True barbecue lovers know that smoked meat isn’t just a summer thing! But, smoking in winter presents a whole heap of extra challenges that, if you don’t deal with correctly, make it almost impossible to maintain the right cooking temperature. So, what do you do next time the hankering for a smoked meal hits when the weather isn’t crash hot? Follow these 7 tips for cold weather smoking and you’ll be serving up melt-in-your mouth meats year round.
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1. Use a Barbecue That's Suitable for Cold Weather
Forget winter smoking on a cheap offset smoker! The thin metal will simply bleed heat. And, even if you use a tonne of extra fuel, you’ll have a nightmare of a time trying to not only reach but then maintain a suitable and safe cooking temperature.
To successfully smoke in cold weather, you need the right kind of gear to do just that. Think of maximum heat retention that you get from a kamado smoker. Or, opt for the automation offered by a pellet or electric smoker.
If you’re looking for a new smoker suitable for cold weather cooking, check out our review article of the top 5 here.
2. Shelter Your Barbecue
Although it’s absolutely ESSENTIAL that you smoke outdoors (not in a garage either), you’ll have an easier time smoking in winter if you can position your barbecue somewhere that’s sheltered from the cooling effects of the wind, rain and snow.
That might mean setting up under an open-sided gazebo or around the side of your house that’s less exposed.
But, if it’s really howling out there and you don’t have a natural shelter, consider making your own. A piece of ply covered with some foil insulation can work wonders. Just be careful not to position flammable materials too close to any hot spots of the outside of your barbecue, particularly the firebox.
3. Blanket Up
If they make an insulating blanket for your smoker, investing in one of these is going to make smoking in really cold temperatures A LOT easier. Cold weather jackets like the Traeger Insulated Cover are specially fitted to create a barrier between the hot smoker surface and the cold air outside and will help to keep your cooking temperature more even while reducing fuel usage. A win-win all-round.
4. Cook Smaller Cuts of Meat
Now, we’re not stopping you from cooking a super large brisket in the pit of winter. But, choosing smaller cuts of meat that don’t require such long cooking times will be easier when the weather’s working against you. Something that’d usually take 12 hours in summer might need more like 16 hours + when winter temperatures slow the cooking down.
Instead, try smoking some ribs, chicken thighs, meatballs or sausages. These are also ideal finger foods for entertaining over Christmas.
5. Stock Up On Fuel
Even if you’re using one of the best smokers for cold weather, in winter, you’re going to need more fuel to reach and maintain a steady temperature than you would during summer. So, stock up on your fuel of choice and have it nearby to make things easy.
6. Monitor the Temperature Closely
During summer, yes, you might be able to get away with forgetting the smoker while you mow the lawn, watch the game or have a beer with the boys. But, when you’ve got cold weather encroaching on the goods, you’ll need to keep a close eye on the temperature throughout the cook.
Even once you’re used to how your smoker performs in cold weather, a change of wind direction or more rain can have a big impact on how your cook goes on that particular day.
To have dinner served up when you want it, watch the temperature dial and be sure to add more fuel when you need it.
7. Keep the Lid Closed!
Having a peek at your meat during a mid-winter cook means letting in a blast of cold, wet air that’ll dramatically drop the temperature. You’ll then need even more fuel and time while your smoker works hard to hit your target temperature again, delaying your serving time.
Instead, save yourself the hassle by keeping the lid closed as much as possible!
The best winter smokers have a separate fuel door and even heat distribution so you don’t need to rotate the meat.
Another great idea is to invest in a digital meat thermometer so you can remotely tell exactly when your meat has reached the ideal temperature. We love the ThermoPro Wireless Digital Dual Probe Thermometer for this exact purpose!