Grilling in the rain – 5 steps to follow to stop your cookout becoming a washout

Grilling in the rain might not be ideal, but it doesn't mean you have to forego the family BBQ just because of a few rainclouds. Here, pitmasters and grill experts offer their top tips

an outdoor grill under a gazebo
(Image credit: Naken)

Grilling in the rain – no, not a BBQ-themed remake of the Gene Kelly classic, but something that's easier to do than you might think. If you've got a cookout planned but the weather forecast is looking less than favorable, it's still possible to move the party indoors while enjoying the taste of BBQ food. 

It's not something that requires the best grill with special settings or rain-specific equipment, just a small tweak to how you approach cooking the food. 'Grilling in the rain isn't typically a real problem unless you are in a torrential downpour,' says Michael Haas, a pitmaster and BBQ blogger at Angry BBQ. 

So, while your garden party might not have gone totally to plan thanks to the weather, get the grill lit and still treat your guests to their favorite meat and veg with these simple tips to grilling in the rain. 

Tips for grilling in the rain from BBQ experts 

As you might expect, the key to grilling in the rain is keeping the lid open to a minimum. 'Keeping the lid open for too long cools a grill down on a nice day, on a rainy day it happens even faster,' explains Michael Haas, founder of Angry BBQ (opens in new tab). 'You do not want rainwater dripping on your food or hot grill grates as it will quickly evaporate and cool your food and grill. It can even wash away some of the juicy flavors of the food.' 

'Only open that lid for quick checks or when the food is done. If you're looking, you ain't cooking,' he adds. 

1. Bump up the temperature

When it comes to how to use a charcoal grill in the rain, you'll want to get it hotter than you would when not in the rain. 'Get your grill a little hotter than you plan to grill at,' advises Shawn Hill, BBQ expert and food writer at The Grilling Dad (opens in new tab). 'Because the air vents and damper may let in a little rain, you want to make sure you're preparing for temperature drops, so start with a grill that's hotter than normal.'

That also means you'll need to keep a closer eye that your grill stays hot too. 

2. Nanny the grill 

When raining, there's additional humidity in the air that can change how your food cooks, so you may need to pay a bit more attention to the grill, though that doesn't necessarily mean standing out in the rain. 

'Use a probe thermometer that can read ambient temperature to regulate the temperature inside your grill and of the food as you battle the weather,' says Kita Roberts, food writer at Girl Carnivore (opens in new tab). 'They have some that are wifi or Bluetooth enabled but if you are worried about connectivity, a probe with a wire may be best.'

'If you notice your grill dropping temperature, bump up the temperature a bit by adjusting your settings or having a charcoal chimney preheating coals nearby to add to the grill.'

3. Adjust your cooking style

If you're not used to cooking on the grill with the lid closed, this might mean switching up your cooking style. 'When it’s raining, give the meat a really good sear on the barbecue, pull the meat out, then turn the temperature to medium-low and return the meat to the grill,' suggests Sebastian Cortez, founder of Sebastian & Co Fine Meats (opens in new tab)

'When cooking at a low temperature, you don’t have to work about flipping your food constantly and can leave it on the grill with the lid closed for a longer time,' he adds. 'Some of the best medium-rare steaks can grill for about an hour when seared.' 

4. Use an umbrella 

A little bit of cover is helpful for getting your meat and veg on and off of the grill. 'Having everything prepped and ready to minimize water getting on the food while you load up the grill is key,' says Kita Roberts. 'Have a helper hold an umbrella while you lift the lid to lay on the food and close it. Use a clean baking sheet to easily toss everything on and off as needed.'

Shawn Hill, writer at The Grilling Dad agrees: 'Use an umbrella when carrying your food - you may need a helper or extra careful hands, but using an umbrella to cover your food while you're bringing it to the grill will help preserve all of the seasonings you've already put on it,' Shawn says. 'Likewise, using it to carry the food inside will help keep the meat from dropping in temperature or getting soggy.' 

4. Set up a grill gazebo 

If you really love to grill, but live somewhere where the weather can't be depended on, then maybe it's time to invest in a grill gazebo. 'I have a grill gazebo so I can grill in any weather,' says pitmaster Michael Haas. 'They are relatively inexpensive to buy and can even be made yourself if you're handy with tools. I love my gazebo for rain protection and even some shade on those hot sunny days.'

Can you use a gas grill in the rain?

You can use a gas grill much in the same way you can a charcoal grill in the rain. We're not talking torrential downpours, but a light rain is fine for a gas grill, using some of the same tips as for using a charcoal grill. 

'We've all thought about it, but don't do it. Don't grill inside your house or even in the garage,' says Shawn Hill of The Grilling Dad. 'The smoke will get inside and/or not have enough room to breathe.'

Hugh Metcalf
Deputy Editor

Hugh is the Deputy Editor of Livingetc.com. From working on a number of home, design and property publications and websites, including Grand Designs, ICON and specialist kitchen and bathroom magazines, Hugh has developed a passion for modern architecture, impactful interiors and green homes. Whether moonlighting as an interior decorator for private clients or renovating the Victorian terrace in Essex where he lives (DIYing as much of the work as possible), you’ll find that Hugh has an overarching fondness for luxurious minimalism, abstract shapes and all things beige. He’s just finished a kitchen and garden renovation, and has eyes set on a bathroom makeover for 2022.