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The country is facing a crazy cold chill this winter, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up barbecuing. If you’re still craving smoked meaty goodness, consider following our tips for barbecuing in cold weather.
Start with the right smoker.
Ceramic cookers, like the Big Green Egg, have thick insulated walls and a seal that do a good job at holding heat in, even in the winter. Temperature-controlled pellet smokers are great for the winter, too, because they’re designed to automatically feed more pellets to the heat source to maintain a steady temperature.
Avoid using inexpensive horizontal offset smokers in the winter. They’re usually constructed with thin metal and can’t hold the heat evenly during your cook.
Bring your meat to room temperature.
After you prep your meat with your favorite rub, let it rest at room temperature in your house for 2-3 hours before adding it to the smoker. This can dramatically reduce your smoking time because your meat will start at around 70 degrees instead of 40 degrees.
Monitor your smoker temp.
When grilling in the winter, your grill may respond differently than it does in the summer. Don’t just assume that you’re going to have the same cook. Place a thermometer, like the Thermoworks Smoke, onto the grill grate to monitor the heat. Set the external monitor by the grill, and program it to sound an alarm if the heat dips too low. The alarm will beep on the receiver that’s inside the warm, cozy house with you.
Grill smaller cuts of meat.
We all love our brisket, but a normal 12-hour cook in the summer could end up to be 16 hours in the winter. Save the big guys for warm days and opt for smaller cuts of meat like grilled chicken wings, ribs or grilled meatballs in the winter. The winter is also a fun time to experiment with smoked appetizers for New Year’s Eve and Super Bowl parties.
Never use your smoker indoors.
I find the smell of burning hickory intoxicating, but breathing it in an enclosed space is dangerous and even deadly. Your shed and/or garage is most likely not properly ventilated to maintain a healthy balance of oxygen. Smoking indoors can result in carbon monoxide poisoning. If you have an urge for smoked meat, but can’t endure the cold weather, consider using a smoking gun to infuse smoke flavor.
When all else fails, you could just get out of the cold, and move to Vegas like me. Sure we have to endure grilling in 115-degree temps in the summer, but our winters are mild, so you can still grab a margarita and grill by the pool even in January.