How To Smoke And Grill Meat In Cold Weather

Just because the temperature has dropped doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to your BBQ grill or smoker. In fact, cooking on your Weber, Traeger, Camp Chef, or Masterbuilt in the colder months is the best way to really see what your grill or smoker can do!

The early pioneers of this vast country cooked their food almost entirely in the great outdoors throughout the year. Native Americans too roasted and cooked wild game, venison, bison, and caribou outdoors in heat or cold, sharing their techniques with the early settlers.

Grilling and smoking your favorite dishes in subzero temperatures isn’t as difficult as you might expect. With the considerable advantage of today’s superior technology, your grill or smoker can perform just as well in the cold as it does in summer.

Now can capture the thrill of roasting, searing, and grilling your favorite cuts of meat all year long! Fall or winter, adequate preparation and the right grilling tools are the key to pulling off any BBQ recipe. If this is your first time firing up your grill in the cold, this page is for you!

Follow this handy guide to learn in detail how to prepare and execute a sumptuous, seasoned meal on your charcoal, gas, pellet grill or electric smoker in cold weather. 

A man fries grilled meat against the cottage in the evening and in the snow

Challenges Of Grilling In Cold Weather

Fuel Consumption: Due to the colder weather, it takes more fuel to achieve the desired internal cooking temperature.
Lack of Insulation: Heat escapes from your grill or smoker at a faster rate in cold weather, making it difficult to generate enough radiant heat inside the cooking chamber to cook your meat thoroughly.
Preheating: Colder temperatures can leave your grill or smoker so frigid that preheating takes twice as long.
Damp Fuel: Stored improperly in your garage, shed, etc, wood fuel in particular can become damp during winter or fall. The added moisture means it will take longer to burn and to produce smoke. Burning wet wood can also produce harmful byproducts [1]
Windy Conditions: Maintaining a consistent internal cooking temperature is made more difficult in windy, cold outdoor conditions. Gusty winds can wreak havoc with your charcoal, gas or pellet grill. As gusts of wind whip through the cooking chamber, they can easily put out a pilot light, blow embers into your food, or even knock your grill over!
Slippery Conditions: A thin layer of ice hidden beneath the snow could send you to the hospital with serious burns and broken bones!
Food Storage: Food must be stored quickly or it loses heat rapidly once removed from the grill or smoker. Traveling even a short distance from your balcony to the indoors will mean covering your food to seal in heat so you can serve it ready right off your grill.

BBQ Tools For Grilling In Cold Weather

Thermal BBQ Gloves
Keep hands warm and fingers safe from blowing flames. Quality BBQ gloves that reach up to just below your elbows offer the most protection, but may not be as easy to maneuver in. Hand gloves with wrist protection will give you more dexterity. Suede, leather, or heat resistant silicone gloves are all good options.

Cold Weather Jacket
Not for you - for your grill! A thermal cold weather jacket for your grill will provide adequate insulation to keep the internal temperature more consistent. Leading brands like Weber, Masterbuilt and Traeger offer cold weather jackets designed specifically for use with the brand.

You can also use a welding blanket, for example, or make your own insulation box to serve as both windshield and insulation.

Wireless Digital Thermometer
Maintaining a consistent internal cooking temperature in cold weather can be a real challenge. With a wireless digital thermometer, you can have an accurate temperature reading in seconds. The temperature can be monitored remotely via an app that downloads to your phone, so you can adjust the heat in your smoker or grill as needed.

BBQ Utensils
Invest in a quality pair of stainless steel, locking BBQ tongs. You’ll need them to turn over meat, remove food from the grill or add. A meat fork and spatula are also must-haves when grilling in cold weather.

Sealed Food Storage Bins
Once your food is ready to remove from the grill or smoker, the cold weather can quickly drain them of warmth. Who wants to eat a cold steak? To keep your food from cooling too rapidly, be sure to have adequate food storage on hand.

Ceramic Cookware
Ceramic cookware absorbs and retains heat longer than plastic or other types of cookware. It’s also completely BPA-free. Transferring your food off the grill to ceramic cookware will preserve their warmth much longer. A heated cast iron skillet on hand is also a good way to quickly transfer food from the cold outdoors to indoors.

9 Essential Tips For Grilling In Cold Weather

When it comes to grilling in cold weather, keeping dry, fueled insulated and safe should be your top 4 priorities. Whether you prefer gas, charcoal, pellets, or an electric smoker, these essential cold weather grilling tips will apply:

  1. Prep your grill or smoker before using by preheating for longer than normal.
  2. Prepare larger quantities of fuel and keep handy. Wood should be stored dry and covered from the elements. Charcoal briquettes should also be stored in a dry cool place. 
  3. Adequate lighting in outdoor conditions is important during winter. The shortened hours of daylight can leave you fumbling around in the dark before your food is ready.
  4. Large, thick cuts of meat will take longer to cook in cold weather so adjust the cooking time on your BBQ recipes. Try smaller cuts of meat, vegetables, and even desserts.
  5. Insulate your grill or smoker against the wind to reduce temperature variance
  6. Don’t block the ventilation to the cooking chamber. Leave intakes, chimney and smokestack clear of obstruction to avoid a fire. 
  7. Avoid opening the lid of your grill or smoker excessively, which allows valuable heat to escape. You’ll add 20 minutes to your cooking process every time you open the lid or smoker door.
  8. Monitor your progress with a dual probe wireless thermometer. A wireless thermometer gives you the advantage of remote monitoring and more  precise temperature control. 
  9. Plan your food removal and storage ahead of time to keep food warm off the grill. Use ceramic cookware for heat retention. Ceramic cookware will help to insulate your food and keep it at temperature. This is handy for transporting food to your grill or back inside after you’ve created your grilled delights. Cast iron is also good for keeping food warm as you transport it from the grill to indoors.
  10. When not in use, store your grill or smoker in a cool, dry, insulated place. Invest in a quality cover. If your grill becomes cold, it will take longer to heat up, causing you to burn more fuel. 

Weber Tips For Grilling In The Winter

Tips For Gas Grills In Cold Weather

  • Clear an unobstructed pathway from your gas grill to indoors so you can move freely between as needed.
  • Prepare an insulation box as a shield against wind.
  • Inspect the regulator and connection to your gas for leaks or damage before igniting your gas grill.
  • Don’t use your gas grill in an enclosed space such as your garage. Dangerous carbon monoxide can get trapped inside or sucked into your home through the ventilation ducts.
  • Once you set the desired temperature on your gas grill, keep the lid closed until food is either ready or needs to be turned over.

Charcoal Grills In Cold Weather

  • Charcoal burns hotter than gas, but it takes longer to achieve the ideal cooking temperature, especially in cold weather [2].
  • Wind gusts will have a much bigger impact on charcoal, adding oxygen that stimulates combustion. Keep the lid closed on your charcoal grill. The wind can easily knock over your charcoal grill with the lid open.
  • Instead of the snake or minion method of lighting your charcoal, light the whole firebox. 

Pellet Grills In Cold Weather

  • Pellets burn hotter and faster than charcoal. That being said, pellets are best used with a pellet grill.
  • It’s a common practice to soak wood chips, but you don’t need to pre-soak wood pellets. They are designed to release moisture at a specific rate. Wetting them in cold weather is counterproductive and will add excess moisture to the cooking chamber, leaving your meat undercooked.
  • In cold air, wood pellets absorb additional moisture. As a result, they’ll burn slower and tend to smolder rather than actual catch fire in your grill.
  • Clean your hopper/pellet auger thoroughly to remove any sawdust or left over wood. Frozen wood debris can get lodged in the auger over the winter months, resulting in damage to the auger later when you fire it up in summer.
  • Leave the smokestack or chimney stack unobstructed, as well all the intakes, to allow for adequate ventilation in the cooking chamber.

Electric Smokers In Cold Weather

  • Use an insulation cold weather jacket, preferably the one offered by your chosen brand of electric smoker (Masterbuilt, Traeger, Smokehouse, etc).
  • Set it and forget it! Once you set the temperature and time on your electric smoker, avoid opening the smoker door to check on your food. Use a wireless thermometer instead to remotely monitor the progress of your brisket or smoked pork butt.
  • When using a power outlet, be sure the path to the outlet is secure and free of dripping water. Your smoker should be as close to the outlet or power source as possible. Running a long extension cord outdoors in the winter may pose a potential fire hazard. If you must, opt for a cold weather extension cord [3].
  • Don’t use wood pellets in your electric smoker! Wood chips or chunks are 

Final Thoughts…

Smoked brisket, thick juicy burgers or grilled salmon, you can enjoy your favorite BBQ recipes even in cold weather. Don’t let the fall season and dropping temperatures put an end to your reign on the grill!

If this is your first time venturing into the cold weather grilling experience, start with a BBQ recipe you know well. Prep your food as usual, and be sure to have extra fuel on hand.

While you can expect your charcoal, gas, pellet grill or electric smoker to take longer in cold weather, you can still achieve the same savory results in winter. Exercise patience and prep your BBQ grill in advance to save time. 

Shielding an insulation will be critical to maintaining a consistent cooking temperature. A cold weather jacket, welding jacket, or DIY insulation box will keep the wind out and heat in. 

With the right grilling utensils, preparation and a clear unobstructed outdoor space to work in, your smoker or grill can perform just as well in winter as in summer!


[1] Wood Smoke And Your Health (
[2] Charcoal Grilling Tastes Better Than Gas: It’s Just Science (
[3] Extension Cord Safety: what to do and what to avoid (State

About the Author William Clay

William Clay is a BBQ enthusiast dedicated to sharing his grilling (and overall cooking) expertise with FireFoodChef's readers.