Who says grilling is just a summer thing? (I’d also like that question answered about frozen margaritas and bikini waxes, but let’s just stick with grilling for now.) I mean, if people are willing to go outside in freezing weather for snowball fights, why not endure the cold temperatures for a delicious meal? Standing next to a warm grill and smelling the amazing aromas of the food I’m about to devour seems like a much better reason to face the winter than being attacked by snowballs.
There are some essential steps to making sure winter grilling is painless and worthwhile, and when I heard about the Ziploc® winter grill challenge, I took some of my favorite recipes out of hibernation and bundled up.
Keep the Grill Hot
First things first. You have to make sure your grill is hot and stays hot. Depending on the climate you live in, winter grilling might require you to give your grill a little extra time to preheat. If the temperature outside is below freezing, it’s likely the grill will take twice as long to preheat as it would otherwise. For your food to cook properly, it’s essential that the grill be well preheated before you place food on it.
Also, because of the low temperatures, make sure you’re grilling with the lid closed. Fight the temptation to keep opening the lid to check on your food. Every time you open the lid, the grill will cool down a bit and your food will take longer to cook.
This next bit of advice is brilliant, so take it! To resist the urge of repeatedly lifting the lid, keep your hands busy with a big mug of hot cocoa.
Unless you really (and I mean, really!) enjoy hanging out in the cold for long periods of time, choose to grill foods that you know will cook quickly. This is not the best time for a thick Porterhouse steak. Instead, choose thinner cuts of beef, such as flank steak or skirt steak. If you’re grilling chicken, use chicken tenders instead of chicken breasts, or if you’re set on using breasts, pound them thin (using a meat tenderizer), so that they’ll cook faster. Another great idea for winter grilling is to make kabobs. By cutting the meat into smaller pieces, you’ll speed up the cooking process and be back inside your warm home in no time. And don’t forget about your veggies! Vegetables are perfect for grilling any time of the year. They cook quickly and get great flavor from the grill.
Since we’re going for speed when it comes to winter grilling, it’s important that you marinate your meats and vegetables. This will eliminate the need to brush the food with a glaze every few minutes, which prevents having to open the grill too often and letting out all the heat. One of my favorite quick, easy grilled dinners is Greek pork kabobs. After cutting pork loin into cubes, I place the meat in a Ziploc® brand Freezer Bag and pour an easy homemade marinade over it (see recipe below). The Ziploc® bags are perfect for marinating food, and leave you without an extra dish to wash (always a plus in my book).
You can also cut up vegetables and marinate them in a Ziploc® bag in an Italian dressing (Note: Add a tablespoon or two of Dijon mustard to store-bought Italian dressing to make a really easy and delicious marinade for veggies or meats!). If you prefer not to marinate, find a good dry rub, place the meat of your choice in a large Ziploc® bag with the rub, seal it and “massage” the meat until well coated with the rub. Whether you’re marinating or using a rub, allow the meat to sit for about 30 minutes to ensure that it’s full of flavor before grilling. Once the meat (and veggies) are well flavored, there will be no need to add anything to them once they’re on the grill.
After braving the cold to make your family or friends a delicious grilled meal, you deserve a reward. So before shutting down your grill, roast some marshmallows and make s’mores, because let’s be honest, s’mores are a winter, spring, summer and fall thing!
Armed with just a few simple tricks, great recipes and a warm coat, you needn’t ever let anyone stop you from enjoying a grilled meal, regardless of the weather report.
GREEK PORK KABOBS
2 pounds boneless pork loin, cut into 1 ¼-inch cubes
½ red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves
¼ cup olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Place the marinade ingredients into a food processor or blender, and puree. Place the pork into a Ziploc® brand Freezer Bag and pour the marinade over the pork. Seal the bag and let sit for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Thread the meat onto skewers. Grill the kabobs on high heat on a preheated grill for approximately 10 minutes, turning once to make sure all sides are browned.
Photos courtesy of Kristina Kuzmic