How to Cook Thanksgiving Dinner Without Turning on Your Oven

Fire up your grill, Instant Pot and Air Fryer for this holiday spread.

Air-Fryer Turkey Breast
Photo: Photo by Fred Hardy / Food Styling by Ali Ramee / Prop Styling by Christina Brockman

I’ll never forget the Thanksgiving when my oven died, in the early afternoon, just an hour into roasting the turkey. I had an apartment full of relatives, a stove already jammed with pans of mashed potatoes, stuffing, and carrots, and a toaster oven that was nowhere near big enough to save the day.

I got lucky; some neighbors who were traveling that week let me use my in-case-of-emergency keys to their place to solve my entertaining crisis, and the turkey roasting got back on schedule at their place. But even when you don’t have a sitcom-level crisis like that one, it’s good to look beyond the oven and stove when cooking dinner. Maybe you don’t have a lot of space, and need to triage what deserves that valuable oven real estate. Maybe you rented a house for the week, only to find that the oven is tiny and there’s no roasting pan. Maybe it’s warm where you live, and you’d like to hang out on the patio next to the grill (and away from your in-laws) while your turkey cooks to smoky perfection. Or maybe you just want to try something a little different and play around with the process of cooking your Thanksgiving meal. Here are some ideas on how to cook outside the box:

Grilled S'mores Pie
Grilled S'mores Pie.

Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Ali Ramee

On the Grill

You already know that grilling is for so much more than just burgers, so why not pick out a dish or two from your Thanksgiving menu to prepare on the grill? Start with a snack to get you through the afternoon of cooking, like this Crostini with Grilled Sweet Onions and Blue Cheese. Once the grill is hot and you are ready for a bigger cooking project, it’s time for turkey. For the main event, we are fans of Rodney Scott’s Smoked Turkey, which he spatchcocks by cutting through the breast before seasoning it and using a vinegar mopping sauce throughout the cooking process. But if you don’t want to commit to cooking the bird on the grill, vegetables are a quick, easy option. These Carrots with Preserved Lemons and Dates are a simple way to update a classic side, and these Grilled Hen-of-the-Woods Mushrooms with Sesame can stand in as a vegetarian main course options, but any vegetable takes well to the grill. The recipe for these Coal-Roasted Sweet Potatoes was created with the grill in mind; the sweet potatoes roast directly on the coals before they are topped with a sweet-spicy maple-chile butter. 

If you are grilling your turkey or other parts of the meal on a Green Egg or other kamado-style grill, don’t forget about grilling your dessert. Take advantage of how long the grill retains its heat and make this Grilled S’mores Pie our test kitchen developed just for the occasion. Make the pie before the meal and let it cool while you eat. When it’s time for dessert, top it with marshmallows and toast them just before serving (the marshmallows will harden if you try to toast them in advance). Or, put these cast-iron Skillet Brownies on the grill while you eat, so they are warm and ready in time for dessert.

Air-Fryer Turkey Breast
Photo by Fred Hardy / Food Styling by Ali Ramee / Prop Styling by Christina Brockman

In an Air Fryer

If you are looking for indoor options (or are short on time), preheat your Air Fryer and get ready to cook. Start this Air Fryer Basque Cheesecake the night before Thanksgiving or that morning at the latest, so it has time to chill. Then, move on to the rest of the meal. This Turkey Breast recipe was designed for the Air Fryer, and results in gorgeous, juicy meat and crispy browned skin. These Shredded Parmesan Brussels Sprouts can also be cooked in the Air Fryer in just minutes; preheat your Air Fryer to 400°F and cook them for five minutes, keeping an eye on the shredded sprouts so they don’t burn. This Cauliflower with Green Olives and Pine Nuts will take just a few minutes longer at the same temperature in the Air Fryer; turn the cauliflower florets after about 5 minutes so they brown evenly. 

Leftover Roasted Turkey and Chinese Egg Noodle Soup
Alison Miksch

In an Instant Pot

The Instant Pot isn’t the new cool kid appliance anymore, but its appeal is even stronger when you have a stove full of pots and pans and no room for anything else. Use it to make this Curried Carrot and Apple Soup; you can keep the soup warm in the Instant Pot while you prepare the rest of the meal. Or, use it to quickly cook green beans (on high for 1 minute) and then dress them with this recipe for Parsley-Lemon Pesto. Mashed potatoes are an easy Instant Pot dish; quarter your potatoes, place them in the inner pot and add enough water to cover and a teaspoon of salt. Cook them on high pressure for 12 minutes, then let the pressure release naturally, drain the water, and mash the potatoes in the pot with heavy cream, butter, and herbs. They will hold warm nicely, and you’ll have plenty of time to put together this Make-Ahead Smoky Madeira Gravy, which solves the problem of the last-minute rush to make the gravy nicely. And the day after Thanksgiving, use your Instant Pot to make this Leftover Roast Turkey and Chinese Egg Noodle Soup. Just like you, your stove will appreciate the break.

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