Many wonder when it’s too windy to grill. The answer is simple and of common sense. Some cities, like Chicago, a.k.a. Windy City, deal with wind on a daily basis. Others are spared the constant air masses but are nevertheless not immune to the wind.
Like heat, wind is one of mother nature’s forces that the outdoor cook has no other option but to learn to live with.
As long as there’s no storm brewing, in which case you shouldn’t go outside, a little wind won’t deter the seasoned griller. All it takes is the right grilling technique and… ahem, a little tailwind.
What is too much wind, and what are the best ways to still grill outdoors on a windy day?
If the weather is severe with a monsoon of rain, lightning, thunder, and it looks like a twister could come down at any minute, that is a great sign it is too windy to grill. Ain’t no doubt about it.
Other times, it may be a beautiful day, only with too much wind, and you can put boards up or have something to block the wind from the direction it is blowing.
You can grill when it’s windy as long as there’s no storm. Simply point your gas grill perpendicular to the wind and grill with the lid closed. Or orient your charcoal grill so that the vents are facing away from the wind.
We can advise you on living your daydream of grilling with several tricks and ideas: it is slightly different for charcoal and gas grills, but we have that covered.
Going through the various options, you will find that you can have that grill fired up in no time without worrying about the wind putting the fire out or flaring it up.
Using a Gas Grill on a Windy Day
It is the weekend, you are home, and you want to grill up some food with your friends or family. It would be nice if the wind would not blow out the match before it lit your grill.
You will have to develop different lighting methods for your grill if it is windy out. First of all, turn the unit perpendicular to the wind’s direction. That way, the wind will have less influence on your grilling.
If your grill doesn’t have an ignition switch or doesn’t ignite, light the match first and hold it with your hand. Put it in the match holder and use it to light the burner closest to the hole. Use your body as a shield against the wind.
You can also use a gas grill lighter with a long handle that makes it easier to keep away from any sparks or flames. Turn the gas to medium-high, turn on the lighter, hold it about six inches from the grill, and light the flame.
Once your grill is lit, cooking on a windy day can be a little more complicated than usual:
You’ll need to keep an eye on the food to make sure it doesn’t burn. At the same time, you want to avoid lifting the lid all too often, or the wind can put out the flame.
Another way to cook on your grill is using an indirect heat method. To do this, place your food over the indirect heat area of your grill and close the lid. This will help keep the food from burning. You can also try using a drip pan to help catch any juices that might fall from your food.
One more option that is the most effective is placing tarps, windscreens, or boards up to block the wind. Keep the grill closer to the boards so that the wind does not whip around. Take note of the direction of the wind that day; it may help to keep the boards or tarp up on the days the wind blows in this direction.
Using a Charcoal Grill on a Windy Day
How the Kettle Grill Came to Be
The kettle grill as we know it was invented by George A. Stephen in 1951. Stephen, a metalworker and avid griller, worked for Weber Brothers Metal Works, which was ran by his father.
Stephen was growing increasingly frustrated with his open grill’s uneven and uncontrollable flame at his home in Mount Prospect, Illinois. One day at the factory, he took one of the metal molds they used to make a buoy, drilled a few holes in the bottom, and made a lid. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, it is rare to see someone cooking over charcoal and not using a kettle grill. It is round and deep—and particularly suitable for windy weather.
Unless you want to get a taste of the chimney sweep profession, orient the kettle so that the smoke does not blow in your face. The golden rule is to face the vents away from the wind.
On a windy day, lighting and grilling on a charcoal grill take almost the same measures as cooking on a gas grill. However, the lighting methods are the most different.
Use a chimney starter, which will allow you to start your coals without any lighter fluid (which you shouldn’t be using in the first place). Fill up the top of the chimney starter with charcoal and place crumpled up newspaper on the bottom.
Light the newspaper and wait 15 to 20 minutes for the coals to turn ashen. Carefully remove the chimney starter from your grill and dump the lit charcoal into the pit.
If you’re cooking something thin, like fish or veg, you can try using skewers to keep your food from falling through the grates. Just make sure that you don’t overcook these items. If it’s something thicker like a steak, keep an eye on it and shorten the cooking time by 1-2 minutes if you deem it necessary.
You could also try rotating the lid of your grill. This will help direct the wind away from your food. Adjusting the vents at the bottom will prevent flare-ups as well.
The same rules apply to help control the flames on a windy day. Use the tarp or board method to block the wind or use the indirect grilling method and close the lid to maintain the perfect temperature.
No matter how you decide to cook on your grill, be sure to keep an eye on the food to make sure it doesn’t burn.
General Grilling Tips for Windy Days
The primary grills are gas and charcoal (the kettle). Most grillers have them separate, though some have the luxury of the combo with the gas, charcoal, and smoker.
These are some special tips to keep you safe and have the food come off the grill the way you like it.
On a Gas Grill:
- Maintain the temperature: Keep the indirect setting, meaning medium-off-medium, from 350°F to 375°F. This will ensure the best outcome and control of the heat;
- Stay by the grill: When the wind is blowing, the burners can go out at any moment, releasing propane into the enclosed grill. If they go out, let the air circulate by opening the grill for 2-3 minutes to let the gas escape. Never relight it without doing this;
- Know the direction of the wind: Paying attention to the wind will keep you from moving the grill constantly. Perhaps put up four walls of boards and tarp to be sure because the wind can change direction at any moment.
On a Charcoal Grill:
- Use extra charcoal: Keep in mind that the more air circulates, the faster the coals will burn. It would be wise to add extra charcoals to ensure the heat remains adequate;
- Take precautions when opening the lid: Depending on which way the wind is blowing, a whirlwind of ashes will fly up and land on the food as you open the lid. Be careful not to burn yourself, and keep the cover in front of your body when opening it;
- Keep an eye on the damper and vents: This is the temperature control for charcoal grills and can cause the meat to burn or come out undercooked. You may have to adjust the vents and damper several times while the wind blows. The more oxygen gets to the flame, the hotter and faster it will burn.
Summing It All Up
Both grills require specific measures to obtain the proper heat when it seems to be an uphill battle with the wind. The joy knows you do not have to drop your plans for grilling on a windy day because you worked so hard to enjoy some time in front of the open flame.
It may be a little more work in taking the measures listed, but when you take that first bite of grilled food, you know it was all worth the battle.
Just make sure you are not outside in a hurricane, tornado, or severe thunderstorm. We want you safe to grill your favorite foods again.