Think outside the box with a grilling game plan

Thanksgiving is traditionally the time of year when families and friends come together to celebrate our blessings. With the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting how we gather this year, the holiday will likely look different for most households.

If that trip to grandma’s house is off or you’ll be downsizing the celebration at your place, why not embrace the opportunity for change? This could be the perfect time to get a new game plan for your turkey day feast.

The natural gas grill on your patio could be your ticket

to a different and fun Thanksgiving.

This year, think “outside” the box — as in skipping the oven (or using it sparingly) and heading outside to the natural gas grill on your patio. That grill, which has probably been sitting neglected on your patio since the leaves started falling, could be your ticket to a different and fun Thanksgiving. It might even be the beginning of a new family tradition. Plus, it will guard against guests congregating in the kitchen while social distancing is still the norm.

It’s versatility plus exceptional temperature control — not to mention an unlimited supply of fuel — makes a natural gas grill ideal for preparing your favorite Thanksgiving foods. You can cook directly and indirectly at the same time. Cooking directly over an open flame produces beautifully charred foods. Over indirect heat, where the fire is off to the side, your turkey and side dishes can cook through without burning.

Cooking with indirect heat is not difficult on a gas grill with multiple burners, says Christie Vanover, editor and publisher of Here’s how she does it:

  • Turn one burner to high or medium-high and leave the other burners off. Close the grill lid and allow the box to heat. After a few minutes, check the temperature. The inside of the grill should be about 350-400 degrees.
  • Place your dish on the side of the grill where the burners are turned off. Close the lid to allow it to cook.
  • Remember: Since one side of the grill is hotter, dishes should be rotated halfway through for an even cook.

What’s on the menu?

It’s possible to cook your entire Thanksgiving meal on a natural gas grill. To help you plan your menu, the Walton Gas team scoured the internet for ideas and recipes. The following dishes all include directions for preparation on the grill. If your family’s favorite side dishes aren’t included on our list, know that many can be cooked (at about 350 degrees) using the indirect heat method described above.

  • Turkey – Grill manufacturers Weber and Char-Broil offer excellent how-to directions for grilling a juicy turkey. also offers an excellent grilled take on the traditional main entrée. A 12-pound turkey will cook on the grill in about 3.5 hours. It’s fully cooked when an instant-read thermometer hits 165 degrees in the thickest part of the breast.
  • Grilled Cranberry, Squash and Rosemary Sausage Stuffing
    • What’s turkey without a delectable stuffing? Grillocracy offers their version of the turkey day staple.
  • Thanksgiving Gravy 
    • Just because you’re grilling doesn’t mean you can’t have great pan gravy to serve alongside the bird. “The smoke from the cooking process provides a depth of flavor that you’d never get from oven roasting,” declare the grilling pros at Grillocracy.
  • Grilled Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
    • No self-respecting Georgia cook serves a Thanksgiving meal without sweet potatoes. This Food Network recipe takes the sweet root vegetable to a new, yummier level.
  • Green Bean Casserole
    • It has the same ingredients you always use, right down to the cream of mushroom soup. The only difference is that it’s cooked with indirect heat right on your grill.
  • Grilled Pumpkin Pie
    • Pie on the grill? Yep! Chefs at the Food Network say this not only works but tastes great.

Safety first

Don’t let unsafe food handling ruin your Thanksgiving. Remember these tips from chef Paul Hope published by Consumer Reports (

  • Avoid cross-contamination. Take extra care when working with raw poultry. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw turkey and vegetables, or sanitize them in between — and wash your hands, too. Never transfer a cooked turkey back to the platter you used to prep the bird. Scrub any utensils that touched the raw poultry before using them to remove the cooked turkey from the grill.
  • Separate the sides. Don’t let the unfinished turkey and side dishes touch while they’re cooking on the grill. Bacteria from the raw poultry can contaminate other foods.

This year has been one of unprecedented change and creativity. Don’t be afraid to apply both to make your 2020 Thanksgiving meal memorable. Step outside to the grill with some new recipes and create a new holiday tradition.

If it’s a nice day, eat your grilled feast outside. Everyone can benefit from the fresh air, and you’ll like the easier cleanup. Plus, you’ll be enjoying your meal just like the Pilgrims and Native Americans did it in 1621.