How to Confidently Cook Outdoors in the Rain, Wind, and Cold

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Harsh weather can present some challenges, but that's no reason to put your smoker away for the winter! Here are some tips to help you cook like a boss in the rain, wind, and cold.


As an avid barbecue enthusiast, you understand that barbecue doesn't really have a season. Cold weather is coming, but your opportunities for smoking and grilling are by no means over.

My motto is: "Don't fight the elements... adapt to them."

The weather can change quickly, and a bit of flexibility and adapting to the weather goes a long way in producing fantastic grilled and smoked meals all winter long.

Prefer to talk with us? Visit our store at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, PA or call us at (717) 355-0779 for help with your outdoor cooking questions. We carry everything you need to cook outdoors, but more importantly, we have personal experience in smoking and grilling and are happy to help you overcome your cooking challenges free of charge.

Cooking in the Rain

  • A light rain won't hurt most charcoal smokers when in use, but some smokers with electronics, such as pellet smokers, must be kept dry at all times.
  • A Big Green Egg is well-insulated and the optional rain cap keeps rainwater out of the grill even when the top vent is open.
  • Rain (and snow) evaporates as it drops on your smoker, pulling heat from your smoker. It may take extra fuel to compensate for that.
  • If you don’t have a well-ventilated covered patio or pavilion for cooking, consider investing in a pop-up canopy to keep your cooker, meat, and tools dry when cooking in the rain.
  • If you're cooking with charcoal or wood, some days you'll need to use more fuel or give the fire more air to compensate for atmospheric conditions.

Remember to keep your smoker or grill covered between uses to protect it from moisture and sunlight. If you own a Meadow Creek, Big Green Egg, Yoder, or Green Mountain grill and don't have a cover, ask us about purchasing one to extend the life of your grill.

Cooking in the Wind

  • Wind blowing through the intake vent of your smoker can fan the fire and spike the temperature. This may require you to reduce the opening of the intake vent facing the wind.
  • On a gas grill, wind can extinguish the fire or make it hard to maintain temperature because of the gaps around the lid.
  • In cold weather, wind can pull heat out of your smoker. This is especially a concern with a small thin-walled smoker. Heavy duty smokers, such as the Meadow Creek TS250 or PR60, have a large mass of steel to retain and radiate heat, so they usually do an awesome job in typical Pennsylvania winter conditions.
  • It may be advisable to position your smoker behind a wind break or to create a movable wind barrier. If you are handy with wood, a plywood wind shield would work. Use a 2x4 frame and hinges to support the plywood and create a folding, free-standing barrier. You may need to secure it with concrete blocks or stakes.

Cooking in the Cold

If you're having trouble maintaining temperature in cold weather, there are a variety of options available.

  • Lay a welding blanket over the cooking chamber of your smoker, securing it with wire if necessary. Keep the blanket off of the firebox in case it gets too hot.
  • If you're the DIY type, double foil insulation may work for your smoker. Check out these photos from a SmokingMeatForums.com member who wrapped his propane smoker in it. The foil may melt though, so only wrap it around the cooking chamber of your smoker and not the firebox.
  • YouTuber T-ROY Cooks recommends wrapping a Weber Smoky Mountain Smoker with furnace insulation, a high heat insulation for stoves and furnaces.
  • If you're cooking on a small backyard smoker, such as a Masterbuilt electric, you can cut foil-backed foam insulation into four pieces and duct tape it in the corners to make a four-sided free-standing "cage" around your smoker. Leave the one corner open so you can access the smoker door. Leave enough margin around the smoker so that it doesn't overheat your wind shield. A more permanent "shelter" with three sides and a roof would do the job too.
  • Browse examples of DIY smoker insulators and shelters on AmazingRibs.com.
  • We carry fitted, insulated blankets for Yoder and Green Mountain pellet grills. These blankets are easy to use and make a big difference in the amount of pellets it takes to cook in cold weather. Ask us about getting a fitted blanket for your pellet grill.

Important: Always make sure your insulator doesn't restrict the airflow of your smoker and don't do anything risky that could start a fire.

More Tips for Cooking in Adverse Weather

  • Use a well insulated smoker. Some smokers and grills are easier to run in adverse weather. These include the Big Green Egg which is heavily insulated, the Meadow Creek BX smokers, and handmade smokers such as the Meadow Creek tank smokers.
  • Stock up on plenty of fuel in case it takes more than you anticipate. We carry a variety of charcoals, pellets, and smoking woods.
  • Keep the lid shut as much as possible. We know, it's hard not to peek, but it's best not to let too much air escape from the smoker.
  • Always maintain proper distance between your smoker or grill and flammable structures or objects.

Still have questions? Visit our store at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, PA or call us at (717) 355-0779 for help with your outdoor cooking questions. We carry everything you need to cook outdoors, but more importantly, we have personal experience in smoking and grilling and are happy to help you overcome your cooking challenges free of charge.

About the author: Lavern Gingerich is the digital marketing manager for Meadow Creek Barbecue Supply.

3 Ways to Improve the Consistency of Your Barbecue

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Are you having a hard time producing consistent results on your smoker or grill? Here are three ways to improve the consistency of your barbecue and cook for your guests with confidence.


Nothing sucks the joy out of cooking more than inconsistent results. Here are some methods to help you crank out great barbecue every time you fire up your grill.

The first step in identifying the cause of a problem is to understand each part of the process, so that we can figure out which parts are broken. This principle applies whether you're repairing a car, solving relationship problems, or cooking barbecue.

Here are some of the variables you need to think about when cooking outside:

  • Grill or smoker temperature
  • Weather (temperature, wind, and barometric pressure)
  • Quality of the meat
  • Size of the cut
  • Seasoning recipe and the amount of the seasoning
  • Internal temperature of the meat
  • Heat source and configuration
  • Smoke density and composition
  • Fuel quality

If you always use the same equipment, fuel, and seasoning, you are eliminating some of the variables, but if you are careless with even one variable—such as the temperature of your smoker or the doneness of the meat—it would be possible to produce your best barbecue one weekend and a real bummer the next.

Prefer to talk with us? Visit our store at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, PA or call us at (717) 355-0779 for everything you need to cook outdoors, including gloves, thermometers, rubs, and sauces. More importantly, we have personal experience in smoking and grilling and are happy to help you overcome your cooking challenges, so that you can cook for your guests with confidence.

Use a Thermometer

One variable that will make the biggest difference in your results is cooking the meat to the best internal temperature of the meat. We carry a variety of instant-read hand-held thermometers that make it easy to check the temperature of your meat.

If you don't own one yet, an instant-read thermometer should be at the top of your wish list. We carry Thermoworks, a brand known for their accuracy and durability. These thermometers are designed for backyarders, caterers, and even professional chefs.


Of course, you'll also need to know the optimum internal temperatures of each type of cut. With time you'll memorize these, but our handy time and temperature chart takes the hard work out of figuring out target temperatures of many common meats.

  • When checking the temperature of a piece of meat, carefully check in two or more places and probe the coldest parts of the meat to make sure that it's reached the recommended minimum temperature.
  • One piece of meat will cook faster than the other, so take your time to check each one.

Take Notes

It takes discipline to do, but many successful pitmasters use a journal to record everything about each cook, so that they can duplicate the results of any given cook.

Here is a link to a printable recipe and cooking log on StoryQue.com. It's available as either a PDF or Word document.


Pay Attention

One of my biggest mistakes has been letting meat overcook because I'm not giving it enough attention. This often happens when I'm busy multi-tasking. The meat is cooking just fine and before I realize it, I've overcooked it.

Some meats have a more narrow window of perfection, such as pork loin and chicken breast. Even ribs can overcook in a short amount of time if you're not careful. The solution is actually pretty simple: focus on what you're doing and don't let the meat overcook.


Conclusion

In theory, cooking great barbecue is easy. However, consistency takes practice and diligent application of tried-and-true methods. If you will master internal temperature, take notes, and focus on what you're doing, you'll be well on your way to producing exceptional barbecue every time you fire up your grill or smoker.

Prefer to talk with us? Visit our store at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, PA or call us at (717) 355-0779 for everything you need to cook outdoors, including gloves, thermometers, rubs, and sauces. More importantly, we have personal experience in smoking and grilling and are happy to help you overcome your cooking challenges, so that you can cook for your guests with confidence.

About the author: Lavern Gingerich is the digital marketing manager for Meadow Creek Barbecue Supply.

How to Finish Your Meat on Time—While Calmly Sipping Your Favorite Beverage

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Does planning a barbecue feel like shooting in the dark? In this article, I will share several of my tips for getting the meat done on time—without stress.


Have you ever been stressed or embarrassed trying to finish meat by a certain time? Would you like to avoid this mistake instead of learning the hard way?

Nothing takes the joy out of cooking faster than trying to finish meat in an impossible timeframe. Follow these tips and tricks to help you smoke or grill for cookouts, parties, and other events without losing your cool when you have people depending on you to finish the meat by a certain time.

Prefer to talk with us? Visit our store at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, PA or call us at (717) 355-0779 for everything you need to cook outdoors, including pans, cutting boards, gloves, thermometers, rubs, and sauces. More importantly, we have personal experience in feeding people and can help you plan a barbecue event that will leave a great impression with your guests and customers.

Carefully Estimate the Cooking Time

Barbecue enthusiasts frequently ask us about cooking times and target temperatures for certain meats, so we’ve compiled a bunch of the common cuts in a handy chart for your reference.

Note: These times are only estimates, so you should only use these as a guideline for planning your cook. In most situations, you should use a thermometer to determine when it’s done.

Practice When It Doesn’t Matter

You can learn a lot about cooking by reading and watching videos online, but some things must be learned by doing. Unless you’re an experienced pitmaster, I would never recommend cooking a meat for an event before you’ve cooked it successfully at home.

Cooking outdoors is a lifestyle. Practice often, either for yourself or for a few of your friends. Keep the serving time flexible and take notes of cooking times and the outcomes of different methods. This experience will make the transition to bigger crowds a lot easier. If you can cook for 10 people, you can cook for 100 if you learn how to manage a few details. If you can cook for 100, you can learn how to feed 500.

Add Some Margin to Your Schedule

While planning and practice is important, sometimes it’s impossible to tell exactly when the meat, especially larger cuts, will be done. How do experienced pitmasters make sure the meat is both ready and fresh at the planned serving times?

A food cooked over direct heat that takes one hour or less is much easier to finish right at serving time because the variation is minimal. For example, a case of chicken quarters on the BBQ42 chicken flipper can usually be cooked in one hour, and most people don’t think much about waiting ten or fifteen minutes to eat.

The challenge is with larger cuts of meat, such as a brisket or Boston butt, where the finish time can vary by several hours. The solution is to finish the meat early and hold the meat in a warming box for up to several hours until serving time.

If you often cook for crowds, a professional warming box is a good investment. They are specially made for keeping food warm and some of them come with slots for sliding stainless steel pans in and out.

If you cook for events occasionally and have limited storage space, or if you like to host backyard feasts on a budget, a sanitized ice chest is probably the best option.

As the meat finishes, transfer it to pans and put the pans in your warmer or ice chest. If using an ice chest, fill part of the void above the pans with a couple of towels to help reduce heat loss if you’re worried about it cooling too quickly.

When I’m cooking for a crowd or even when I’m cooking a variety of meats at home for my family, I use an ice chest, disposable half pans, and aluminum foil. I have two large chests that can hold a double stack of half pans or one stack of full pans.

How long can you safely hold meat in a chest? Generally, several hours is not a problem, but you are responsible to make sure the meat stays hot enough. The folks over at NakedWhiz.com have a great article on the factors that determine how long the meat stays outside the danger zone (above 140 degrees F) using this method. 

Read it here: Holding BBQ Meat in a Cooler

Even if you happen to finish the meat at serving time, you may want to use a warming box to keep the meat warm until it’s being served, especially if you have a variety of meats to remove from the smoker and prepare for serving. The meat will finish at different times and meat cools quickly after it’s sliced or pulled.

  • How you set up for serving and keeping the meat warm will depend on whether you’re making take-out boxes at a fund-raiser, serving 100 people cafeteria-style, or entertaining a dozen people on your patio. Heated chafing pans are nice for keeping prepared meat warm in a serving line.
  • If you’re planning to hold the meat for more than several hours, always make sure the meat stays in the safe zone and take care to cool the leftovers properly.
  • If you wish to cook meat a day ahead of time, learn how to cool and reheat the meat without sacrificing too much on quality.

What If You’re Still Late?

I’ve run tight quite a few times when cooking for an event, and it’s no fun to see the time slipping away and the meat not keeping pace. If you see this happening, try to adjust the temperature or your cooking method as early in the cook as you can or, if bad comes to worse, try to reschedule your serving time.

  • Wind, cold, and other factors in the weather can affect how well your grill or smoker performs on any given day. If the fire lags, you may need to add extra fuel and stoke the coals more. I’ve even used a propane torch to raise the temperature in my smoker when I was desperate for time. This can also work on a charcoal grill if the pit is deep enough to run the torch on the coals without burning the meat.
  • For larger cuts of meat, such as a pork butt, you can shave hours off of the cooking time by wrapping the meat in foil once it reaches 160 degrees F or has the color you want it to have.
  • Most smokers have a hot spot where the meat will cook faster. Use the hot spot in your smoker to finish meats that require a higher cooking temperature.

Take a Deep Breath… and Enjoy That Beverage

Much more could be said about cooking barbecue for a crowd, but if you can estimate the approximate cooking time, practice ahead of time, and use a margin to hold your meat until serving time, you’ll have a good shot at a stress-free experience.

Cooking is an opportunity to serve loved ones, guests, and customers. Every skill worth learning takes patience and practice, and practice makes excellence!

Did you know that we stock warming boxes, and everything else you need to cook outdoors, including chafing pans, steam pans, aluminum foil, cutting boards, gloves, thermometers, rubs, and sauces?

More importantly, we have personal experience in feeding people and can help you plan a barbecue event that will leave a great impression with your guests and customers.

Come visit our specialty barbecue store at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, Pennsylvania or call us at (717) 355-0779 for everything you need to cook outdoors.

About the author: Lavern Gingerich is a writer and the digital marketing manager for Meadow Creek Barbecue Supply.

3 Tips for Cooking Outdoors When You Are Too Busy

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Do you have trouble finding time to cook outdoors? In this article, I will share several of my tips for enjoying frequent meals of homemade tantalizing, mouth-watering barbecue—even if you don’t have a lot of spare time.


Because most people have indoor kitchens, outdoor cooking or barbecue is considered a luxury or non-essential activity. Before I share my tips for finding time to cook outdoors, we need to consider the importance of making time for relaxing "non-essential" activities.

To often constant hurry and stress are considered a badge of honor. God has designed our bodies to be productive, but they also require a certain amount of relaxation to thrive. In our society, we know how to be busy, but we are not always good at identifying why we are busy and giving our bodies a break.

Some responsibilities in life are beyond our control, but many of them are the result of decisions we make. Do you spend hours every day watching TV or mindlessly browsing social media and getting frustrated by what's going on in the world? Are there activities that fill your week, but leave you feeling drained or anxious? Look for things in your schedule you can cut out to replace with activities that take you outside and refresh you.

As barbecue enthusiasts, one of our favorite ways to unwind is to build a fire and cook some food. Like taking a hike, reading a book, or watching a sunset—cooking a special meal on the patio forces us to slow down and enjoy the moment.

Keep reading for my tips on making the most of your time if you love cooking outdoors, but don't always know how to make time for it.

Prefer to talk with us? Visit our store at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, PA or call us at (717) 355-0779 for help cooking a specific cut of meat, choosing a new smoker, or setting up your outdoor cooking space. Our store hours are listed at the bottom of this page.

1: Make a Plan

If you’re cooking outdoors, a good plan is vital, especially if you’re short on time. Hardly anything takes the fun out of cooking like discovering you are missing an important ingredient in the middle of a cook or being an hour behind when you have a deadline to meet. Here are some tips to help you plan a smooth and fun experience:

  • Choose a recipe and make a shopping list at least a day ahead of time. Shopping can be time-consuming, so line up the meats and supplies at least a day before you will be cooking. If the meat is frozen, plan enough time to thaw it in the fridge.
  • If you’re making a special sauce or if the food you’re cooking takes preparation in the kitchen, such as a mac-n-cheese or bacon-wrapped fatty, do the kitchen work the day before to spread out the work. The goal on the day of the cook is to simply fire the grill or smoker and get to cooking immediately.

“Line up the meats and supplies at least a day before you will be cooking.”

Plan Shorter Cooks

Cooking barbecue doesn’t have to be an all-day project. Smoking pork butts and briskets for 12+ hours is a rewarding experience, but if you don’t have that luxury, let’s focus on some meats you can smoke within 2–5 hours. If even that is too much of a commitment, choose a meat you can grill over direct heat in a matter of minutes.

  • Burgers, sausage links, steaks, pork chops, and shrimp can be grilled in 15 minutes or less
  • Bone-in chicken legs and thighs take 1 hour on a charcoal pit
  • Meatloaf can be smoked in as little as 2 hours
  • Salmon fillets take an hour or less to smoke
  • Small cuts of beef short ribs can be smoked in 4 hours
  • Pork ribs take around 5—6 hours

Figure out how much time you should anticipate for cooking the meats using our time and temperature chart as a guideline. Remember, cooking times are only estimates, so on the longer cooks, provide extra time as a cushion, and if the meat finishes ahead of time, hold the meat in an empty chest or warming box for a couple of hours until serving time.


2: Be More Efficient

If you’re strapped for time, having a handy cooking setup makes a world of difference. Spending time you didn't budget for to drag tools and supplies from various places, can leave you feeling frustrated before you even get started.

If you’ve been cooking for a while, you have a good idea of what you need, but I’ve learned that the right tool can make the experience less time-consuming and much more fun—which is one of the reasons you got into this in the first place, right?

I’ve already covered this topic in Making Backyard Barbecue Fun and Easy, so I won’t repeat myself here, but make sure to check out the article for a handy list of tools and supplies you need for setting up an efficient cooking space.

“Lighting a charcoal fire doesn’t have to be exasperating or time-consuming!”

Cooking With Charcoal? With the right tools, lighting a charcoal fire doesn’t have to be exasperating or time-consuming.

  • A charcoal chimney is one of our favorite methods for lighting charcoal, depending on the type of cooker you’re using. If you want to speed up the process, use a BBQ Dragon Charcoal Chimney with the BBQ Dragon Fan to get the coals hot in record time!
  • We also recommend fire starter squares and the BBQ Dragon fan for lighting lump charcoal in a ceramic grill, such as the Big Green Egg.
  • An easy way to light charcoal in an offset smoker or a large charcoal grill is with a propane torch.
  • Ace MAP Pro Premium Torch Fuel

    $15.49
  • Ace Propane Fuel

    $5.98
  • Ace Torch Head

    $57.99
  • Big Green Egg – Lump Charcoal

  • Bison Airlighter 420

    $49.95
  • FOGO Premium Lump Charcoal

    $21.99
  • Greenwood Propane Torch

    $34.99
  • Greenwood Propane Torch With Igniter

    $46.99
  • Maverick Propane Torch

    $29.99
  • Nature-Glo Lump Charcoal

    $18.99
  • Rockwood – Lump Charcoal

    $27.95
  • Royal Oak – Chef’s Select Charcoal Briquettes

    $23.49$557.00

Still have questions? Visit our store at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, PA or call us at (717) 355-0779 for help cooking a specific cut of meat, choosing a new smoker, or setting up your outdoor cooking space. Our store hours are listed at the bottom of this page.

3: Leverage Automation

Pellet Grills

If you don’t have the time to build and maintain a fire in an outdoor cooker or just want to relax after a tiring day at work, a pellet grill is the perfect choice for you.

  • Our Yoder pellet smokers are made in the USA and among the best pellet smokers made.
  • Our Green Mountain Grills series is perfect for someone who doesn’t need the best smoker out there, but wants the benefit of automation.

I certainly enjoy having a Yoder pellet smoker on my patio. It only takes a couple of minutes of my time to get it started (unless it requires routine cleaning) plus about 20–30 minutes of unattended wait time.

In a pellet grill, you will need to do some work before you turn it on, such as dump the ashes, clean the drip pan, and top off the pellet hopper, but once it’s up to temp, there are no vents to adjust or coals to poke—the fire management is completely automated.

It takes about as much time to fire a pellet smoker as it does to get a charcoal smoker hot, but the start-up is more automated. You could start the grill as soon as you come home from work, and let it heat up while you walk the dog or chat with your family and pull the meat out of the fridge.

Once the smoker is up to temperature, the controller automatically keeps the smoker at the set temperature.

“Simply tap the app on your phone to instantly see how hot the smoker is running and how close to done the meat is!”

Even better, the Yoder and Green Mountain can both be purchased with WiFi connectivity, for controlling the smoker and monitoring the meat temperature from your phone or computer! Simply tap the app on your phone to instantly see how hot the smoker is running and how close to done the meat is! How cool is that?

As you can see, this automation makes longer cooks more feasible if you are busy around the house or need to run an errand.

The Yoder also makes it easy to program a schedule, where it will cook the meat until the meat reaches a set internal temperature and then lower the smoker temperature to a holding temperature. It can even alert you when it reaches a certain temperature.

WiFi Connected Controllers

Do you cook on a charcoal grill? We’ve got some automation gadgets for you too!

Our full line of computerized temperature controllers for charcoal smokers are designed to control and/or monitor your smoker temperature from your phone. They also have one or more meat probes for monitoring the meat temperature.

Call us at (717) 355-0779 for help choosing the best temperature controller for your situation.

Still have questions? Visit our store at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, PA or call us at (717) 355-0779 for help cooking a specific cut of meat, choosing a new smoker, or setting up your outdoor cooking space. Our store hours are listed at the bottom of this page.

About the author: Lavern Gingerich is a writer and the digital marketing manager for Meadow Creek Barbecue Supply.