Grilling in the winter? Follow this advice from international cooking champ Michael Callaghan

Winter has arrived in full force. Outside, there’s deep snow, treacherous ice, biting winds, and plummeting temperatures. It’s best to stay indoors unless you have a good reason to go out.

Like, for instance, to grill something delicious.

All weather is grilling weather. Shovel out and cook!

Grilled food is always always a treat. But in the dead of winter, it’s extra special because it’s unexpected.

There’s a certain pride you feel when you emerge from the cold with a steaming, smoky platter of grilled meat. And knowing you braved the elements (and won!) makes every bite taste that much better.

So hell yeah we’re grilling! And we’re going to make sure we do it right: We got expert advice from up in the Great White North. Canadian pit master and international competitive cooking champion Michael Callaghan of London, Ontario shared some tips for better wintertime grilling, plus two recipes our readers can grill this winter.  Hi Mike. Thanks for talking to us about grilling during the winter, and for sharing a couple of great recipes our readers can try. Let’s start with the big picture: What would you say are the main considerations for winter grilling vs. grilling in warmer seasons?

Callaghan:  There are two basic things you need to be aware of in winter grilling. First, it’s damn cold outside! So prepare to preheat your grill. Second is that you can’t leave your grill unattended. It’s easy to get distracted when you go inside where it’s warm, and things can get away from you real fast when you’re not looking. Flare ups can turn into huge fires. Are there certain things that you particularly like to grill in the winter?

Callaghan: The way I see it is: If you’re going to be out in the cold working on the grill, it better be worth it. No Hamburgers or hot dogs this time of the year! I’ll grill steak, fish, and of course the usual BBQ such as ribs, pork, and brisket…yeah, winter brisket is awesome. As far as flavors, do you tend to do anything different during colder weather? Any seasonings you think work particularly well?

International competitive cooking champ Mike Callaghan

Callaghan: I don’t really see a lot of difference from season to season–good, solid flavors work any time of year. So I recommend people go with the rubs, seasonings, and sauces they usually like to use. Also, remember that good old salt and pepper is always a great option. Kosher salt and fresh-ground cracked pepper are really undersold. Is there any equipment you’d recommend for grilling during the winter?

Callaghan:  A great hat for your head! (laughs) Seriously though, I’ll say again: If you’re spending time grilling in freezing cold, make it worthwhile. If you want great flavor you’d better have a great grill.  Charcoal or wood are the best options. Propane and gas may be convenient, but charcoal and wood are where the flavor lives. 

cookZesty: I think our readers would agree 100% on that point. Any recommendations for a great grill?

Callaghan: My go-to winter grill is the Broil King Pellet. Slow smoke or high heat grill, it takes care of both options. Plus, it’s a push-button start. In the middle of winter, that’s a feature you really come to appreciate. 

cookZesty: What’s the biggest mistake people make when grilling in cold or snowy weather?

Callaghan: Like I mentioned, walking away from the grill to go inside. You really do risk a fire. But related to that, when it’s cold out a lot of people don’t clean their grills. 

cookZesty: I could see that. Especially during one of your Canadian winters.

Callaghan: I mean, I get it. It’s cold outside, and cleaning up isn’t a fun job anyway. So it’s tempting to skip it. But a dirty grill is conducive to quick fires and flame-up. Always start with a clean grill. Besides, who wants to eat yesterday’s stuck-on food?

cookZesty: Any other recommendations for our readers before they get bundled up for some winter grilling?

Callaghan: Mise en place, mise en place, mise en place. It’s a cooking term that means “everything in its place.” Before you fire up the grill, get fully prepared. Have all your tools ready–including a squirt bottle for those flare ups. You want to be prepared because if you’re running into the house to get something, you’re not cooking. Great advice, especially in the winter when conditions are less than ideal. Now, I understand you’re sharing two recipes with readers?

Callaghan: Yes, one for steak and one fish. I love both of these–I hope your readers enjoy them too.

Reverse-Seared 72 oz. steak

  1. Season your steak with salt, pepper, and some garlic. Let it rest overnight in the fridge.
  2. On the Broil King Pellet Grill, set to smoke or at 220(f). Put your steak on for about an hour or until an internal temp of 128 (f).
  3. Remove steak from heat and reset your grill for awesome hot 500+ (f).
  4. Grill 2 minutes each side to get awesome grill marks. Brush each side with melted butter and
    crushed garlic for a bonus flavor
    and an even better crust.
  5. Remove from heat and rest 10 minutes.

Gilled Lemon Pepper Cod

  1. Melt ¼ pound of butter with 4 cloves of fresh crushed garlic.
  2. Brush butter onto the cod. Reserve the unused butter.
  3. Season cod with lemon pepper seasoning. Place onto a perforated pan or screen.
  4. Cut vegetables (your choice) into bite size pieces. Season with remaining butter and lemon pepper. Add some fresh dill herb. Surround
    the fish on the grill plate.
  5. Put the tray on the Broil King Grill starting at the smoke level, increase heat immediately to grill maximum 600(f).
  6. Cook about 15 minutes or internal to 140(f). DO NOT OVERCOOK.
  7. [optional] Grill ½ lemons for extra flare when plating.

About Michael Callaghan: Mike has been on the food competition circuit since 2008 and has received over 50 awards including numerous accolades from major events such as the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational Barbecue, Memphis in May World Championship Cooking Contest and of course the inaugural World Food Championship where he and his team placed 6th at the final table. In Canada, the team has won the Canadian Whole Hog Champion along with the Canadian Southern BBQ championship. In addition Mike is the three time National Canadian Chili Champion. Contact Mike on Facebook or Instagram.