Cold-weather barbecuing is becoming more popular according to those in the grilling business, as barbecues offer features that make them easy to operate year-round. Even those with a $100 grill from the local department store can enjoy an outdoor barbecue year-round by following a few food preparation and safety procedures.
During the colder months, it's a great time to grill larger pieces of meat and comfort foods that don't require a lot of attention or standing next to the grill, such as barbecued meatloaf, says Weber's Jamie Purviance. The meatloaf recipe is available on the Weber site.
Canadian chef and author Ted Reader, who owns more than 100 barbecues, says about half of Canadians grill 12 months a year. He says when it's cold outside, the barbecue should be preheated five to 10 minutes longer than in the summer. Barbecue manufacturer Traeger Canada suggests adding 20 minutes of cooking time per pound for every five degrees below 45 F. If you're using a charcoal grill, you may need to add charcoal more often to keep the temperature constant. Traeger, which sells barbecues that burn pellets, says it's important to have an airtight container in which to store the pellets – damp or dusty pellets will cause a large decrease in heat output, the company says.
For propane units, try to position your barbecue so the wind isn't blowing directly on the burner tubes. Keep the lid closed as much as possible because every time it opens, you lose heat. Traeger Canada says you should add 15 minutes of cooking time for every time you open the lid. Large pieces of meat, such as a roast, work best because they can be left for a long time on indirect heat and don't need as much attention, says Weber.
It's tempting to move the barbecue into a garage or sheltered area to keep out of the wind, but that's not a safe idea – you need lots of ventilation around the unit. Operating a propane barbecue inside an enclosed space could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. The barbecue should also be at least 10 feet away from any building to avoid risk of fire.
Since nightfall comes early in the winter, make sure your barbecue is near a light source – cooking by flashlight is not ideal.
Duff Dixon, president of Ontario Gas BBQ, which bills itself as the world's largest BBQ store, says that the latest generation of barbecues include built-in features that make grilling anytime a breeze. This year we are seeing a shift toward grill centres, which are the all-inclusive propane or natural gas barbecues. People are moving toward these because they not only have large and diverse cooking surfaces but they can also be permanently incorporated in backyard landscaping designs.
Engineered to fit into an outdoor counter much like indoor stoves, the units immediately increase the value of your backyard and home because they are permanently installed, says Dixon. With counter space, a wet bar, barbecue, seating, umbrellas and canopies, your backyard can easily be transformed into another room in your house.
Health Canada's Food Safety Tips for Barbecuing recommend thawing frozen meat in a refrigerator or in a microwave before placing it on the barbecue, so it will cook evenly. When cooking, Health Canada recommends using a digital food thermometer to make sure the internal temperature of the meat has killed all bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria. Colour alone is not a reliable indicator that meat is safe to eat. Meat can turn brown before all the bacteria are killed, says Health Canada.
Put the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. For hamburgers, place it through the side of the patty all the way to the middle, and check each patty.
Health Canada has a chart of safe internal cooking temperatures on its website.
If you haven't used your barbecue for awhile, Napoleon Fireplaces and Grills suggests taking the burners off and cleaning them thoroughly. Use a venturi brush to clean out the burners. If there are food particles blocking burner ports, use a 1/16th-inch drill bit to clean out the ports.
Hot soapy water is best for most of the grills and searing plates, and for the base, sides and outside of the grill. Stainless steel units should be cleaned with a stainless steel cleaner. Use a spatula to scrape up grease from the base down to the drip pan, and give the drip pan a good cleaning.
Look for any crimps, scratching or punctures on all the hoses and feed tubes. If you find a problem, the line must be replaced. Conduct a leak test to make sure everything is working property – there's a video about how to do this on Napoleon's website.
Finally, ensure the ignition parts are working property. The tips of the electrodes should be clean and have no rust or grease build-up – if they do, use sandpaper to clean them off. If the unit has a battery ignition, you may need to change the batteries.