A lot of people invest a significant amount of money in their pellet grill/ smoker. Limiting its use to only the summer months of the year would be upsetting.
Winter is here and you are wondering “Can you use a pellet smoker in the winter?”
Unlike other types of grills, pellet smokers do not use charcoal or propane. Instead, they use wood pellets to provide the heat for cooking your food on it.
The main problem that people have with pellet smokers in cold weather is that they have trouble starting them up and keeping them going.
Don’t let a little sleet or snow stop you! Just cook what you love & keep everyone warm & satisfied!
There are some tricks that you can use to make sure that your smoker will work well when the temperature drops below freezing.
Your cravings for your favorite cooked meats & BBQ side dishes won’t wait till winter’s over, so bundle up and take advantage of the following tips and enjoy a pellet grill in winter.
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Can You Use A Pellet Smoker In the Winter
Yes, you can use a pellet smoker/grill in the winter cold weather. The colder temperatures might affect its performance slightly, but with some adjustments and precautions, you can still enjoy smoking on a pellet smoker during the winter months.
A lot of people will double the amount of fuel they use, require good quality wood pellets, limit opening up the grill, and take strategies like using a grill cover or weld blanket.
When trying to cook during the cold winter weather you can do pellet grill insulation by using insulated thermal blankets on the pellet grill to reduce pellet consumption and produce better BBQ.
Although there are some limitations to these blankets, they can be an optimal solution for some. With a decent insulated blanket costing around $100, you have to take them on and off if they’re in use and clean up after. The alternative is to choose insulated pellet grills, which are generally built with double wall construction.
Here is a list of the Best Pellet Grill for Cold Weather
How Cold Is Too Cold For Pellet Smoker/Grill?
I say it is never too cold to smoke!!! You can use your pellet grills in cold weather but its performance can also be significantly impacted by wind.
The ideal temperature for pellet grill use is between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the pellet grill may not be able to reach and maintain the desired cooking temperature. This is because the pellets may not burn properly in cold weather.
When the temperature drops below freezing, especially close to 0°F (-18°C), pellet grills might struggle to maintain consistent heat levels, impacting cooking times and overall performance.
Heat can quickly disperse in strong winds, making it challenging for the pellet smoker to maintain the correct temperature.
Wind can be a significant factor in pellet grilling, especially in colder temperatures. It can impact pellet consumption and affect cooking times.
A windbreak or barrier around the grill can mitigate this issue, helping maintain consistent temperatures and preventing pellets from burning too quickly due to the wind.
This becomes particularly crucial when using a pellet grill in sub-zero temperatures, like in colder regions such as Colorado.
Generally speaking, it would be regarded as too chilly to use a pellet grill in temperatures below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit), as the pellets might not burn correctly and the grill might have trouble maintaining the desired temperature.
Pellet grills are excellent at maintaining heat, although they might take a bit longer to reach the desired temperature and might consume more pellets in colder weather. Overall, they still perform well even in low temperatures.
It is advised to preheat the grill before using it, control the airflow, and surround the grill with insulation or a windbreak.
Without a thermal jacket or welding blanket though, the pellet consumption is crazy. I now leave it on year-round with no problem.
Factors that Affect Pellet Smoker/Grill Performance in Cold Weather
Will a pellet smoker work in cold weather?
Cold weather can have a significant impact on the performance of a pellet grill.
There are many factors that affect the pellet smoker in cold weather such as air temperature, wind, humidity, and altitude can all affect the pellet grill’s ability to maintain the desired cooking temperature.
A. Air temperature:
A pellet grill may find it challenging to maintain the ideal cooking temperature in cold weather.
The pellet grill/smoker needs to work harder to produce heat when the temperature drops, which might result in more pellets being consumed and longer cooking times.
Additionally, the cooler air may have an impact on the grill’s internal temperature, making it more challenging to reach and maintain the ideal cooking temperature.
A pellet grill’s performance in cold weather can also be significantly impacted by wind.
Heat can quickly disperse in strong winds, making it challenging for the grill to maintain the correct temperature.
The wind may also make the pellets burn more quickly, which would require more pellets and result in faster cooking times.
In order to avoid this, it is advised to place a windbreak or other barrier around the grill to shield it from the wind.
In cold weather, a pellet grill’s performance can also be impacted by high humidity.
The pellets may absorb moisture from the air, which will reduce their ability to burn and provide heat. High humidity levels can also make the pellet grill emit more smoke, which may have an impact on the flavor of the food being grilled.
In cold weather, altitude can have a big impact on how well a pellet grill works. The thinner air at higher elevations can make it harder for the pellet grill to maintain the correct temperature.
Because there is less oxygen available to burn the pellets due to the narrower air, the grill has a harder time producing heat.
Additionally, the performance of the grill may be impacted by the cooler temperatures at higher elevations, making it more challenging to reach and maintain the ideal cooking temperature.
Longer cooking times and increased pellet usage may result from this.
Tips for Pellet Smoking in Cold Weather and Winter
Pellet Smoking meat in cold weather is not as difficult as you may think.
A few key things to keep in mind are what type of smoker you’re using, the type of wood, and how much smoke is produced.
Follow these tips for using your pellet smoker in winter and all year long.
1- Location is important
Try to position the smoker in a sheltered area, away from direct wind and snow. This will help prevent heat loss. Consider a shelter if doing extended smoking, construct a simple wood-framed shelter over the smoker with plastic sheeting to block wind and snow.
2- Pre-heat Pellet Smoker Thoroughly
Give the smoker plenty of time to reach your target temperature before adding food. The extra insulation of snow and cold air means it will take longer to warm up.
3- Stack-On Wood Pellets
As the ambient temperature outside decreases, the rate of combustion for your pellets will increase. Specifically, if you live somewhere where it consistently gets below 35 degrees Fahrenheit, this rate will also increase.
When it’s cold outside, your pellet grill metal body will cool down and result in a lower cooking temperature.
In turn, the grill will stay cool inside. To maintain your burn cup oxygen, your grill must suck in some air.
Even though it’s trying to warm up, it’s pulling in cold air. This means you will need to have plenty of fuel.
You will need two times as much fuel as you would in summer to use a pellet grill in cold weather.
4- Use 100% Virgin Hardwood Pellets
It’s best to buy high-quality wood pellets that last you longer instead of having to buy low-quality pellets that need replacing more often.
Look for pure 100% hardwood pellets without any chemical fillers or recycled wood materials. This will be found in lower-quality wood pellets that burn quicker and cost you more as you have to use more of them.
A high-quality pellet should have only virgin hardwood because it burns the hottest and most efficiently. Look for cold-weather blends that contain harder woods like apple or cherry that burn cleaner at lower temperatures. Avoid softwood pellets.
5- Use Thermal Insulated Pellet Grill Blankets
Providing heat-resistant insulation is critical for your pellet smoker to be able to maintain a consistent temperature, regardless of the outside temperature. This will make it possible for you to cook food regardless of the weather.
Here are a few more recommendations for insulated pellet grill blankets. Just make sure that whatever material you’re using is heat-resistant.
Insulated Pellet Grill Blanket:
A ‘pellet grill blanket’ offers the utmost heat resistance, and it is meant for your specific model of the pellet grill/smoker.
Grilling with an insulated blanket means you’ll be able to preheat the grill quicker, remain in temperature stable for longer and use less fuel.
This is one of the main recommendations considering that the blanket will be made specifically for your grill model, meaning less heat will escape.
Pellet grill welding blanket
One option that you could also try is a welding blanket. A welding blanket usually consists of a durable, heat-resistant fiberglass cloth that can be placed as insulation over your grill.
You will need to configure the welding blanket at least once before it can be used for the first time.
No matter what option you chose, just remember that you should put some type of insulation on the pellet grill when you are grilling in cold weather.
Preheating time and temperature stability are hugely important when it comes to grilling in winter. By using a grill blanket, you can considerably decrease your preheating time and keep your grill at a stable temperature for hours on end.
There are many awesome pellet grills on the market, for example, the Traeger Timberline, where the entire cooking chamber is insulated. Traeger’s Timberlin is made from steel tubing with a powder-coated finish and steel legs.
It has a sealed stainless steel lid and can be a perfect option for grilling in cold weather.
Here is a list of double-wall insulated Pellet Grill.
Insulated pellet smokers are more expensive than uninsulated ones, but they can help you save on fuel and provide a quality cooking experience.
6: Type Of Controller In Your Pellet Grill
A PID (Proportional, Integral, Derivative) pellet grill controller performs better in cold weather. You can control your grill’s temperature with a PID Controller.
It will, for example, turn the heat on and off without you having to do anything, which means you can open up the hood whenever around the grill.
You can find many modern pellet grills with this mechanism that will monitor the temperature within the grill and make adjustments to maintain it.
Previous generations of pellet grills used time-based controllers. To maintain a set temperature, they constantly turn the auger/fan on and off for a set amount of time.
This is because time-based control panels are not perfect for dealing with sudden changes in the outside temperature, especially in cold weather.
The best way to cook on a grill in cold weather is to fire it up to the maximum temperature and then lower it to the desired cooking temperature.
7: Allow Extra Time And Don’t open the Lid of the Pellet Grill
Many people find it difficult to use a pellet smoker in cold weather.
Adjusting the airflow inside the grill can also help to maintain the temperature in cold weather.
By controlling the amount of air that flows through the grill, you can help to regulate the temperature and keep it consistent. One of the most common questions is whether they should open the lid of the grill.
The answer is no, you should not open the lid of the grill.
The average person cracks open the lid on pellet grills about 10% of the time to check their food or see how it’s coming along, meaning this one small action will waste 90% of the heat.
If you check your food every 15 minutes, your grill will have to work much harder and burn more fuel.
The best thing to do while smoking meat in cold weather is to use a wireless thermometer that can be activated via Wi-Fi or a Bluetooth connection to your phone.
The wireless thermometer will alert you when the desired temperature is reached, so you stay warm & cozy in the house while your steak cooks to perfection.
8: Use Cast Iron Pots and Grates
One challenge of using pellet grills in cold weather is how to keep the food warm once it finishes cooking. You don’t want your steak to cool down too quickly when you take it off the rack while you are waiting for a few other batches to finish cooking first.
The cast iron! It’s well-known for its heat-retaining properties. One option is to put a cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven with a cover in your grill or oven for a few minutes to heat it up
Ensure you have a heated cast-iron pot or oven-ready to place the food in cold weather before moving it inside.
9: Try the cold smoking technique
Cold smoking in winter’s colder temperatures can be beneficial as the outside environment naturally assists in keeping the smoker’s interior cooler.
This is ideal for preserving meats, fish, cheeses, and other foods without applying heat. However, it’s important to ensure the meat is chilled before cold smoking to prevent it from freezing.
The cooler weather in winter aids in maintaining the required lower temperatures inside the smoker for this method, making it an opportune time for cold smoking.
10: Longer cooking time
Assume the grill will take an additional 50% longer to reach its desired temperature in cold weather. Also, plan on cooking your food 10-25% longer when it’s cold and windy outside.
You will need to hold onto your patience when grilling in cold weather or winter.
Just like you and I would do to our winter attire and other surfaces we interact with in cold weather, we should prepare for changes when it comes to the use of a pellet smoker in cold weather.
So in conclusion, when it comes to pellet grills, all models will work in the winter.
If you have a budget pellet stove from an older or cheaper brand or a time-controlled digital control panel, please prepare for cold weather.
It’s important to keep in mind that these techniques can help to maintain temperature in cold weather and that proper techniques and equipment can help maintain the temperature in cold weather.
To achieve the best results, it’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for safe temperature ranges and to take appropriate measures to maintain temperature in cold weather.
I am a writer, editor, and publisher of Grillcuisines.com – an online blog dedicated to sharing grilling tips, accessories, and recipes to encourage more people to get outside and grill.
I’m off to find out the different types of grill foods, their seasons, and how to conduct outdoor cooking properly. I’ll also show you some of my grill-worthy cooking tools & accessories!