What better way to spice up the winter than with the heat of grilled Jamaican jerk chicken? Cold temperatures and a little snow can present challenges, but you don’t have to let mother nature put your love of grilling on hold. We have expert tips and a recipe that will have you grilling all year long.
The important tips to keep in mind when smoking meat in cold winter weather also apply to winter grilling. The main difference between bbq and grilling is cooking temperature. BBQ temperatures are low: 200-300°F (93-149°C), while grilling temperatures are quite high: 500-700°F (260-371°C). Maintaining these cooking temperatures in spite of wind, rain, and snow can be quite challenging. Here are the top expert tips we’ve collected:
Top Cold Weather Grilling Tips
● Plan Ahead: Grilling in the winter will require more fuel (coal or propane) and time than it does in warmer months. Plan on about 50% more fuel and 20-30% more cooking time.
➤ Hardwood lump charcoal burns hotter than charcoal briquettes and is a good option when you’re working in freezing temperatures.
● Clear a path free of snow and ice not just to access your grill, but to stay safe. There’s always a bit of risk involved when you’re grilling outdoors, but slips and falls increase that risk.
When it snows, what do you shovel first? The path to your garage or the path to your grill? —Steven Raichlen, BarbecueBible.com
● Bundle up: Be sure you’re warm enough to spend some time outside in freezing temperatures but don’t wear any loose clothing that could possibly catch fire. Wear your heat-resistant grilling gloves for cooking, not your ski gloves—they’ll be ruined.
● Shield your grill from wind and precipitation. Rain and snow that fall on your grill quickly wick away heat through evaporative cooling. The more your grill’s temperature is cooled down by wind and precipitation, the more fuel you will use.
Shield your grill or smoker from the wind and and precipitation. Metal is a good conductor and the weather will tend to cool it down. It’s especially important to keep the air intake out of the winid to maintain a consistent burn. —John Dawson, Pit Barrel Cooker
● Mise en Place (French for “everything in its place”): Have everything prepped ahead of time to minimize your time outdoors. Have your meat, tongs, thermometer, foil for wrapping, warm platter, or anything else you might need ready to go so you don’t have to open the lid multiple times or run back inside to grab something you forgot.
● Be sure the cooking area is well lit. Days are shorter in the winter so you may be working in the dark if you’re grilling for dinner. Use your porch lights, have a flashlight handy, and use a Thermapen® Mk4. The Thermapen has an automatic backlight to make its already easy-to-read digits easily visible in the dark.
● Keep the Lid Closed. Every time you open your grill’s lid cold air can rush inside, cooling down your grill and slowing cooking time.
The best way to keep temperatures up when grilling outdoors during the colder months is to keep the lid on the grill as much as possible, opening it only once to flip your chicken, burgers or steak as needed. —Winter Grilling Tips, Grillocracy.com
● Cook to temperature. Estimated cooking times in recipes will not be the same when you’re grilling in the winter. The only way to know if your meat is done cooking is by taking accurate temperatures. Use an accurate Super-Fast® thermometer you can trust.
➤ Use an instant-read thermometer. The high temperatures of grilling exceed what an alarm thermometer’s probe cable can handle. The best temperature tool for high heat cooking applications is an instant-read. Read our article The Difference Between BBQ and Grilling for more information on the important temperature differences.
● Keep your food warm. Once the food is done you’ll want to keep it warm on its way indoors. Cast iron retains heat extremely well. Heat up a cast iron skillet or dutch oven to transport your grilled food from the grill indoors. Keep the cast iron on your grill while cooking if you have room. It’ll make bringing the food inside easier. If you don’t have room on the grill you can warm it up in your oven.
➤ For Gas Grills
● Grill Check: If using a gas grill, perform a quick grill check. Check to see if there are any leaking cracks in the hoses, if there are, replace them. Check to see if the lid or any knobs are frozen. If they are you can use a hairdryer to gently melt the ice. Don’t force anything to turn or open.
● Fuel Tank Pressure: As the temperature outside decreases so does the pressure in your fuel tank. A partially full tank may not have adequate pressure to keep the grill lit.
● Choose Simple Recipes
Use recipes that call for just a single flip. Less fiddling with the food makes for happier winter grilling. —Danielle Bennet, DivaQ
We’re using a straightforward grilled chicken recipe that only needs one flip. It’s pretty simple: split the chicken into halves, marinate for 30 minutes, grill, flip once and cook until the thermal center of the breast meat reaches its pull temperature. No spritzing, multiple flips, or sauce to brush on.
Smoky, Spicy Jamaican Jerk Chicken Recipe
- 1-1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon allspice berries
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1–3 habanero chiles (depending on how much spice you can handle!), stemmed, seeded, and quartered
- 8 scallions, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons grated lime zest (3 limes), plus lime wedges for serving
- 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
- 2-1/4 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 3-1/2–4 lb. whole chicken, split in half
- 2 tablespoons allspice berries
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 cup wood chips
- Heavy duty aluminum foil
- Thermapen Mk4
- Place all ingredients into a blender jar and blend until smooth (1–3 minutes). Scrape down sides if necessary to blend all ingredients well. Set aside.
- Place the chicken breast-side down on a cutting board and cut along either side of the backbone with kitchen shears to remove it.
- Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut through the breastbone of the chicken to split it in half.
- Place chicken halves in a bowl, pan, or gallon-size zipper-lock bag. Pour jerk marinade over the chicken and coat completely. The chicken should fit snugly in the bowl or pan for the marinade to be evenly dispersed on all sides.
- Cover chicken with plastic wrap (or remove air from the zipper-lock bag and zip shut) and let the chicken sit at room temperature while you fire up the grill.
Make Wood Chip Packet
- Soak wood chips, allspice berries, and fresh herbs in water for 15 minutes.
- Drain the wood chip packet ingredients and place over a large double-layer area of heavy duty aluminum foil. Fold into a packet and cut two two-inch slits in the top of the packet. Set aside.
- Place about 2 quarts of unlit lump charcoal in the bottom of the grill (we used a Pit Barrel Cooker). Light 1 chimney full of lump charcoal.
- Pour lit coals over the unlit ones and set the wood chip packet on the coals. Replace the lid over the grill and allow the wood chip packet to start smoking and the grill to preheat. This may take about 30 minutes as opposed to only taking about 5-15 minutes in warmer months.
- Place the chicken halves on the grill, meat side up. Close the lid and set a TimeStick for 30 minutes. Remember, if you’re lookin’ you’re not cookin’!
- After 30 minutes* spot-check the chicken breasts with a Thermapen. You’re looking for an internal temperature of about 130-135°F (54-57°C). Once that temperature range is verified, flip the chicken halves so they are meat side down. Spot-check the chicken’s internal temperatureSet your TimeStick for 15 minutes.
- Once the 15-minute* alarm sounds, spot-check the internal temperature of the chicken with a Thermapen Mk4. Be sure to check multiple areas of the legs and breast meat to be sure you’ve captured the lowest temperature. Pull the chicken once it reaches 155-157°F (68-69°C).
- Transfer the chicken indoors.
*Your cooking time may vary from what is listed here. Always cook your meats to their target internal doneness temperature, not time alone.
Rest and Serve
- Cover and rest for 5-10 minutes. Carve as desired and serve with lime wedges.
There’s something extra satisfying about braving sub-freezing temperatures to cook outdoors. Keep these tips handy and be confident with your grilling projects 365 days a year!