Smoking in Cold Weather (Don’t Let Winter Stop You Smoking Meat!)

It’s dark, it’s cold, and all you want to do is sink your teeth into a beef brisket pie or a succulent pork shoulder that’s falling off the bone.

First thing’s first, are you wondering if you can you smoke meat in cold weather?

You sure you can! Although once you get out from under that blanket and out into the elements, the wind, the rain, and the snow may make it tricky.

But with a few simple techniques and after a lot of shivering, you’ll be chowing down in no time. Let’s fire up the smoker and get to it! 

cooking ribs when its snowing
Some ribs we did when it was nearly snowing!

Different Smokers Perform Differently in Extreme Conditions

Every seasoned pitmaster knows that the type of smoker you’re using will drastically affect how you should approach smoking meat in cold temperatures.

Knowing your temperature range, and mastering temperature control will get you well on your way to smoking in cold weather conditions.

The first step to knowing your smoker is understanding the body type of your smoker. Thin-body smokers make it tough to keep a steady temperature as the thermal energy conducts away from the body of the cooking chamber, thus you’ll burn more fuel.

Smokers such as the Smokey Mountain or the Weber Kettle will require a higher degree of care and attention to keep warm in the freezing winter months.

On the other hand, thicker-walled cooking chambers make it drastically easier to keep your smoker’s temperature high but will require a lot more fuel to get to your desired temperature.

Once there, the thick walls of the Backwoods Smokers or the ceramic kamados will keep the heat inside the cooking chamber, and maintaining your desired temperature won’t be a problem.

Create Insulation for Your Smoker

Insulation is key when smoking meat in cold weather. Solutions to keeping your precious smoker warm and dry in the winter months range from a simple welders blanket placed over the smoker, to building an ice wall to keep your smoker away from the harsh winds

You should treat your cooker like you would treat yourself when standing out in the wind and snow.

 Rug it up, protect it from the wind, and make sure its internal temperature stays steady. Simply draping a welding blanket over the firebox is a simple solution to this problem. You can find these at any hardware store.

They can handle the heat of the firebox without bursting into flames and will protect your smoker from the wind chill and rain without much issue. 

Use a Cold Weather Jacket

If you’re after a more high-tech solution to your insulation issues, You try a cold-weather jacket. They are silicone coated and ideal for the cold, The Cold Weather Jacket is a pitmaster’s dream.

It will stand against the rain, wind, snow, and fight to the last to keep your precious meat snug and warm inside your cooking chamber. Its easy access flaps make reading the temperature, adjusting the exhaust vent, and accessing your meat a dream.

Make sure when you’re using any type of insulation, such as the Cold Weather Jacket, that you provide proper airflow to allow your smoke to escape. Over-smoking can lead to a nasty bite of smoke taste when plating up your dish.

Battling the Elements, like The Wind

There’s no getting around the fact that cold winter weather means cold winds. When you’re barbequing in the cold, you’ll be battling the wind, almost always.

You can start to combat this from the moment you set up your cooker. When you’re first installing your pride and joy, think about where natural wind currents come from. Now think about how you can protect against them.

Can you put up a shield in a doorway when you cook? Or do you have a nice cosy spot for your cooker to sit away from the elements?

Knowing how the air flows through your smoker is the key to success. Too much smoke and you may ruin the meat. Not enough and it may not cook at all. It’s most effective to have the wind hit your cooker at right angles.

Always Keep the Lid Shut

It may sound simple, but keeping your meat warm may be as simple as keeping the lid shut. In the summer, checking your meat is half the fun.

Watching it cook gets your stomach rumbling and doesn’t harm the process too much. But in the winter, the difference between the perfect cook and just another smoke could be keeping the lid shut.

The more you open the lid, the longer you’ll need to cook, and the angrier your guests may become.

A peek of just a few minutes can result in over half an hour of delays. So, for an efficient cook, it’s best to keep your lid closed. Use your thermometer, and satisfy your guests sooner rather than later.

kepeing lid shut during meat smoking
It was tempting to look in my friend’s smoker to check the pork butt, but we resisted!

Always Use A Thermometer

A thermometer is a pitmaster’s best friend. One should be in your right hand at all times. Keep it close, keep it safe. Seconds looking for a thermometer could compound into minutes of overcooking. Tough meat should be a pitmasters enemy.

In cold weather, when opening the lid is a cardinal sin, the ability to remotely monitor your meat is essential. A good digital thermometer is the jewel in the crown of any pitmaster. If you can, get a multiprobe digital thermometer.

It will allow you to monitor the temperature in your cooking chamber, as well as the temperature of the meat itself. Splurging on the bells and whistles may also help. Features like alarms and reminders may give you the edge over your neighbors in keeping your meat at the ideal temperature.

Check Your Fuel Levels

The cold is going to chew up fuel. That is an unavoidable fact of cooking in the cold. I would suggest stocking up on your chosen fuel.

Overstocking shouldn’t be an issue. You would rather have too much than too little. A good rule of thumb is to obtain double the amount of fuel that you would in warmer temperatures.

Now that you’ve stocked up, it’s vital to keep a constant eye on your fuel levels. Set up your tools and keep your fuel ready so you don’t waste time when you need to refuel.

For the wood burners among us, keep your wood in a dry place close by. 

Be prepared. In the middle of winter fuel usage may vary, and running out of fuel will simply ruin your cook.

fuel for meat smoking

Use Your Smoker in A Sheltered Location

As it is with ourselves, shelter is the best friend of your cooker. You should do everything you can to keep your cooker safe and out of the elements. Look around your property and locate the ideal spot you yourself would like to sit or spend your afternoon.

A spot away from the wind direction, protected from the rain is ideal. Now put your cooker there. It deserves it, and it will thank you for it.

Unfortunately, this does not include your living room, the spot in front of your tv, or your cozy study. This is simply unsafe and I do not recommend it.

Be wary of vents or open windows where your smoke could escape into the house. Some smoke can be dangerous to humans, and you can put others at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

However, when you do find that perfect (and safe) spot for your gas grill or cooker, the process will become a lot easier. When combined with some of the techniques previously mentioned, the internal temperature of your cooker will come stable. Cold weather grilling will be a breeze!

Plan Your Smoking Process Out

Warm weather makes a pitmaster complacent. Cooking temperature is constant, or at least easy to keep at the proper temperature, and the effects of wind are often nonexistent. When dealing with cold weather conditions and a freezing ambient temperature, planning is key.

What target temperature is best for your type of cooker?
Do you have a charcoal grill or a wood grill?
What is your cooking time?
Do you have a windbreak or furnace insulation?
What will your smoking time be?

These are all crucial considerations before undertaking your cook. Cooking is an art, and with any art, a slow start makes for a speedy end. Think about your strategy, write it down, and stick to it as best you can.

There you have it, all tips for smoking in cold weather! You know a dedicated cook when you see him smoking meat in the middle of winter! What’re the coldest temps you have cooked in?

Smoke On!

Charlie

Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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