Smoking meat in cold weather can be difficult. You have to be extra vigilant to ensure your smoker maintains the right temperature. And the wind, rain, sleet, and snow don’t help matters either. They only help keep your smoker cold, delaying the meal.
You see, when your smoker’s exterior is cold, it absorbs heat from the warm air inside, lowering the temperature and delaying the meal.
So how can you best counteract the decrease in temperatures?
Read on to learn seven tips you can use when smoking meat in cold weather.
1. Choose the Right Smoker
Many smokers, such as Smokey Mountain or the Weber Kettle, have thin walls which conduct heat away from the chamber, lowering the cooking temperature. Getting such smokers up to the desired temperature is also tricky and requires more fuel.
Once you attain the ideal temperatures, the machines lose heat faster, causing you a struggle to maintain the correct temperature. The solution to this is to find the right smoker for colder temperatures.
Thicker ceramic smokers also require more fuel to reach wanted temperatures, but once they get there, it’s easier to maintain that heat.
Using a gas smoker means you’ll still use more fuel. However, contrary to mainstream opinion, the cold and wind does not hamper the gas flow. And if you use a charcoal or pellet burner, you should still expect to use more fuel to keep the heat up.
One of the best options is an electric cooker because it generates steady heat, making it viable for smoking meat in cold weather.
2. Position Your Smoker in a Sheltered Spot
Placing your smoker in a sheltered place can significantly minimize the effects of wind, snow, and rain. And please note that by sheltered space, we don’t mean enclosed or indoors. Confined spaces (including your garage) are a no-no because of the carbon monoxide buildup, which can be fatal.
So take a look at your yard and identify spots away from the wind and rain or snow. You may come up with multiple go-to areas for different weather conditions, one that protects from rain and another from the wind.
However, avoid enclosed areas adjacent to your home. These often have vents leading into the house, and it would be putting the people and pets inside at risk. Similarly, look out for nearby flammable or meltable materials lest your barbecue cause an inferno.
3. Create Smoker Insulation
Using flame-resistant insulation material to conserve heat is a very effective strategy. And the good news is, you don’t need to spend loads of cash on a cold-weather jacket. You can create a DIY insulation.
There are various insulation materials available, and by visiting your local hardware store, you’ll get plenty of inspiration. Then once you’ve settled on a product, cut it to fit your smoker, ensuring you don’t cover the vents.
A water heater blanket is one option. Another is a welding blanket or some fire-resistant insulation such as furnace insulation.
The welders blanket, in particular, is ignition-resistant and protects from the wind, rain, and snow, making it an excellent option. Some recommend wrapping furnace insulation around a Weber Smokey Mountain to enable it to smoke better during freezing conditions.
Double foil insulation is another way to provide insulation, but it’s capable of melting, so don’t place it in direct contact with the firebox itself.
4. Use a Cold-Weather Jacket
If you don’t have the time or will to make your insulation and are an avid meat smoker with no qualms about cooking in the winter, then a cold-weather jacket is a good idea.
Just as a jacket keeps you warm and keeps you safe from elements, a cold-weather jacket benefits your smoker in the same way. It holds in heat and protects from factors that can easily tamper with your smoker’s temperature consistency. Plus, you can use the cold-weather jacket as a cover for your smoker when you’re not cooking.
Manufacturers offer jackets dedicated to specific models for optimal results.
5. Keep the Lid Shut
When it’s freezing outside, lifting the lid to take a peek considerably impacts the temperature. For example, if you lift the lid for five minutes, it takes your smoker an entire 15 to 20 minutes to regain the temperature lost. Even if you tried to limit your looking to a minute or less, it still takes some time for the cooking chamber to get back up to temperature.
Granted, you want to know how your meats are doing, and especially in the winter, it’s vital to keep a close eye on the temperature.
So how can you best know what’s going on inside your smoker?
Use a digital meat thermometer fitted with a double probe. That way, you don’t have to lift the lid, plus you can monitor the temperature from the comfort of your couch. Pretty great, huh?
6. Stock Up More Fuel
As mentioned earlier, smoking meat in cold weather uses up more fuel, so take stock of your resources and, if necessary, replenish your supplies in advance.
And rather than visiting your local store, it would be better if you arranged for delivery of a few bags of charcoal or wood pellets.
If you own a wood smoker, keeping your wood chopped up in a dry accessible place will make it much easier for you during the cook. Wood racks are a great option for keeping your firewood dry and ready for use.
What’s important to keep in mind is that the amount of fuel you would typically use to smoke meat during warm weather is insufficient for a cold-weather cook.
7. Prepare Your Cooking Space
Apart from stocking up on fuel, getting your cooking space and smoking gear ready is also essential.
Has your smoker been in the snow outside for several days? You’ll need to wipe off the snow and then move it in the garage where it’s warmer. You’ll also need to check for frozen parts and wait for the ice to thaw. If you’re in a rush, you can speed up the thawing process with a hot air hairdryer.
In case you’ve built windbreaks to keep off the wind, ensure there’s nothing flammable close to your smoker. The wind can easily carry sparks to these flammable items and cause a fire. Also, avoid placing your smoker under a table.
It’s also a great practice to set up the utensils you’ll use while you’re cooking. This eliminates the risk of temperatures dropping while you frantically search for tools you need to use when it’s time to refuel.
So, can you use a smoker in the winter? Absolutely! We hope this information helps you understand how you can smoke meat in cold weather. Don’t let the winter deter you from serving your favorite barbeque meats and sides. Just follow these seven tips for successful smoking. Enjoy!