Fall Grilling Essentials

By Bob McCarthy

Remember in August when you’d come home from work and the neighborhood was filled with the scent of grilled chicken and burgers? Smoke billowed from every yard; you could hear the sizzle as steaks hit your neighbor’s grill. Yet today, a pristine day in October, nobody is grilling. Why? Despite ideal weather, many people abandon their grills at the strike of midnight on Labor Day.

Call us crazy, but of all the seasons, Fall may be the best for grilling. Summer gets all the BBQ love, but let’s be honest, half the time you’re sweating by 9 AM and the rest of the time you’re dodging thunderstorms. Fall, on the other hand, tends to be pleasant and mild. It’s warm without being hot, cool but not cold. The genial sun and crisp air provide the perfect backdrop to an afternoon outdoors, no sunscreen necessary.

Grilling in the Fall

Just because Autumn is every bit as grill-worthy as Summer, doesn’t mean they’re the same. The year is divided into seasons for a reason, and there are some notable differences between grilling in July and October.

For starters, while you may be used to starting those early morning brisket cooks in flip flops and shorts, you’ll probably want to dig out your favorite jeans and hoodie. But Fall also has it’s own unique flavors. This is the time of year when you can actually hang by the grill and drink a maple brown ale or a smoked stout. The cool weather also offers the chance to grill heartier meals and incorporate seasonal ingredients like apples and pumpkins. (Check out our recipe for Smoked Pork Loin Stuffed with Apples, Cranberries, and Goat Cheese).

A Good Grill Goes A Long Way

As the seasons change, so do the foods we like to eat. Have you ever noticed that once it hits September and the temperatures begin to drop, you automatically begin craving comfort food like meatloaf and roasts? It’s one reason why people make the transition from the backyard to the kitchen—they don’t believe they can cook Sunday dinner on a grill.

Believe it or not, a good grill can cook as well as a kitchen oven. A quality well-built grill will retain and distribute heat throughout the entire grill, for even cooking temperatures, as well as maximize airflow for efficient convection cooking will roast a turkey or a stuffed pork loin. Gas grills should have 3 burners so you can set up indirect cooking. One of our favorite grills for Fall grilling, or anytime of year, is the Napoleon Prestige 500. And quality doesn’t necessarily mean expensive—both the Broil King Signet 320 and Weber Spirit are high-quality gas grills that are also affordable.

If you prefer charcoal to gas, kamado grills use ceramic or double-walled steel insulation to retain heat and moisture incredibly, and also have a unique dome design that creates convection cooking and provides consistent temperatures.

Add a Touch of Smoky Flavor

If there’s a scent that’s associated with Fall, it’s smoke. Burning leaves lace the air with a pleasant smokiness. However, this time of year, smoke is also a great flavor to add to food. One advantage to grilling is that you can easily add smoke to everything from a whole chicken to roast beef.

If you cook with charcoal, you already know how easy it is to infuse food with a layer of smoke—just add wood chunks or chips to the coals. But if you have a gas grill, it’s just as easy with an A-Maze Tube, which burns wood pellets and sits on top of the grill grate. You can even go a step further and turn your gas grill into a smoker to make BBQ favorites like ribs.

Stop Losing Heat, Check Food Without Opening the Grill

If you’re going to roast or smoke food on your grill, heat retention and consistent temperatures are vital. Every time you open the lid to check on food, you’re losing heat and causing temperature fluctuations that can throw off your cook. It’s equally important that your grill actually hits the desired cooking temperature—don’t rely on the lid-mounted analog thermometer, which can be unreliable and is usually positioned above the food rather than at grate level.

To ensure you’re cooking at the right temperature and to keep from opening the grill any more than is necessary, use an iGrill2. The digital base sits outside the grill and accommodates up to 4 probes, so can you can monitor food and grill temperatures in real time without opening the lid. The iGrill2 also has Bluetooth capability, so when it gets cold you can monitor everything on your phone from the comfort of your house.

Grill Lights Keep You Cooking After Dark

One of the main reasons people give up on grilling in the Fall is because the days are shorter. While the sun seemed to shine bright until 9:00 in July, by October it’s already setting by 6:00, and by the time daylight saving takes effect, it’s dark at 4:30. The lack of daylight can be a problem for those who want to grill dinner. But don’t give up hope. Both the Maverick Cordless Stainless Steel Grill Light and Charcoal Companion Magnetic Flexible Mini Grill Light make it easy to safely grill after dark and deliver top notch food.

Cover Your Grill to Keep it Performing Great Year-Round

The further we get into fall, the colder it gets. In addition to the sun and rain, your grill will be exposed to frost and, depending on where you live, sleet and snow. Most people don’t think about covering their grill until after the first big storm, when it’s already covered in a foot of powder. If you haven’t already done so, Fall is the time to prep for winter and get a grill cover. When you buy a quality grill, you’re investing in a grill that will perform year-round, no matter the climate you live in. A grill cover is the first step to ensuring it looks and performs like new for years to come.