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Cold weather cooker.

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    Cold weather cooker.

    Hey folks,
    I wonder if you all can help me choose a cooker for cold weather. As it gets to -30 here, a cooker with some extra heat seems indicated. My kamado is fine, but I'm finding that I need a bit more capacity. Especially for low and slow type stuff. Another thing that would be helpful is some set and forget capability, as I now work weird hours and days. It would be nice to be able to fire some food, work a few hours, then come home and finish the cook. My kamado is great, but I'm not comfortable leaving it alone for a long time. Then, there's the capacity issue. The electrics I've tried couldn't keep up when it's below zero. Hell, my Big Chief did better...lol

    Fuel source is whatever works, but putting bark on some protein is important.

    What say you all?

    While I’ve run my pellet grills just fine a few degrees below zero, my first thought with that much cold is an Insulated Vertical Cabinet or a Gravity Feed Smoker (not the Masterbuilt/Chargriller Type). I wouldn’t want to count on electronics at those temps regularly. Stubbs, Lone Star Grills, T&K, etc. Tons of capacity, the ability to hook up a ATC, but stable probably without, etc.


    • glitchy
      glitchy commented
      Editing a comment
      I also saw some people put a hot water bottle in a cooler and drop their Fireboard in it to keep the FB warmer. It was someone here last winter.
      Last edited by glitchy; September 19, 2021, 12:04 AM.

    Stick burners are your friend in cold weather, if you don't mind a fair amount of babysitting. I would much rather say "giddyup" than "whoa" when it comes to tending a fire.


    • Strat50
      Strat50 commented
      Editing a comment
      The idea is , if possible, is to have a more set and forget situation.

    • Steve R.
      Steve R. commented
      Editing a comment
      Yeah, I misread the set and forget part.

    I’ve run the fireboard below zero and it was fine. Not sure what it’s real limits are.

    I ran the masterbuilt gravity overnight in the cold and it was fine also so an insulated gravity (the masterbuilt is not) would be my recommendation.


      For real cold, and you got real cold, brother, not like the slight chills we whine about, heavy duty steel is what you need. If you're looking for some set & forget, pellet grills is what you're looking for.

      Where you're at, it may take a while to get to temp, but if you've got heavy guage construction, once it gets there, it's gonna hold there better. In addition, you need a PID controller. Luckily, there are a number of these out there now.

      As a primer on pellet grills, the originator - Traeger - had a controller that would run pellets for a set amount every minute or two, preprogrammed for set point temps. My original BBQ124 I think had like 5 temp settings. So on "smoke" it would feed pellets for 5 seconds every minute, for 225 setting it would run for 10 seconds every minute, for 250 for 12 seconds every minute, etc. You get the picture, those numbers aren't exact, I'm just illustrating. But it was set, no changing. Which, if you live in 70-95ºF FL or something might be fine.... if you live in -30ºF Alaska, ya cain't get there from here, ya know what I mean?

      So I replaced the original controller with an Ortech controller - simple change, unscrew, plug in a couple plugs and you're done - and it had "P-settings." Essentially a little knob you could turn to make those timings on your pellet feed rates more or less aggressive. In practice, you could fine-tune for your cooker, humidity, temp, pellets, etc. This gave me much better control, but still had a lot of temp fluxuations. The metal of the cooker wasn't very heavy guage to hold heat, too many leaks, when it was windy I had hell keeping temps stable. I added a bunch of heavy bricks inside the cooking chamber, some gasket seals, etc., and these things did help a little bit.

      Then I got my Yoder and learned the meaning of heavy duty construction. Heavy guage steel hold heat like no other. The newer ones also have a Fireboard controller, even though the older ones aren't bad, either. I believe it is a PID controller. I think it stands for 'Progressive Interval Derivative'. You don't need to know the tech, essentially it means it responds actively to changes in temp, but it also learns throughout your cook. So it gets better at controlling temp over time. You can't beat the combination for cold cold weather. I'm in OK, and we don't get a LOT of cold weather, but we did see -15ºF this year, and I've seen -28ºF once 10 years ago. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't crazy enough to be out cooking in that, but being well under freezing and windy is something I've cooked in a fair number of times, I love smoking for Turkey Day, Christmas and New Year's.

      Suffice it to say if you get something very heavily built and well constructed, it should have good airflow without too much leakage, but even so, sealing up some leaks or blocking the wind isn't too big of a deal.

      Hope all that dissertation helps a little with the concepts. Now, what to look at?

      Well, higher end brands obviously are going to give you better materials and construction. Don't bother with Pit Boss, Traeger, etc., I doubt even RecTeq is going to give you really heavy guage metal. At least the one of theirs I've played with isn't super heavy duty, though it was their small entry level model.

      I think companies like MAK, LSG, etc are going to be what you want to look at. And Yoder, which I am a fan of. I have some complaints with mine, but they're things I've learned to work around. The build quality and heft I've never had a problem with - my Yoder is solid and heavy guage steel, no problems whatsoever holding heat in. Other pellet smokers have heat blankets and wraps and things you can put on them in the cold, too.

      I will say, living where you live, with the challenges you've got - I think a wifi controller would be a big plus, with temp monitoring as well. Not just of the cooking chamber, but the meat. So, I'd definitely suggest if you don't get a rig with a wife controller with meat probes, spring for a good wireless thermometer, too - like the Fireboard or the Smoke, or even just a Maverick 2-channel. I've found them invaluable, and when inclement weather rolls in, you can still monitor what's going on and minimize your trips out to the back patio. As for leaving.... I've left my cooker alone with pork butts or brisket for 8+ hours while I was at work, monitoring through my Fireboard. I can always text The Wife to pull something off or change a temp or whatever if things need to be adjusted. I can't recommend that capability enough - for my situation.

      So those are some things to think about. I hope it gives you some help.


      • Sweaty Paul
        Sweaty Paul commented
        Editing a comment
        Yoder also makes an insulated cover for their pellet grills which help a lot.

        I would also second the idea of an insulated vertical cabinet smoker.

      • Strat50
        Strat50 commented
        Editing a comment
        Here, when it gets that cold, it is calm. It is when it's warming up is when the wind howls.

      I would second the suggestion of an insulated vertical cabinet. You can do low & slow and run with a FB but it’s also probably not needed if the electronics conk out. Plenty of capacity. LSG, Assassin, Humphrey’s etc. Backwards Smokers also has some nice ones.

      The downside of the weight means things will take longer to heat up.

      Last edited by IFindZeroBadCooks; September 19, 2021, 08:15 AM.


        One option here!



          Let me start this off with start this off with if it gets below +30F we're thinking the end is near.
          I have a Yoder YS640 and a LSG large insulated vertical.

          As mentioned above the heavy construction on the Yoder is less effected by cold and they do make an insulated blanket for it. All the pellet grills are the definition of set and forget. Capacity wise I have cooked 70lbs of butts at once in it.
          The LSG cabinet with a fireboard controller and a Pit Bull fan is right there with a pellet grill set and forget wise. And a close 2nd with a controller once your learning curve is done. Chris says with a full basket of charcoal it will go 30-35 hours, at -30F it might be less. I have gone 20 hours on 2/3 of a basket. Capacity wise it is huge. I did 2-20lb pork shoulders on 1 rack! And the smoke profile is outstanding to me. Like the Yoder it is built like a tank and high quality.
          I am not sure about the limits of electronic in those temps.


            As an alternative to the high priced stuff, I wonder if a well built pellet grill e.g. recteq, camp chef etc plus a welding blanket or other fireproof insulating blanket would work. Like others, I don't know if the electronics would work at -30, but if they're under the blanket, I imagine that they'd warm at least somewhat.


            • IFindZeroBadCooks
              IFindZeroBadCooks commented
              Editing a comment
              A Grilla Silverbac would be ideal due to the proper insulation with the double wall, but -30 is pretty rough so I favor charcoal plus Fireboard so it can still run if the FB stutters.

            • IFindZeroBadCooks
              IFindZeroBadCooks commented
              Editing a comment
              But beyond the initial heating up step, you’d really need to ensure it is not windy or the pellet smoker is probably going to struggle again.

            While I lean towards charcoal plus FB here, I do think it is possible to do perhaps a Grilla Silverbac with a windscreen. Maybe the Grilla guys will have more tips if you are interested in exploring further.


            • DavidNorcross
              DavidNorcross commented
              Editing a comment
              I was thinking the same thing. Our temps are not as cold here and I have not lived a winter with the Silverbac yet, but I just do not see any issues in these types of temps.
              Last edited by DavidNorcross; September 19, 2021, 05:43 PM.


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