Grilling is often seen as a fair weather pastime, but outdoor cooking adventures don’t have to cease when the first storm rolls in
Take it from Green Vest Bruce Ramp, who’s been grilling about 4 times a week for half a century, rain, snow or shine.
“Everything goes back to convenience,” Bruce says,”the temperature thing isn’t a big deal, but if it’s not convenient, people aren’t going to grill.”
So for the sake of convenience, as well as diversifying wintertime palates, Bruce wants to share a few tips:
Make sure that you can easily get to the grill from the house, and vice versa. You’re less likely to want to engage in wintertime grilling if you have to go through an obstacle course every time you go back and forth.
If you know you’re going to be cooking, clear off a clean path between the two destinations ahead of time, removing any hazardous snow, ice or debris so you can get around easily.
Bruce stresses setting up a good, semi-permanent area for the grill that’s close in proximity to the door, yet far enough away to avoid a fire hazard.
“Readying two pairs of shoes and a good rug also helps, and that way you can slip in and out of your footwear as needed without tracking moisture into the house,” he says.
Bruce is a big proponent of giving things homes, including any accessory that might be used for grilling in cold weather. He recommends storing accessories like grate brushes, spatulas and tongs around the unit, or in a watertight container nearby. Nothing kills a grill-master’s mood faster than realizing their spatula is imprisoned under some snow drift on their deck.
“Some grills have pegs or a cabinet where you can return all of your cleaned tools after use,” Bruce says.
“If you have a home for all your devices, they’ll be in their spot instead of all over the place– and that’s the convenience factor.”
He also recommends investing in a good cover that will satisfy your grill’s dimensions to keep out moisture and prevent rust.
“Having the grill covered means when you uncover it, you’re ready to grill,” he says.
It’s no surprise that preheating a grill takes up to twice as long in the wintertime, and that’s why Bruce thinks the most popular units are gas-powered, but he makes a strong case for insulated charcoal grills like the Big Green Egg, which are indifferent to outside temperatures altogether.
What does make a difference, no matter the type of unit being used, is how often the cook opens the lid to check on their food.
“Minimize that as much as possible,” Bruce says, “or you’ll keep lowering the temperature of your food, and it will take forever to cook.”
He recommends a thermometer that keeps track of the grill’s internal temperature- either one with a big enough display to see from the inside, or one with an electronic remote and wearable alarm to indicate when something should be flipped .
If you’re using a charcoal unit, have a fresh, dry supply of extra briquettes nearby in case you need them for added heat.
One of Bruce’s secret weapons for comfortable outdoor cooking in cold weather: the umbrella.
For 40 out of his 50 years of grilling experience, Bruce has covered his cooking area with umbrellas– table umbrellas, patio umbrellas and beach umbrellas– to shield him from any precipitation that may be looking to land on uncovered food or hot surfaces.
“Not only does it protect the food when I do have to open the cover, it gives me a nice dry place for preparation, or just to stand waiting by the heat.”
Staying warm also depends on the clothing a cook decides to wear, so dress appropriately to be outside in the weather for several minutes at a time, but be sure to keep all dangling articles, like scarves, tucked in well so they don’t accidentally ignite.
“Snow gloves are not barbecue gloves,” Bruce reminds, “I have a trusty hot mitt that I keep with my utensils.”
One of the most important features of staying comfortable while cooking outdoors is being able to see what you’re doing, and in the winter, grill-time usually means it’s getting dark outside or it’s dark already.
That’s why it’s good to have a high-powered flashlight secured to the unit, either a magnetic one to stick on steel or cast iron, or a clip-on version if the grill is made out of aluminum.
With all these factors in mind, convenience falls into line, and Bruce says falling in love with grilling any time of year is just that easy.
“It’s just an outdoor kitchen,” he says, “you have to make it yours.”