By, Jim Knepper
So, every year on the Blog, I typically post at least a few rants about the ‘benefits’ of cooking in cold weather. BUT…this is no typical cold, it’s incredibly cold just about everywhere on the East Coast and I would submit that in addition to the ‘traditional’ reasons I think BBQ turns out better in this type of weather, this kind of cold provides a few ‘special considerations’.
With wind chills dipping well into the sub-zero range, I would say that it’s safe to assume that no matter what kind of smoker you’re using and whether it’s internally insulated or not, it wouldn’t hurt to toss a blanket over it during your cook. NOW…don’t put a combustible or cheap blanket over it, or you risk fire and worse, a melted blanket all over your smoker! Welding blankets work well and can be found at just about any local welding shop.
Secondly, it’s great weather to use a wireless thermometer such as the iGrill to save you not only a trip outside, but opening the smoke chamber. Some folks estimate that in normal cooking weather, you lose up to 25% of your heat every time that you open the chamber and then you’ve got a period of hotter fire to compensate, which done frequently enough can lead to tough meat. By using a wireless thermometer, you can drastically decrease the number of times necessary to open the cooking chamber.
Yet another consideration is the effects that the Weather has on your physiology! Even the best of outdoorsmen knows that at minus 15°F it doesn’t take long to develop frostbite or sustain serious environmental injury. So, plan in advance every ‘interaction’ that you’ll have with whatever you’re cooking and even go through a ‘practice’ run before you brave the temps to hit the smoker. This way you’re out, you do what you’ve got to do and you’re back in as quickly as possible.
Finally, know your gear and it’s limitations! No matter what kind of smoker you use, there will be ‘special considerations’ that temps like this will cause. For example…if you’re thinking about firing up a ceramic grill/smoker…think twice about the amount of heat you use. It IS possible to crack creamics from extreme changes in heat levels and this should be covered in the documentation you got when you bought your smoker.
SO…just a couple of considerations for cooking BBQ in the cold…not a cautionary tale of why you should NOT get out there and do some ‘Que’! – Stay warm and smokin’ my friends!