about six to eight minutes. Drain and cool. When cool enough to handle, slice potatoes in half.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together mustard, oil, onion, rosemary, garlic, sugar and paprika. Add potatoes and toss to coat.  
  3. Preheat grill for medium-high direct cooking. Cook potatoes for eight to 10 minutes or until browned, turning often.
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honey glazed pork medallions
Honey-Mustard Glazed Pork Medallions
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Pork tenderloin, which has very little fat, can be made more flavorful by marinating and seasoning before cooking. Remember when cooking pork not to overcook the meat. These medallions, marinated with mustard and chile powder, have a sweet-hot taste and light glaze from the honey. (This recipe requires advance preparation.)
Servings
2 servings
Servings
2 servings
honey glazed pork medallions
Honey-Mustard Glazed Pork Medallions
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Pork tenderloin, which has very little fat, can be made more flavorful by marinating and seasoning before cooking. Remember when cooking pork not to overcook the meat. These medallions, marinated with mustard and chile powder, have a sweet-hot taste and light glaze from the honey. (This recipe requires advance preparation.)
Servings
2 servings
Servings
2 servings
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Using a sharp boning knife, remove the silverskin from the tenderloin. Slice the tenderloin into 1/2-inch medallions.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together honey, mustard, salt, pepper, cloves and chile powder. Add meat and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate, turning meat occasionally, for at least four hours.
  3. Prepare grill for medium-high direct cooking. Cook medallions, covered, about two to three minutes per side or to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. Remove medallions from grill, tent with foil, and keep warm in a low oven until service.
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pork-chop
Grilled Maple-Mustard Pork Chops
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My oldest daughter lives in southern New Hampshire and volunteers with her husband at one of the area ski resorts. This is one of her favorite winter recipes when coming home from the slopes on a cold winter night.
Servings
2 servings
Servings
2 servings
pork-chop
Grilled Maple-Mustard Pork Chops
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My oldest daughter lives in southern New Hampshire and volunteers with her husband at one of the area ski resorts. This is one of her favorite winter recipes when coming home from the slopes on a cold winter night.
Servings
2 servings
Servings
2 servings
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, combine the maple syrup, mustard, lemon juice and black pepper.
  2. Arrange the chops in a shallow casserole dish. Spread the mustard mixture over the chops and marinade, refrigerated and covered, at least four hours, turning often. Remove chops from marinade and pat dry. Season the chops to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Preheat grill for medium high direct cooking and grill chops eight to 10 minutes per side (depending on the ambient temperature). Cook to an internal temperature of 150 degrees F. Tent with foil and keep warm in a low oven until service.
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smoked scallops
Grilled Scallops with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
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Because scallops cook so quickly, they’re ideal for cold weather cooking. Try to get day boat or dry-packed scallops (scallops that haven’t been treated with sodium tripolyphosphate (STP) which causes the scallops to absorb water increasing the weight and the price of the scallop). “Enhanced” scallops won’t sear properly due to the excess liquid.
Servings
2 servings
Servings
2 servings
smoked scallops
Grilled Scallops with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
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Because scallops cook so quickly, they’re ideal for cold weather cooking. Try to get day boat or dry-packed scallops (scallops that haven’t been treated with sodium tripolyphosphate (STP) which causes the scallops to absorb water increasing the weight and the price of the scallop). “Enhanced” scallops won’t sear properly due to the excess liquid.
Servings
2 servings
Servings
2 servings
Instructions
  1. Remove the “catch” or side muscle from the scallops. Rinse the scallops under cold water and pat dry. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat combine the shallot, thyme and wine. (Never use “cooking wine.” Cook with a wine you would drink.) Simmer until the liquid is reduced by one-half, about 10 minutes. Strain into a blender bowl discarding the thyme and shallot.
  2. Add the roasted red pepper, chicken stock, jalapeño and lime juice; process until smooth. Return the sauce to the stovetop and cook until reduced by one-third. Keep warm over low heat.
  3. Prepare the grill for high-heat direct cooking. Place the scallops on the grill, close the cover and cook for two minutes. Using tongs, flip the scallops (if the scallop don’t release easily from the grill close the cover and cook another 30 seconds). Cook the scallops on the second side for another two to three minutes or until the scallops are opaque.
  4. Transfer the scallops to a warm platter. Place a dollop of sauce atop the scallops and serve over mixed field greens.
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adobo pork
Adobo Pork
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This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe originally printed in the Officers’ Wives Club Cookbook from Clark AFB in the Philippines. If desired, boneless chicken breasts could also be added (or substituted) into the recipe. (This recipe requires advance preparation.)
Servings
2 servings
Servings
2 servings
adobo pork
Adobo Pork
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This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe originally printed in the Officers’ Wives Club Cookbook from Clark AFB in the Philippines. If desired, boneless chicken breasts could also be added (or substituted) into the recipe. (This recipe requires advance preparation.)
Servings
2 servings
Servings
2 servings
Instructions
  1. Prepare the marinade by combining all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  2. Trim most of the fat from the pork chops and score the remaining fat. Place the chops in a resealable plastic bag and add the marinade. Squeeze the air out of the bag and marinate the chops, refrigerated, at least four hours or up to eight hours.
  3. Remove the chops from the marinade and pat dry. Discard the marinade. Season the chops with salt and pepper.
  4. Prepare the grill for medium-high direct cooking. Place the chops on the grill and cook, covered, about six minutes per side or to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F.
  5. Remove the chops from the grill and bring into the kitchen. Tent with foil and allow the chops to rest for five minutes before serving.
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cranberry chicken
Roast Chicken Breasts with Cranberry-Horseradish Relish
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Chicken is one of the most popular meats to be cooked on an outdoor grill. Because chicken cooks quickly, it’s well-suited for winter grilling. This recipes pairs grilled chicken with a seasonally inspired relish that combines the tang of uncooked cranberries with the sweet heat of horseradish. (This recipe requires advance preparation.)
Servings
4 servings
Servings
4 servings
cranberry chicken
Roast Chicken Breasts with Cranberry-Horseradish Relish
Votes: 3
Rating: 3
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Chicken is one of the most popular meats to be cooked on an outdoor grill. Because chicken cooks quickly, it’s well-suited for winter grilling. This recipes pairs grilled chicken with a seasonally inspired relish that combines the tang of uncooked cranberries with the sweet heat of horseradish. (This recipe requires advance preparation.)
Servings
4 servings
Servings
4 servings
Instructions
Cranberry Relish
  1. Prepare the relish at least one day in advance. The relish will keep, covered and refrigerated, for one week.
  1. Using a small food processor, roughly chop the cranberries. Add the sugar, horseradish and lemon juice. Pulse to combine. Transfer the relish to a storage container and refrigerate at least one day. Serve at room temperature.
Chicken and marinade
  1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Trim any fat from the chicken and gently pound to an even thickness. Place the chicken in a resealable plastic bag and add the marinade. Marinate for at least one hour or up to four hours.
  3. Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry; season with salt and pepper.
  4. Preheat the grill for medium high (375 degrees F.) direct cooking.
  5. Grill the chicken for seven to eight minutes per side or to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Transfer the chicken to a warmed platter and bring to the kitchen. Tent the chicken with foil and let it rest for five minutes before serving.
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