How to Throw a Winter Barbecue
Keep guests comfortable with this advice around the best food, drink, and gear for cold-weather grilling
Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
We may not be hosting large indoor gatherings anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean we have to abandon hospitality altogether. Enter (and re-enter, and re-enter again) the winter outdoor party. Here are some of our favorite ideas for entertaining in the cold, including new products, winter-weather hacks, and delicious food that will withstand the falling temps.
Food and Drink
The Best Barbecue
When the temperatures drop, I like to serve a spicy dish to warm up the guests. Vanessa and Kim Pham, sisters and founders of the food business Omsom, which launched in 2018, have made excellent barbecue easy with their line of starter packs. The Spicy Bulgogi Starter 3-Pack ($12) is one of our favorites: rip open the packet, pour it over your protein of choice, and cook it over your heat source. Pretty soon you’ll have sweet and savory Bulgogi for all to enjoy. The company offers plenty of other dishes too, from Japanese Yuzu Misoyaki to Vietnamese Lemongrass BBQ, all at the same approachable price.
The Hot Cocktail
Another host hack: create a batched cocktail in advance and serve it in insulated mugs. Start by blending the spirit and aromatics and store it in a large, sealable Tupperware container; then add hot water at the last minute so the drinks stay warm. (We also like to bring an electric kettle outside so we have hot water on standby to replenish cocktails.)
For hot toddies, we recommend Hudson Whiskey’s Four Part Harmony ($69), a four-grain bourbon that has been aged for a minimum of seven years and that offers up rich notes of toffee and oak—just the sweetness you need on a cold winter day. If you’re more of a rum drinker, Kasama’s small-batch, seven-year-aged Filipino spirit ($20) is a tropical antidote to the cold-weather blues.
The Nonalcoholic Option
For teetotalers in attendance, consider offering a “not toddy” too. There’s a veritable treasure trove of nonalcoholic spirits available these days, including Ghia ($33), an aperitif-style drink made from botanicals. The brand offers its own cold-weather recipe, mixing the drink with hot water, honey, coriander, and fresh ginger.
The Cookie Collab
Make dessert outside as magical as the snow around you by enlisting your friends to lend a creative hand. Bake sugar cookies in advance and then invite guests to decorate their own with sprinkles, chocolate chips, icing, and food coloring.
The Portable Solution
If firing up the grill means unearthing propane, deicing your Weber, and finding equipment you packed away months ago, there are other ways to cook. You can use a portable grill, yes, or you can use a pizza oven, like the Gozney Roccbox ($499), which fires up to 950 degrees and can cook a pie in 60 seconds. It can also cook far more than just pizza—steak, chicken, and even whole fish are all fair game. Dan Richer’s 2021 cookbook The Joy of Pizza: Everything You Need to Know is a good place to begin for a ’cue featuring superlative pies.
The Warmest Covers
It goes without saying that blankets are de rigueur if you plan on hosting a winter get-together. But no matter how snuggly your blanket happens to be, when those mercury-challenging temperatures hit, the Cozee Battery Powered Heating Blanket ($349) puts all those regular blankets to shame. With a microplush interior and weatherproof exterior, this battery-powered and Mylar-insulated blanket gets fiercely hot. And it runs on a charge for up to three hours, so you don’t have to keep it plugged in while you use it. If you’re not willing to shell out for the Cozee yet, there are many great blankets that can hold up to cold temperatures: L.L.Bean’s flannel camp blankets, Rumpl’s original puffy blanket, Pendleton’s wool blanket, and Kelty’s Bestie blanket are all great investments. But for the nights that are truly cold, the Cozee is a worthwhile investment.
The Seat Warmer
Consider tossing some Mexican picnic blankets on your seats. They’ll provide insulation and can be beach blankets once summer rolls around. Best of all, at around $20 each, they won’t break the bank. Not only will they help keep you warm and dry, but they’ll also add a pop of color to your winter wonderland.