photo: Lauri Patterson/iStock

How to Embrace Winter Barbecuing

By Tom Murray

Cooking outdoors may be one of the iconic joys of summer, but there’s no reason to stop grilling once temperatures start to drop. There are ample pleasures to be found in embracing winter barbecuing.

Bundling up against the Alberta cold is a small price to pay for the glorious taste and smell of meat and vegetables fresh off the barbie. Take it from Janice Smella—she and her husband are a competitive barbecue team from Calgary. For them, grilling and smoking is a year-round experience that requires just a bit of extra preparation, depending on weather conditions.

For one thing, “You should have easy-to-pull-on footwear and a coat by the door,” says Smella, since you’ll be going outside a few times during the grilling process.

Technology can also be helpful when adapting to seasonal changes. “Get a grill light to put on the handle of your barbecue,” says Maryanne Petrash, general manager of Edmonton’s Barbecue Country, an AMA Backyard BBQ partner. “As it gets darker earlier, it’s nice to be able to shed a little light on the situation.”’

Here are a few other helpful suggestions to get you ready for winter barbecuing.

Make sure that you have easy access to your grilling spot. If your barbecue normally sits on the other side of the yard, bring it closer to the door (while maintaining at least a metre of distance from the house, fences and trees or bushes). And make sure that the area is free of snow and sheltered from the wind. “People usually don’t enjoy digging a path to the barbecue,” Smella notes.

Petrash says to expect an increase in the amount of fuel you use for winter barbecuing. Because you’re battling against much colder air, you’ll need to give your grill a longer time to warm up. Once your meat and veggies are on the barbecue, Smella advises that you refrain from peeking at the food quite as much—doing so can quickly bring down the temperature of your grill.

How to avoid common barbecuing blunders

Whoever said that you needed to suffer for your culinary art? Once your meat has gotten a bit of grilling time, you can wrap it in butcher’s paper or aluminum foil, bring it inside and then finish it off in the oven (set to the same temperature as your barbecue). “You can definitely tell better stories if you stand at the barbecue the entire time,” Smella says, “but you can also stand by the fireplace and have a hot chocolate instead.”

Barbecuing is one of life’s simple pleasures, but with a bit of technological assistance, it can be it even easier. Many of today’s gas barbecues allow you to attach bluetooth- or Wi-Fi-enabled thermometers, which allow you to monitor the temperature of your grill from inside your home. If you use a wood pellet grill, Petrash says that manufacturers often offer insulating blankets that can be wrapped around your grill to help maintain temperature and save on fuel consumption.

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