How to grill in the autumn months

By Cris Carl, Networx

If you aren't ready to give up the flavorful joys and easy clean-up of barbecue meals once there is a nip in the air, here are a few tips to keep things safe and efficient once autumn sets in.

The differences of autumn grilling vs. summer grilling

Your grill will take twice as long to achieve an optimal heating temperature and your food will take longer to cook, so be prepared. If you are having friends over to watch a football game, a Halloween gathering, or any other special event that warrants barbecue meals, have snacks and drinks on hand. You will also use more fuel as a result of the longer prep and cooking times, so make sure your propane is full or there is plenty of charcoal.

The colder it is outside, the longer it will take to heat your grill. Do not close the vents. It may seem like closing the vents would keep the heat in, but in fact you'll smother the fire due to lack of oxygen. Don't open and close the lid too often, or the heat will escape.

Turn your temperature dials up a bit. You may need to experiment a little, but keep your eye on the heat gauge until you get a feel for the difference.

If you are cooking a variety of different items on different sections of the grill, try using warmed cast iron pans with lids to keep the heat in. The food will cook a little quicker and it will help you avoid cross-contamination.

Autumn barbecue safety

The leaves are so beautiful, drifting from the trees as the winds stir briskly. Sounds great, but leaves and other dried debris are also a terrific fire hazard. Make sure that you have cleaned up any leaves from around your grill and place your grill in an area that has some shelter from the wind. For example, having the grill close to the house in an L-shaped alcove or in the corner of your yard if surrounded by a wall or bushes will help prevent dangerous flare-ups as cook your barbecue meal. And while it may seem tempting, never grill in an enclosed porch. Besides being a fire hazard, the fumes can be deadly.

If you are bringing food to a tailgating party, make sure your food (especially meats) is well wrapped, properly cooled, and cooked thoroughly. Use a meat thermometer to be sure your meat is properly cooked. For hamburgers and all pork, heat to 160 degrees. For all poultry, 165 degrees and for veal, lamb, steaks, and beef cuts, heat to 145 degrees.

A few other ideas for autumn barbecue meals

  • Early autumn is a good time to check out specialty stores for deals on grills and accessories that are being closed out.
  • The cooler temperatures are a good time to do "harvest roast" barbecue meals. Just lightly oil pepper halves, summer squashes, tomatoes, etc. with some olive oil. No pan needed and you'll have a fairly easy clean-up afterwards.
  • If you have larger cuts of meat, such as roasts, or a whole chicken, allow them to thaw thoroughly before putting them on the grill to reduce cooking time.