Cold weather smokers can’t rely on wood heat because the wood is too wet and might not catch fire or release any smoke from combustion. Luckily there are several other ways to give your meats that signature flavor.
You can use a chimney starter, lighter fluid, matches, or a propane torch to ignite your coals and get them burning hot so that they release enough smoke to keep cold meat moist when smoked.
Cold weather can make outdoor smoking a little more difficult than normal. This article will go through some of the best smokers for cold weather, giving you an idea for a smoker that will keep the smoke and heat contained.
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What smoker works best in cold weather?
Gas or charcoal smokers might be easier to use in cold weather, but you will give up some of the authentic barbecue taste that charcoal smokers provide.
In addition, you have to make sure your gas-based smoker has an adjustable vent on top and at the bottom so that it can release propane when it starts to get too hot. Charcoal brands will be covered in a separate article.
As discussed above, the best smoker for cold weather should have an adjustable vent to let out excess heat.
This is very important for homeowners with enclosed structures around their grills because they might not have enough airflow in their structures to transfer heat from their smoker into the structure and other areas around it.
What to consider when choosing a smoker for cold weather?
Lid and door
A good lid is important for a cold-weather smoker. When smoking on a gas grill, the lid will be your main heat transfer mechanism as well as the heat shield from wind/weather. If you are using a smoker that is designed for cold weather, then you don’t want your smoker to get too hot in the middle of the day. The best way to control this temperature is by using a sliding vent that controls how much smoke and heat transfer from inside your smoker to outside. If you have too much smoke and excess heat, it might dry out your meat or cause it to burn instead of getting that delicious smoked taste we all know and love.
Use a remote thermometer to monitor the inside temperature
It is very important in cold weather that you monitor the temperature inside your smoker. If you don’t, you might find yourself having to fix your meat hours later or even worse, having to throw it out. Cold weather can be extremely hard on a brisket or other type of barbecue, so it is best to keep an eye on the temperature.
How long do you need to smoke?
In cold weather, meats like steak and chicken will probably need less time in the smoker than they would in warmer temperatures because there is less evaporation from the meat if it stays closer to room temperature.
This can be a good way to save a charcoal or a propane smoker, or if you happen to live in a suburban area where there are laws against open flames, it can save you from getting a ticket from the fire department.
If you have a long time (i.e. multiple hours) for smoking, consider wrapping your meat with foil about halfway through smoking time to prevent it from drying out too much. This will also make it easier for you to control when your meat is done without compromising the flavor that hardwood smoke provides.
If you’re planning to use a gas grill, consider using the rotisserie function. This will keep your meat up off the bottom of the grill, allowing more heat and smoke to transfer to it without heating it up too much.
Temperature gauge (thermometer)
Thermometers are important for any smoker because you have to regulate your temperature in order to get that perfect smoked taste without drying out your meat or burning it.
With all of the other issues, such as wind and cold weather, controlling your temperature will be very important. A remote thermometer is one that can go inside or outside of the smoker so that you can monitor it from a distance safely.
Use a remote thermometer to monitor the temperatures of your smoker. This will allow you to monitor the temperature without getting injured or risking the meat being ruined. It can also prevent you from having to grill in cold weather because you can use it inside while it is snowing or below freezing outside.
If you’re using pellets for smoking, then use a remote thermometer that measures the temperature of the smoke flowing out of your pellet grill into your meat so that it doesn’t burn. Another option is to use a remote thermometer that goes into your meat itself and measures its internal temperature so that you know when it is done.
How do you smoke when it's cold outside?
Cold weather smokers work the same way as any other type of smoker. You need to get your coals or wood burning and then you need to regulate your heat so that it is not too hot or not hot enough. There are several ways to do this, but we will go over some of the more common ones here:
Using a charcoal chimney
Most gas grills come with a charcoal starter, but if you have one of the better ones, then it might be more convenient to use a charcoal chimney starter than explode your gas grill just trying to get it lit. The charcoal chimney starter is a great way to get your coals started without having to worry about an explosive gas grill.
Charcoal chimney starters are also much more portable than gas-based smokers, which means that you can take them with you on the go if you’re planning on hitting up competitions or tailgating at football games and other sporting events.
Charcoal starters are very simple in their design. All you have to do is stick the starter in the middle of your coals (it might take some practice getting it centered), fill it up with charcoal, put sand in the bottom, and light it up. It will take a few minutes depending on how long you have had your charcoal sitting out, but once it is going, then all you have to do is stand back and wait until the coals are hot enough to start grilling.
Using a chimney starter is very simple and only takes a couple of minutes. To use it properly, you need to put sand in the bottom, fill it with charcoal (use enough for about 20 minutes of grill time), and light the charcoal with either newspaper or lighter fluid.
It will probably take about 10-20 minutes for the coals to be ready depending on how many you have. Note that using lighter fluid is not recommended because it can leave an after-taste in your meat from the chemicals.
The use of a chimney starter is very easy and will save you a lot of time. All you need to do is stick the middle in your coals, fill it with enough coals for your grill, light it up and wait until it is hot enough to start grilling.
Using a gas grill
If you don’t have a charcoal chimney starter, then you’re going to have to use some other method of getting heat into your smoker. There are two ways that people traditionally use it: they either put their smoker on the smoker grate and then put their wood-burning device on top of the wood chips or they put their wood searing device on top of the wood chips.
Using charcoal briquettes
Charcoal briquettes are probably the easiest way to get your smoker going in cold weather. It doesn’t involve lighter fluid and you don’t have to worry about your grill blowing up and burning you, your house, or both.
To use them, all you have to do is dump them into the middle of the grill grate and light them. You might need a few more than you would if it were warmer because they will burn faster in cold weather. It’s a good idea to pour a little more than you think you need because your temperatures will be lower than what they would be if it were warmer and the briquettes will burn faster.
Using a gas fireplace
If you have an outdoor gas fireplace, then you don’t have to worry about getting any lighter fluid or messing with charcoal briquettes.
Just simply put your wood-burning device on top of the wood chips and light them with the lighter fluid that is already in the fireplace. You can either use newspaper as a heat diffuser on top of your heat diffuser or use a grate on top of the coals so it is easier to get to your food while they are cooking.
Tips for smoking in cold weather
If you have done any smoking in cold weather, then you have probably already figured out that you’re going to need to take more time smoking in the winter than when it is warm out.
Smoking takes longer because your temperatures will be lower and it will take a little longer for your coals to heat up.
- You might also want to start your coals a couple of hours before you plan on grilling so that they are hot enough when it’s time.
- You should also use a thermometer if possible to monitor your temperature and make sure that it doesn’t get too hot or cold. Make sure that you use a thermometer that will allow you to monitor it from a distance so that you don’t have to go in and check on the temperature.
- You should also always monitor your temperature when it is cold out because it’s very easy to have temperatures get too hot or too cold. Your fire will be burning hot, but the heat might not be getting transferred well into your smoker or it might be leaking out everywhere, so make sure that you are checking on your temperature regularly while smoking.
- If you’re using wood chips, then make sure that they aren’t getting burned up when they are in the smoker. They should only be getting smoke flavor, not being burned up for heat. For example, if you are smoking with apple wood chips, then make sure that you only use a couple of inches of chips and not too many because they can get burned up too fast. Also, make sure to place them closer together so that they will catch on fire in smaller amounts and not all at once.
- In the case where you are using hot dogs or sausage for your main course, then make sure that you don’t leave them in for too long because they will get overcooked. If you are planning on making them a side item, then they will be fine.
- If you’re using a water smoker, then make sure that you keep the water bowl filled up to prevent your temperature from getting too hot or too cold. You might need to pour more water in while it is raining or snowing because the fire will be getting weaker and that will cause the temperature inside to get hotter.
- If you’re using a gas grill, then make sure that you have enough gas in your tank so that your coals don’t burn out before dinner time. (Check more: https://thefriendlytoast.net/best-gas-grill-under-1000/)
I have a gas grill, should I use that or a charcoal smoker?
As long as you are going to use wood chips and not anything else, then you should be fine to use your gas grill. You don’t have to worry about the flavor at all.
What do I do about the door opening and closing when it gets hot?
Some people just push the door open a little bit so that it stays open and closes back up when it is cool again. Others keep their smoker open while they are smoking and then close it up after they put their food in.
How long do I leave the food smoking?
This can be anywhere from half an hour to six hours depending on how big the piece of meat is, how hot your coals are, and what you are smoking. You will have to experiment a little bit by trying different amounts of time and seeing what works best for your situation.
If you are smoking a tough piece of meat like brisket or short ribs, then you should probably just leave them in for about four hours. If you are using something like chicken pieces or fish, then you should probably just leave them in for a half-hour.
Will smoking ice cream be the same as smoking meat?
The answer to this question is that it depends – if you’re making ice cream and mixing it with herbs, then yes. If you’re just putting regular vanilla ice cream into a smoker, then there will not be much difference at all. Smoking ice cream will probably make the vanilla flavor stronger and give more of an aroma than smoking meat wood.
There are many different ways to smoke in the winter, but this smoker guide should help you figure out which way will work best for you.
This article is not just limited to winter though, so even if you don’t want to smoke in the winter, you can still use these tips and methods during the warmer seasons as well.
We hope that after reading this article you’ll have a better understanding of how to choose the best smoker for cold weather.
As long as you keep an eye on your temperatures, then all of the tips that we’ve listed should work fine. If you still have any questions or anything to add, then feel free to leave a comment and let us know what your opinion is.
We also hope that this page will be helpful for newbie smokers and veterans alike and that it will help other people to understand how smoking meat really is important in cold weather.