How To Have A Thanksgiving BBQ

If ever there was a perfect time to have friends and family together, it’s Thanksgiving.

At that time of year, we are not just giving thanks for the amazing food that we have available in the USA.

This is also a perfect time to celebrate the love, family and friendships we are lucky to have in our life.

I love grilling on Thanksgiving.

The extra effort required, rather than just using your kitchen range, shows that you truly appreciate both food and family.

This article will help you put together the perfect Thanksgiving event that will be remembered for years to come. Importantly, it contains a tasty grilling recipe for that essential centerpiece of this holiday, the turkey.

Why Have a Thanksgiving BBQ?

Family Thanksgiving

In our day-to-day busy schedules, time pressures often make it difficult to actually appreciate our food.

We buy processed meals, microwave dishes and pre-packed food. These are sometimes just cooked without thought, and then eaten in front of the TV.

Taking time to use the grill does involve more effort.

However, this provides personal satisfaction and the admiration of family and friends. They see that time and thought have gone into the Thanksgiving meal.

In addition, I always feel that grilling on Thanksgiving is a much more traditional way of preparing food.

On that first Thanksgiving in 1621, the Pilgrims and Native Americans had no access to microwaves, ovens or pre-prepared foods. Grilling is probably the closest thing to an actual recreation of that historic day.

However, this is not to say that modern methods don’t have a place.

If you have a pellet grill, then by all means use it.

Furthermore, with the amount of food that needs to be cooked, using your kitchen stovetop and oven as a backup may be essential.

But using the grill for the key elements of your holiday dinner will provide an authentic feel. And it will be a delicious change of pace. It may also make you appreciate that very first Thanksgiving more.

Thanksgiving BBQ Considerations

Unless you live in an extremely temperate area, there’s a good chance that the fourth Thursday in November will be cold.

This raises some challenges for the grill chef, but none that are impossible to overcome.

Don’t let it deter you from your Thanksgiving grill.

The biggest challenge is that you will be cooking outside.

If you have a garage, it is possible to open the doors as wide as possible and cook just inside the entrance.

However, if you choose this method, always ensure there is adequate ventilation.

Furthermore, garages are notorious for flammable materials - rags, oil and paint.

Always keep the grill away from these items, or better, remove them from the garage entirely.

Whether in the doorway of your garage or outside, here are some tips for late-November grilling.


Grill Lighting

Make sure you have enough light.

 It can become dark very quickly in winter. Good outside lighting and a flashlight will help make the whole process easier.

Some modern grills are even equipped with lights. Complete as much preparation as you can inside, before going out to grill. 


If it is close to freezing outside, ensure that you salt the grilling area and pathway to the house.

Slippages near the grill are very dangerous. In addition, you don’t want that perfectly cooked turkey ending up on the ground.


Warm clothing is essential, despite standing in front of a hot grill. Take time to ensure that there are no loose items, such as scarves, that could catch fire.

Also remember that your winter gloves are not grilling gloves. Whenever cooking, use oven gloves that are particularly suited for this.

Grill Lid

should you use a grill lid

Ideally, for winter cooking your grill should have a lid.

Try to raise it as little as possible to prevent the loss of heat. Use a watch to monitor food cooking time, or choose a grill with a timer attached.


Thanksgiving cooking can be a long process, especially with a turkey.

It would be a disaster if you ran out of charcoal or gas during the grilling. Ensure that you have sufficient fuel in reserve to prevent disappointment.

Thanksgiving BBQ Recipes

The perfect Thanksgiving meal is all about top quality, perfectly cooked food. ​

Below are a few recipes to make it a complete success, starting with the essential grilled turkey.

Spatchcocked Orange and Herb Thanksgiving Turkey

Turkey On Grill

This recipe does call for a little bit of time, quite a few ingredients, and preparation in advance.

You will need to start the day before, but the results will be worth it.

Servings: 8
Grill time: 3 hours
Preparation/Resting time: 14 hours


  • 13-lb turkey
  • 2 gallons of fresh water
  • 1 cup of sea salt
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    ¾ cup demerara sugar
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    ½ cup whiskey
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    3 tbsp olive oil

Herb Butter

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 tbsp sage (chopped)
  • 1 tbsp rosemary (chopped)
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    1 tbsp oregano (chopped)
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    2 cloves garlic (crushed)

Salt Rub

  • ¼ cup sea salt
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • ½ tsp rosemary
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    1 tsp orange zest
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    1 clove of garlic (crushed)


  • Put the turkey on a strong chopping board, with the breast side down. All this initial preparation is best done in the kitchen
  • With kitchen shears specifically designed for poultry, cut lengthways along the either side of the turkey backbone
  • Turn the turkey over. Open up both sides and push hard so that the turkey is flattened
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    Bring the two gallons of water to the boil. Add the sea salt, demerara sugar and whiskey. Stir
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    Leave to simmer for 15 minutes, ensuring the sea salt and demerara sugar have dissolved
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    Turn off the heat
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    Find a large cooking pot and lay the turkey inside it, making sure to keep the breast down
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    Take the cooled water mixture, tip into the cooking pot with the turkey, ensuring that the bird is completely covered. It may be necessary to weight the turkey down to keep it covered
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    While the turkey is in the refrigerator, you can prepare the salt rub and herb butter. This is most easily done by placing all the ingredients in a blender, and mix until completely combined. Obviously, do the rub and butter separately
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    Once the turkey has had sufficient time in the water mixture, remove and thoroughly rinse. You can now dispose of the water
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    Place the turkey on a flat metal pan and place it back in the refrigerator to dry for two hours
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    Prepare the grill. If you have a temperature control it should be at 340 degrees Fahrenheit
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    If you want a real smoky taste, add some smoking bricks at this point
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    Push the herb butter under the turkey skin, ensuring even distribution throughout
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    Coat the outside of the turkey skin with the olive oil. Then work the salt rub into the oil
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    Half-fill an aluminum pan (disposable) with water or turkey stock. Place it underneath the main cooking grate for indirect cooking
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    Put the grate back onto your grill. Lay the turkey, breast side-up, on the grate above the pan
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    If you have a cooking thermometer, it is wise to use it during cooking. Always check the meatiest part of the breast (but do not touch the bones)
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    Let the turkey grill for 15-17 minutes per pound of meat. After this time, the cooking thermometer should show a reading of 167 degrees Fahrenheit
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    Carefully take the turkey off the grill. Cover with aluminum foil and rest for 25-30 minutes
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    Present to your family and friends on a large platter

This recipe is bound to impress. Everyone will have their smartphones out, taking photos of this tasty centerpiece.

Sausage, Cranberry and Pumpkin Stuffing

Sausage, Cranberry And Pumpkin Stuffing

This is a flavorsome accompaniment to your spatchcocked turkey. It also looks great and is packed with seasonal pumpkin.

Servings: 8
Grill time: 70 minutes total
Preparation/Resting time: 20-25 minutes


  • 2 lb pork sausage
  • 1 medium size pumpkin
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
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    1 sourdough loaf
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    3 tbsp butter
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    1 cup cranberries
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    ½ cup broken pecans
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    1 tsp thyme
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    1 tbsp parsley (chopped)
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    2 tbsp rosemary (chopped)
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    2 cups turkey or vegetable stock


  • Prepare your grill at a medium heat
  • Cut the pumpkin into quarters. Remove fibrous material and all the seeds
  • Cut out the flesh into bite-sized pieces
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    Coat the pumpkin with the olive oil. Put the pumpkin in a basket designed for vegetable grilling, and cook over direct heat for 18-20 minutes. When it is soft, remove it from the grill. Transfer the pumpkin into a mixing bowl
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    Cut the bread into one-inch cubes
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    Melt the butter and use it to cover the bread
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    Remove skins from the pork sausages
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    Place the bread and sausages into the grilling basket. Put on the grill and leave until the bread and sausages have turned a light brown color, rotating occasionally. This should take 10-12 minutes
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    Empty the bread and sausages into the mixing bowl with the pumpkin. Add the cranberries, thyme, pecans, parsley and rosemary
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    Hand mix well, allowing the sausages to break down and become evenly distributed in the mixture
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    When completed, place the mixture in a disposable aluminum pan. Add the turkey or vegetable stock
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    Place the pan on the grill, and either close the grill lid or cover the aluminum pan
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    Grill for 40-45 minutes

This dish can be served on the table in its own serving bowl. Personally, I like to spread it evenly around the turkey platter.

Spicy Potatoes in a Honey Glaze

Spicy Potatoes In Honey Glaze

This is a surprisingly easy and tasty dish as an alternative to the traditional roasted or mashed potatoes.

Servings: 8
Grill time: 20 -25minutes
Preparation/Resting time: 20 minutes


  • 1 pan of water
  • 2 lb potatoes
  • ½ cup of honey
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    ½ cup butter
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    2 tbsp cayenne pepper
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    3 tbsp olive oil


As previously mentioned, I suggest that preparation is done in the kitchen, with only the final grilling taking place outside.

  • Prepare the grill to a high heat
  • Peel the potatoes, and cut into half inch slices
  • Heat up the water in a large pan until boiling
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    Place the potatoes in the water and simmer for 10 minutes
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    Remove potatoes from the water and allow to cool for about 5 minutes
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    While they are cooling, soften the butter with a wooden mixing spoon. Gently begin to blend in all the honey and cayenne pepper
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    Coat the potatoes in the honey mixture
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    Put the potatoes onto the grill and cook for five minutes on either side
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    Recoat the potatoes with more honey mixture, and cook for a further five minutes on either side
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    Test the softness of potatoes with a fork
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    The potatoes should bubble and begin to darken
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    Remove from the heat and place into a serving bowl

A little word of caution. Honey can get extremely hot so there are two things to bear in mind. Always keep an eye on the potatoes while cooking, as it is quite easy to burn them.

Secondly, always allow at least five minutes for the potatoes to cool before serving. This will prevent any burnt lips.

Grilled Brussels Sprouts

Delish Grilled Brussels Sprouts

My favorite Thanksgiving vegetable is given even more flavor with this quick and easy grilling recipe.

Servings: 8
Grill time: 15 minutes
Preparation/Resting time: 5 minutes


  • 1½ lb Brussels sprouts cut into halves
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
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    2 tbsp honey
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    2 tbsp French mustard
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    2 tsp salt


  • Prepare the grill to a high temperature
  • Mix sprouts, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, French mustard and salt in a large bowl
  • Carefully slide Brussels sprouts onto skewers
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    Place on the grill and cook for around 10 minutes, or until the sprouts have softened a little
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    Remove sprouts from the skewers and add to a serving bowl

If you wish you can cover these sprouts with a little grated cheese of your choice.


This will not be a traditional cookout, as the temperature generally will not allow you and your family to be outside.

However, the flavors that can be created by the grill, and the impact of your turkey centerpiece, will make it all worthwhile.

Just remember to take the safety steps mentioned earlier for winter cooking, and your Thanksgiving grill will be perfect.




About the Author William Clay

William Clay is a BBQ enthusiast dedicated to sharing his grilling (and overall cooking) expertise with FireFoodChef's readers.