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Thanksgiving: Turkey Dinner on the Grill from Debbie Moose

November 22nd, 2010 · No Comments

Turkey on the grill with pan gravy from Weber grills

This Thanksgiving, get the meal out of the kitchen and onto the grill. There’s never enough room in the kitchen for everything on a big cooking day like this. So, take it outside.

It’s easy to prepare many of the goodies from the main meal on the grill. And what isn’t on the grill you can do a day or two ahead – stuffing, soups, and casseroles.

Cooking turkey on the grill

First, of course, is the turkey. Even if you don’t own a smoker, a covered gas or charcoal grill can become one. Set it up for indirect cooking at least four hours before you want to eat, for a 12-pound turkey. Use soaked hickory chips for smoking and place a drip pan beneath where the bird will perch.

Cook the turkey, covered (make a tent of heavy foil if the lid won’t close over bird) for about three hours* (checking the heat on a gas grill or replenishing the coals for a charcoal grill as needed) or until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Let the cooked turkey rest for 15 or 20 minutes before carving.

*Using turkey breasts or a whole bird cut into parts will shorten the smoking time.

To keep the turkey moist, you can inject it with a commercial Cajun marinade used for deep-fried turkey or, as grill master Steven Raichlen advises, brine the bird – begin this a day ahead. He suggests in his book Barbecue USA (Workman, 2003) a Maple brine:

Dissolve 1-1/4 cups kosher salt in 1 quart hot water, then whisk in 1 cup maple syrup, 4 quarts of cold water and 1 sliced onion, 4 cloves of crushed garlic, 10 peppercorns, 5 bay leaves, 4 strips lemon zest and 2 whole cloves. Let the brine cool to just above room temperature, then submerge the 12-pound turkey in it and refrigerate overnight. Or you can put the turkey and brine in a sturdy, clean plastic bag (I suggest double bagging) and put it in a cooler amply filled with ice.

Give other Thanksgiving courses a twist on the grill, too.

Vegetables on the grill

Offer a grilled sweet potato salad. My recipe for Grilled Sweet Potato Salad with Chipotle Vinaigrette from Potato Salad: 65 Recipes from Classic to Cool appeared here in this column. The potatoes are cooked on the grill and the whole thing can be made hours or a day ahead.

Green beans: Vegetables on the grill are divine, even if they aren’t covered in cream of mushroom soup. Plunge whole fresh beans into boiling water for a minute, then drain and dry. Rub them with olive oil and cook them atop the grill in a shallow pan, shaking occasionally, until browned and smelling great. Serve simply with a little olive oil and salt, or sprinkle with soy sauce.

Dessert on the grill

Apple pie is the Thanksgiving tradition in my house. This recipe from my book Fan Fare: A Playbook of Great Recipes for Tailgating or Watching the Game at Home brings apple flavor to the grill without the need to make piecrust. You could dress these up by topping with vanilla ice cream.

Jo Ann’s Baked Apples Stuffed with Raisins

  • 4 Granny Smith apples
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup white or brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill.

Remove the cores of the apples so that the apples remain intact with a tube-like hole; do not go all the way through to the bottom of the apples.

Combine the raisins, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Stuff the mixture into the cored apples. pressing the filling down well. Wrap each apple separately in aluminum foil.

Place the apples in the embers of the charcoal fire and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the apples are soft. Serve warm.

Serves 4

From Fan Fare: A Playbook of Great Recipes for Tailgating or Watching the Game at Home by Debbie Moose (Harvard Common Press, 2007).


Debbie Moose, a food writer and cookbook author from Raleigh, NC, writes twice a month here about cooking outdoors. Check out her cookbooks: Potato Salad: 65 Recipes from Classic to Cool; Wings: More Than 50 High-Flying Recipes for America’s Favorite Snack; Fan Fare: A Playbook of Great Recipes for Tailgating or Watching the Game at Home; and Deviled Eggs: 50 Recipes from Simple to Sassy. Find out what else Debbie is cooking on her blog, Moose Munchies, at her web site, debbiemoose.com.

Tags: Holiday cooking · Moose on Fire: A Gal and a Grill

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