The weather is getting colder, but you’d still like to enjoy grilled and smoked dishes with your family and friends. Can you use a pellet grill in the winter months? We’ve got the answer!
In this TheGrillingDad.com guide, you will discover:
- Whether or not you can use a pellet grill in the winter/cold months
- Tips for using your pellet grill in the cold months
- And much more!
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Can You Use a Pellet Grill in Winter/Cold Months?
A pellet grill is a large purchase, and you likely spent a fair amount of money on yours. This may leave you wondering if you can use your pellet grill year-round.
Generally, you can use your pellet grill year-round, though you may need to adjust some of your settings and prepare your grill properly depending on where you live. You may also find that cooking with a pellet grill in the winter isn’t as pleasant or efficient as it is in the summer.
But either way, know that the cold weather won’t prevent you from making a delicious rack of smoked ribs! Read on to learn more about using your pellet grill in the winter months.
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What You Need to Know About Using Your Pellet Grill in Winter Months
Your experience with your pellet grill in the winter months will widely depend on the type of pellet grill you own. If you own a cheap model made of a single layer of steel, you’ll find that your pellet grill has a hard time keeping high temperatures in the wintertime.
Not only that, but you’ll find that your pellet grill will burn through more fuel in the winter months than it does in the summer. Especially if you have an inexpensive model (though all pellet grills will burn more fuel in the winter than in the summer).
This creates a good argument for purchasing a nicer pellet grill from the start, especially if you live in a colder climate and want to grill items for your family all year long. We recommend purchasing a pellet grill with twin-wall construction as this will keep your pellet grill operating at peak performance even in winter conditions. Most Traeger pellet grills have this twin-wall construction and will do well in colder climates.
Besides just the twin-wall construction, pellet grills which have cast iron grates tend to hold temperature better than those which have steel grates. This is another argument for spending a little more money on a pellet grill with grates which are made with cast iron if you live in a colder area.
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Additionally, you should consider purchasing a cover for your pellet grill. This will help to keep your grill somewhat insulated even when the outside temperature drops. It’s best to purchase the cover recommended for your grill in order to ensure it fits properly and works to the best of its ability. This way, when you start your smoking session, your grill will be at least slightly warmer than the ambient air temperature.
There are even insulated covers that you can use while you smoke to help keep your pellet grill insulated. These are called smoker blankets and you should definitely purchase the one made for your specific pellet grill otherwise it will be difficult to use.
The final thing you need to consider is the controller type your pellet grill uses. While PID controllers tend to work just fine in all-weather types, the knob controllers in older pellet grills may give you some trouble when the temperature drops.
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As you shop for your pellet grill you will want to keep all of these things in mind as you make your selection. If you already have your pellet grill, then scroll down to learn some tips for using your pellet grill in winter months.
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Is it Ever Too Cold for a Pellet Grill?
Unfortunately, while you can use your pellet grill in the winter months, there are times where it is just too cold for them. These are the temperatures at which your grill cannot hold proper temperature no matter what you do.
This temperature is about -20°F (or -30°C) so if it is colder than this, you should probably cook your dinner inside. You should also note that some older and less-nice pellet grills may be unable to hold temperature once the ambient air goes below 0°F.
This is because the grill simply cannot burn pellets fast enough to maintain temperature at these low temperatures. If you attempt to use your pellet grill, you will find that your food is not cooking.
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Therefore, you should definitely have an outside thermometer you can check before attempting to fire up your grill. But -20°F is pretty cold, so you likely wouldn’t want to be outside checking on your grill anyway.
You may also want to take a look at the owner’s manual for your specific grill, as certain control panels may experience difficulties in the cold weather, especially cheaper grills.
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How Can You Keep a Pellet Grill Warm in Winter?
The best way to keep your pellet grill warm in the winter is by getting a properly fitted smoke blanket to keep it warm as you cook. You should always buy the one that matches your grill and follow any recommendations in the Owner’s Manual as you use them.
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Tips for Using Your Pellet Grill in Cold Weather
1. Place Your Grill Out of the Wind
The number one tip we can give you for using your pellet grill is placing your grill carefully during the winter months. Wind, snow, and rain will make it difficult for your grill to maintain temperature.
If you can, place your grill somewhere where it won’t be affected by the weather. If you have a covered patio, this works well, or at least along the side of your home that gets the least wind. This will help you to burn less fuel and your pellet grill to hold temperature better as it cooks.
2. Cover Your Grill
As mentioned above, a grill cover can be essential to keeping your grill both in good condition and keep it working well in the winter months. When you cover your grill when not in use, this prevents rain or snow from degrading the surface.
Plus, when it is time for you to grill your ribs or turkey, you’ll be starting with metal which is slightly warmer than if you have to brush snow off the metal to begin. This can lower your preheat time as well as your overall cook time. Just keeping the snow off your grill with a patio cover can help with this as well.
3. Load Extra Pellets
Before you begin your winter smoking or grilling session, you will want to load your hopper with twice as many pellets as you normally use. No matter how you store your pellet grill when it isn’t in use, you need to be prepared for longer preheat and cooking times in the winter months.
To avoid the problem of running out of pellets, it’s better to just plan for this increase in advance. We recommend stocking up on plenty of pellets so you can even refill as your pellet grill cooks.
4. Keep the Lid Closed
Although this is always our recommendation, in the winter months it is essential that you keep your pellet grill closed as it cooks. If you are constantly opening the lid to check on your dishes, you will be letting out valuable heat that is needed to cook your dish.
While you will need to open the lid to check the temperature on your meat, we recommend that you set a timer, and don’t check the temperature until you are close to the end of your cooking time. This way your food is more likely to be done than if you check every 5 minutes.
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5. Increase Your Cooking Times
Along with adding extra fuel, you should also plan to increase your cooking times, especially on those frigid snow days. It is recommended to always estimate on the high end of recommended cooking times when grilling in winter. You may even want to add 20-30 minutes to recommended cooking times in especially cold areas.
Estimating the cooking time properly is essential because it keeps you from opening the lid too frequently, and also helps you to estimate how many pellets you need to load in the hopper.