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How to Grill Your Thanksgiving Dinner Like A Pro

Kids sitting a the dinner table with hands pressed together, staring from the side of their eyes at a fulled grilled large turkey.

Ah, Thanksgiving. A turkey, slow roasted in the oven for hours. Your grandmother's recipe for cornbread dressing. The pumpkin and apple pies, lovingly baked with just the right amount of cinnamon and nutmeg. Don't forget the whipped cream!

And while the food is important, Thanksgiving is more than a meal. It's a feeling. It's a quality time with family and friends. It's a moment to unplug, engage, and truly be present. It's a day to simply be thankful.


A Brief History

We've all heard it. The Pilgrims came over from England on a big boat, landed off the coast of what is now Massachusetts, built a settlement, then celebrated their success in their new homeland with their Native American friends. Well, yes, but not exactly. There's more to it than that.

It all started in 1620 when a group of religious separatists, called Pilgrims, decided to leave England so they could practice their faith more freely. They set sail on the Mayflower and faced a tough voyage across the rough waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Their trip lasted 66 days and came to an end when they hit what is now Cape Cod. They were aiming for the Hudson River but ended up farther north. A month later, they crossed the Massachusetts Bay and began to build their new settlement, called Plymouth, which they named after the town they left in England.

The first winter was rough. Really rough. Many of the Pilgrims actually lived on their ship, where they battled the elements and disease. Only half of the original passengers made it through that first winter. When spring hit, they started to focus on building their settlement again, but were surprised when they were greeted by some members of a local Native American tribe. The tribe members taught the Pilgrims to grow corn and catch fish. They also set up an alliance between the two groups. After the first successful corn harvest, the Pilgrims decided to hold a celebratory feast – a gathering which is now known as the first Thanksgiving. Fast forward a few hundred years, and in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln decided Thanksgiving should be celebrated every year in November.


Where We Are Now

Clearly Thanksgiving has come a long way from corn and traditional Native American dishes, but the core values are still the same. Each year, we celebrate our blessings, our success, and our health. We spend time with family and friends.

With that in mind, who is going to be at your Thanksgiving gathering this year? Will it be a small group? A big party with every relative under the sun? Or are you going to host a Friendsgiving celebration? No matter who or how many people are coming, you'll need to figure out a guest list and determine who's bringing what. You don't want to end up missing something or accidentally have duplicate dishes!


Get Out the Grill!

Maybe the idea of grilling a turkey intimidates you, especially if you're a first-time host. Cooking a turkey isn't something you do very often, so it can be a hard skill to hone. And when it comes to the big day, you get one shot at it – no room for error. Many people are terrified that they'll cook the turkey for too long and it'll dry out. Have no fear! You won't have to settle for a dry turkey this Thanksgiving. Just follow these pro tips. If you're using a frozen turkey, don't forget to give it plenty of time to thaw! In some cases, that could be several days in the fridge, depending on the size of the bird.

While we're at it, let's simplify your Thanksgiving menu with some new grilled twists on old favorites. And here's some good news – you won't even have to turn on the oven!

Grilled Cheesy Portobello We'll start with the appetizers. Forget the veggie tray with dip. Instead, why not grill up some Grilled Cheesy Portobello bites? These mushrooms are filling and flavorful – perfect if the turkey needs some more time on the grill. The earthy combination of grilled portobellos, mozzarella cheese, and olive oil will have your guests coming back for more!

Turkey and Confetti Bruschetta If you come from an Italian family, you know that bruschetta is a big crowd pleaser at family gatherings. This version, Turkey and Confetti Bruschetta gives guests a little taste of the main course. You'll get a smokey, savory flavor from grilling the turkey, plus a fresh pop of color from peppers, onions, and basil.

Peach Glazed Roasted Turkey Once the appetizers run out, it's time to get everyone seated at the table! By now, your guests are ready for the main event – the turkey! And with this Peach Glazed Roasted Turkey, there's no need to turn on the oven. The whole thing roasts on the grill, and you'll get a smokey, sweet flavor from the combination of peaches and bourbon.

Grilled Herb Biscuits Let's talk sides. If your family was like many other families growing up, you probably had biscuits from a can on Thanksgiving. This recipe for Grilled Herb Biscuits relies on that same convenience, but packs a flavorful punch. These biscuits are cooked to perfection in a cast iron skillet on the grill and brushed with a mixture of garlic, thyme, and rosemary. They'll be golden brown and ready to serve in no time!

Cheesy Beer Potatoes Instead of regular mashed potatoes, consider serving these Cheesy Beer Potatoes. This ooey gooey dish is filled with cheese, bell peppers, onions, and yes – beer! You may want to consider setting out two serving spoons with this one. It's going to go fast!

Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars And now, to the encore: dessert. Why have the usual pumpkin pie when you could have Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars! This recipe relies on a crust made of crushed ginger snap cookies for a bit of a bite and toasted pecans for some crunch. You can even use the same bourbon in this recipe that's used for the turkey!

BBQ Apple Pie You can also try switching it up this year with a BBQ Apple Pie! It starts out as a regular apple pie, but instead of making it in the oven, it's baked on the grill, adding a real depth to its flavor. Once cooled, pair it with some sharp cheddar cheese or vanilla ice cream – your choice.


Tools of the Trade

No matter what you're making, there are some tools of the trade that you'll need to prepare your Thanksgiving meal on the grill. First, invest in two good pairs of gloves. You'll use latex gloves for cleaning and carving the turkey, and heat-resistant grilling gloves to protect your hands while you're running the grill. Be sure to clean the grates with a grill brush before you begin and to clean up once you're done. A meat thermometer will ensure your turkey is cooked to the perfect temperature. Don't forget to stock up on baking pans and aluminum foil, too! You will need a drip pan to go under the turkey while it is cooking. Never cover the entire grilling surface with aluminum foil.


What if There's Not Enough Space?

Now that you're prepared to cook an award-winning meal for your friends and family, you may end up with a few extra guests. Worried about where they're all going to sit? If the weather allows, consider moving some, or all, of your celebration outside. You'll have more room, and you can keep the crumbs and spills out of your kitchen. Plus, you're going to be outside cooking on the grill anyway! If you're worried about the temperature dropping as the sun goes down, consider adding a propane-powered patio heater or fire table to keep your guests warm.


What Do I Do with the Leftovers?

Even the most successful Thanksgiving gatherings are likely to end with a lot of leftovers. If your guests don't take any home, you may get tired of eating the same thing for a few days in a row.

Rather than letting the leftovers go to waste, turn them into something new! Instead of the usual turkey sandwich with mayonnaise, try the National Turkey Federation's Leftover Turkey Wrap. It's a great reason to break out your griddle topper to get the perfect level of crispiness on the tortillas. Of course, you can always freeze those leftovers, too.


We want to see what you're grilling up for Thanksgiving! Be sure to share photos of your celebration on social media and tag Blue Rhino. No matter how you're celebrating, we hope you have a happy, safe, and memorable holiday!

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