Looking for some unique ideas to feed and entertain your holiday guests this Thanksgiving? Start a new tradition and prepare all your favorite dishes on the grill – yes that’s right, on the grill – including the Thanksgiving Turkey!
There are several benefits to grilling all your Thanksgiving favorites versus traditionally cooking in the oven. Check out our holiday grilling tips here and some great recipe ideas that are sure to not only be a hit, but also save you time for what’s most important – family and friends.
Benefits of Grilling vs. Oven / Stove-Top Holiday Cooking
Flavor and Texture
Many of your favorite Thanksgiving dishes will have better flavor and texture on the grill or smoker vs. in the oven, especially if you grill with smoked wood chips or pellets. An electric oven cooks through a wire heating element and doesn’t produce any flavor. Gas stoves heat by gas that is on fire, again producing no flavor. Not to mention, gas ovens tend to have that rotten egg odor to alert homeowners gas is flowing – an odor/flavor not meant for food. Cooking on the grill with hardwood smoke gives food its natural flavor. Smoke is made up of airborne liquid molecules, which also keeps food moist.
Forget dry turkey – give that bird the juiciness and smoke flavor it deserves by letting it smoke or slow roast for tender meat and a delicious crispy skin. Check out this recipe by Traeger for a tasty smoked turkey in a citrus brine, rubbed down with a traditional turkey rub, and smoked over hardwood for full flavor inside and out. OR, if you want to give your turkey a little more Texas spice, try this Traeger recipe and bring out your true BBQ colors.
Most grills these days come with some type of built-in digital temperature reading, so the internal temperature is displayed on the outside of the grill. If your grill doesn’t have a digital thermometer built in, you can add one, or use a remote probe thermometer. This will allow you more time to catch up with family and friends or watch the game, instead of constantly monitoring the turkey cooking in an oven.
When cooking turkey in an oven – electric or gas – the meat thermometer can only be stuck in the turkey and you have to keep opening the oven to check it, releasing prime heat. This results in the turkey taking longer to cook and/or causing overdone turkey.
Prime Cooking Space and Presentation
With the exception of smaller, portable grills, most grills like Traeger, Big Green Egg, or Saber have more cooking area than a traditional oven and stove-top. This allows you to pile vegetables, stuffing, cornbread, and other side dishes on the grill grate and above on the extra grill rack, making grilling a complete Thanksgiving meal simple.
When cooking in your kitchen oven, space can be limited. The turkey is usually so big that getting other Thanksgiving side dishes in, around, or underneath it, is often difficult. You have to rotate items you are cooking, which means all your side dishes won’t be ready at the same time because your turkey is “hogging” the oven. Yes, the turkey takes priority, but what about all those savory sides?
You can load the grill up with food, allowing you to cook side dishes for Thanksgiving throughout the entire turkey roasting process. Your sides will be ready to serve hot, all at the same time. Or, you can use your oven as a warming compartment for completed dishes while you’re rotating items on the grill.
Cooking in an oven also means, once your side dishes are done, you have to keep them on the counter or stovetop, where they can sink, mush, and get soggy, losing their original perfect presentation. Of course, if you have a custom kitchen with multiple ovens, your sides may stay the same serving temperature, but most people only have one oven. As always, whether cooking in the oven or grilling, it takes a little planning, preparation, and attention to time management.
Here are just a handful of side dishes you can cook on the grill, right alongside your Thanksgiving Turkey:
- Grilled Vegetables – Place vegetables on the grill grate or on an extra grill rack above the turkey. Like these grilled honey balsamic glazed carrots by Saber Grills – a perfect addition to your Thanksgiving dinner menu; or how about this easy, healthy Traeger Roasted Fall Vegetables recipe, featuring brussels sprouts, new potatoes, butternut squash, and cremini mushrooms. Grilled vegetables don’t take long to bake or roast, so you can easily rotate all your side dishes around on the grill. Even if it’s Grandma’s green bean casserole, it will still fit on the grill, right next to the turkey.
- Potatoes – Roast potatoes on the grill to add a punch of smoke flavor, then take them inside to mash, as a delicious option for mashed taters compared to nuking or boiling the flavor out of them. Or, try this alternative to baked potatoes – Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes by Saber.
- Cornbread – With a cast iron pan or baking dish, cornbread can be baked right next to the turkey, creating a true, wood-fired cowboy cornbread. Check out this recipe by Big Green Egg.
- Stuffing – Whip up a simple cornbread and herb stuffing and pile it inside the turkey for a moist, sticky, and flavorful dressing. You can also create a dressing side dish like this one by Traeger that uses a combination of stove-top cooking and grilling to create a savory stuffing that will have your guests fighting over the last morsel.
- Sweet Potatoes – Yes! Just as regular potatoes can be roasted on the grill, so can yams or sweet potatoes. Check out this “sweet” recipe for Candied Sweet Potatoes by Big Green Egg. NOTE: Use of a Big Green Egg grill is not required to make this recipe. This, along with any of the above recipes can be made on any outdoor grill.
Bring on the Desserts!!
Whether it’s Grandma’s homemade pumpkin pie or peach cobbler made from fresh, Colorado grown peaches, all your favorite Thanksgiving desserts can be made right on the grill. For a “baked from scratch, but on the grill” pumpkin pie, try this recipe by Traeger, made with cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, and ginger spice to make everything nice, baked over a buttery crust, and served with cool whip.
With some of the best peaches in state coming out of Palisade and the Western Slope, it’s no surprise peach cobbler is a favorite holiday tradition for many of us here in Colorado. Check out this recipe by Big Green Egg for a delicious peach cobbler. While this recipe is made with Georgia peaches, why not take advantage of the gems of our state and replace with fresh Palisade peaches – perfect timing too, just before they go out of season!
So, get fired up this Thanksgiving and start a new tradition by cooking outdoors. With holiday foods amped up with an infusion of hardwood smoke flavor – it just tastes better! Keep your kitchen open for gathering, warming foods, and hanging out, plus save time and effort letting your grill do all the work, while you spend more time entertaining.