You may think the unifying characteristic of Canadians coast-to-coast might be a love (or tolerance) of hockey, a tendency to be polite, or a Justin Trudeau calendar hanging in the kitchen. Actually, though, what truly unites Canucks across the country is the utter disregard for weather when it comes to firing up the barbecue and grilling outside. This isn’t surprising. After all, Canada led the world in 2011 for online searches related to recipes for barbecued chicken and ribs. We’re not about to let a little thing like snow, slush or wind stop us.
A couple of winter grilling hints: use a gas grill, if you’ve got it. It’s just too hard to keep heat in a charcoal grill consistent when it’s cold outside. Bundle up (obviously), but make sure your gloves are heat resistant barbecue gloves, not the gauntlets you throw on when you’re shovelling. Clear your cooking area of snow, and make sure there’s enough light to see. A headlamp will do if there’s no porch light.
With that in mind, here are eight foods we think taste even better when they’re grilled in the depths of winter.
There’s nothing like a sweet, tropical fruit to remind us of warmer times — even if we’re cooking it in minus-something weather. Pineapple is sturdy enough to stand up to direct grilling, and the smokiness of the barbecue marries nicely with the pineapple’s sweetness. And while you can just throw pineapple spears or rounds on the grill (core it first), spreading it with a mixture of butter, brown sugar and cinnamon before grilling will give you a lovely, caramelized crunch and a hit of extra sweetness.
Pizza is a great choice for outdoor winter grilling because it can be prepped inside in advance and cooks relatively quickly, which means you have to spend less time outside in your parka. First of all, get your grill really hot (aim for at least 550F). While it’s warming up, prep your dough inside by pulling it into a circle and brushing it with olive oil. Take your dough and the toppings you’re going to use, and head outside. Once your grill is nice and hot, slap the oiled side of the dough over direct heat (no need for a pan) and grill one side until you’ve got grill marks — usually about three minutes or so with the lid down. Flip the dough over, add your toppings, close the lid and cook for about five minutes, or until your cheese is melted and everything looks done. Drag the pizza off the grill with tongs or a spatula, and enjoy. For an easy tutorial, check out this post by The Kitchn.
Things that are quick to cook are perfect on the grill in the winter and things that are really slow to cook are pretty good, too. Doing an authentic pulled pork on a gas grill will take a lot of time (like, 12 to 13 hours) and can be labour-intensive but the result will be worth it. Plus, you get to spend a lot of that time indoors. Another bonus? Pulled pork, served with a side of coleslaw, is a perfect way to bring back the feeling of carefree summer barbecues. Want to try it out? Check out this step-by-step guide.
When you cook a whole turkey on the grill, you’re essentially turning your barbecue into an oven, with the option to add delicious flavour to the meat without smoking up your kitchen. (This is also perfect for holiday meals or dinner parties where the oven will be otherwise occupied.) Roasting a turkey outside is a lot like roasting it inside, with a few variations: you’ll want a smoker box or an aluminum foil packet filled with soaked wood chips for flavour, and you’ll need to put a pan of water directly below the turkey as it cooks to prevent flare-ups (use less water and you’ll be able to make gravy with the water and drippings). Cook the turkey over indirect heat until the innermost thigh and the thickest part of the breast both measure 165F. Oh, and don’t rely on your grill’s temperature gauge, use a separate oven thermometer. For more info, go to the Weber’s website for handy tips and techniques.
Boiled lobster is a classic preparation, but if you want a little extra smokiness to your seafood (or you just don’t have a big enough pot) you can grill whole lobsters just by splitting them down the middle, removing the claws, then transferring them to the grill to poach in a delicious garlic-parsley butter. A bonus? Lobster cooks super quickly, so you’ll only be standing outside for a maximum of 10 minutes. Want to try? This simple recipe will get you going.
Yes, you could just roast butternut squash in the oven, but then you’d lose all sorts of smoky, charred deliciousness. Cube the squash into pieces big enough not to slip through the grill (or cut it into half circles), toss it with olive oil and salt and pepper, and go. Grill over an indirect fire until you can pierce the pieces with a knife. Want to get a little fancier? Check out how to finish the dish with ricotta and pine nuts for added yumminess.
Kale is one of those vegetables that gets immeasurably tastier once it’s been exposed to frost, so if you’ve tried summer kale and been less-than-impressed, try again once the frost has had a chance to bring out kale’s natural sweetness. A great way to get beyond raw kale is to grill it. With large, sturdy leaves, kale is perfect for laying directly on the grill and letting the coals do their work. Toss it with olive oil and go, just keep an eye on it, because burned kale is not tasty. Once it’s grilled, think about tossing it in a salad. This recipe takes advantage of a hot grill and incorporates grilled bread as well.
Take pound cake — a great neutral base for desserts of all sorts — and throw it on the grill, and what do you get? A piece of rich, dense cake with a toasty, crispy outer layer and a warm, soft middle. Sounds pretty good! And it gets even better when you top it with something delicious. Think melted chocolate and strawberries, warmed-up jelly or compote, crème Anglaise, hard sauce … the possibilities are endless. Here’s a lovely recipe where grilled pound cake is complemented by a sweet cherry sauce.