Absolutely. You can smoke meat when it’s cold outside. Stock up on charcoal and wood before you ever start cooking, especially in cold weather. Keep your wood chopped up and ready to go in a dry, easily accessible place like a wood rack. Your smoker will go through more wood and charcoal than it would in warmer weather. When it is time to refuel, you won’t risk a drop in temperature when you have your charcoal and wood at the ready. Have all the tools and utensils you need while smoking to ensure a smoother cook without frantically searching for the equipment you need.
Monitor the wind direction and adjust your intakes accordingly. For example, you may need to close a vent facing the wind if it’s too strong and use another vent for adjusting temperatures. Increased airflow through your smoker will stoke the fire, raising temperatures. Insufficient airflow will cause heat loss, as the fuel cannot burn without oxygen. Reducing airflow too much will drop the temperature in the chamber, which can result in a dirty fire that produces undesirable smoke that can overpower your food. Maintaining a consistent temperature is important because large fluctuations in temperature can result in under or over-cooked food. Your main objective is to avoid big spikes in temperature as well as extinguishing the fire.
As you may know, different smokers perform differently in cold weather conditions. Smokers with thin outer walls will struggle to get up to temperature and maintain consistent temps throughout the cook. While smokers with thicker walls will struggle to reach cooking temps, they are naturally more insulated, making it easier to maintain consistent heat.
Offset Smokers: Probably the most challenging smoker for cold-weather smoking with the heat source off to the side of the cooking chamber, managing airflow is even more important with an offset smoker.
Drum Smokers: A good option for smoking in the winter, the fuel is contained and concentrated under the cooking grate. You may want to load more charcoal/wood at the start with a drum smoker since you can expect to go through more fuel to maintain temps.
Pellet Grills: Using a pellet grill grill is a great cold weather cooker because steady heat is produced by the auger continuously feeding wood pellets to the fire pot. It’s also very easy to add pellets to the hopper to keep the fire going.
That being said, most smokers will have trouble getting up to temp, especially when it’s brutally cold outside. A smoker jacket or blanket will help to maintain your cooking temps and conserve fuel. Many smoker brands carry custom-fit jackets or blankets for their smokers. If your smoker doesn’t have a custom-fit option, look for a universal brand. Be sure that the smoker jacket you use allows for adequate air flow, ease of access and fire resistance. They can also be used to cover your cooker when you’re not cooking.
There are some great DIY options for insulating your smoker. Take a trip to your local hardware store and look for something made with fireproof/resistant materials. For example, a welder’s blanket provides protection from the winter weather without the risk of catching fire. Cut it to fit your smoker and make sure the vents are not covered. Furnace and double foil insulation are good options to insulate your smoker too. Don’t wrap the firebox itself, as the inner insulation could melt. The most important considerations are safety, airflow and effectiveness.