How to Smoke Meat in Cold Weather

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  June 21, 2021

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In winter, the cold weather conditions outside are good at discouraging from spending time outdoors, let alone smoking. Most people give up on that, but there are still many BBQ enthusiasts who can’t resist smoking meat even in winter.

I have to admit that it is most certainly possible, provided that you get properly prepared.

During winter, your enemies are low temperature, snow, freezing rain and very cold wind. When smoking, it is very important for the temperature inside the smoker to be stable. Sadly, the weather is great at making it harder, especially when your smoker is very poorly insulated.

How to smoke in cold weather

How to Smoke Meat in Cold Weather – 8 Tips

The key to successful smoking during winter is a smoker with very good insulation and adequate preparations. Below I have prepared several tips that I believe are crucial when smoking meat in the winter.

I don’t think any of the popular smoking meat cookbooks cover this sort of thing, so here are the top tips:

1. The Right Smoker

During winter, it is very important to have the right type and size of bbq smoker. Some of them are pretty much made with winter conditions in mind, like the kamado which is famous for its great heat insulation.

Most typical smokers, however, unfortunately have pretty thin walls which makes it easy for them to lose heat when the temperature on the outside is way below zero. Forget about big smokers, the larger the area the harder it is to reach and then maintain the temperature.

Sadly, most models are going to require additional insulation that you can read more about below.

2. Make room for your smoker

Before you start smoking, you have to pick the right spot for your smoker. Focus mostly on making sure that your spot protects the smoker from wind. If you’ve never had an opportunity to cook outside during winter then you need to know that cold wind is pretty good at making it harder to maintain a fixed temperature.

For sake of convenience, remove the excess snow around and pick a spot where the smoker is at least partially protected from falling snow or rain.

3. Create your own insulation

Insulation is the key to problem-free smoking in the winter. First and foremost, it makes it easier to maintain a fixed temperature, protecting from wind and very low temperatures, burning much less fuel.

Not every manufacturer has a dedicated cold weather jacket in their offer or it is simply too expensive. Remember that you can make your own, equally effective insulation by utilizing inexpensive materials for that purpose such as welding blankets or furnace insulation.

There are many different smokers which is why I encourage you to start looking for insulation guides on YouTube as well as different BBQ message boards. That way you will find plenty of interesting inspirations as well as solutions for majority of the most popular smokers.

4. Buy a Cold Weather Jacket

If you have a little more spare cash, then simply buy a dedicated Cold Weather Jacket. An upside to such solution is the reliable operation and a perfectly matched size for a specific model.

Another huge upside of the cold weather jacket is the ability to use it simply as a regular cover when you’re done cooking.

Sadly, not every manufacturer offers a Cold Weather Jacket which is why you may alternatively have to make your own insulation. Another huge downside is the price of a cold weather jacket, if money matters to you and do-it-yourself at the garage is not a big deal to you, then I recommend making your own insulation. The simplest insulation may not look the best, but it will certainly serve its purpose.

5. Avoid lifting the lid

Even during summer, lifting the lid too often is a mistake that I discuss a lot. It is no wonder then that I am definitely against opening the lid during winter. Leaving the lid up for 3-5 minutes might lead to a quick temperature loss, which results in problems with temperature for the next 15 minutes or so.

All of that leads to the entire smoking process getting longer which is why you should reduce it to the minimum. It is the best to buy the right meat thermometer that will let you monitor both the temperature inside the meat and inside the smoker alike.

6. Prepare more fuel

Take into account that during winter, maintaining the same temperature as during summer takes a lot more fuel. That’s why, before you start cooking, you should prepare a much bigger fuel supply than in summer. There is no point risking having to go to the store halfway through the cooking.

Another important thing is to properly warm up the smoker before you start cooking. Only start cooking once the temperature inside is properly stabilized.

7. Never use a smoker indoors

Despite it seeming obvious, I’d like to remind you never to use a smoker indoors. It’s not about the unpleasant scent of smoke but about said smoke accumulating in one room which might even pose threat to life.

Carbon dioxide that is generated during the burning process is mostly dangerous because it can’t even be felt ( It is called a “silent killer” for a reason ). A real smoker is made for cooking outside and let’s keep it that way.

8. Store the smoker properly

Once you’re done cooking, don’t forget to properly store your smoker. It is really a good idea to buy a cover, which will protect your smoker from harmful influence of external factors ( rain, snow, wind, dust etc ).

You can use a cold weather jacket if you don’t have a regular cover. Then hide the smoker in a safe and covered place ( preferably in the garage or somewhere in the backyard under a roof ).

Your smoker is ready to smoke meat during winter, which means there is one more very important thing to do. Don’t forget about yourself, in the winter it is easy to lose heat and catch a hold which is why you should dress warm. Food and smoker are very important, but it is your health that always comes first.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.