By contributing writer Mary Cressler
I’m going to let you in on a little secret – I hate my oven. It is the absolute worst feature in our house. It’s tiny, like barely even 18 inches wide, and doesn’t fit a standard cookie sheet. And as someone who enjoys cooking as much as I do, it used to pain me immensely living with this eyesore in my kitchen on a daily basis.
For the first Thanksgiving in our house, we ended up needing our next-door neighbor’s oven to cook our turkey, since it wouldn’t even fit in our oven. Yes, it’s that small. Shortly after that Thanksgiving, we purchased our first grill and then our first smoker. We quickly realized we could actually cook nearly everything for Thanksgiving dinner right on our grill. We didn’t even need that clunky old teeny tiny oven. We could cook Thanksgiving dinner outside. It was a revelation!
The more and more we started cooking on our grill, the less fixated I became on upgrading our kitchen oven. To this day (nearly ten years later), we still have that old oven, and while I still would like to replace it for aesthetics (as well as those horrible orange cabinets), it’s less of a priority because our passion for outdoor cooking has flourished.
Which brings me back to Thanksgiving. Whether you have a miniature oven like us, just want to space out your cooking, or want the bragging rights of telling your family you cooked your side dish on the grill (everyone will be in awe), I want to share one of my favorite Thanksgiving side dishes. And yes, the entire thing can be cooked on the grill!
Smoked Sausage and Cornbread Stuffing with Sage and Caramelized Onions
This stuffing (or dressing if you prefer since it’s not technically stuffed inside the bird) is jam packed with Thanksgiving flavors such as herbs, spices, sweet dried cranberries, and savory sausage.
We simply take ground bulk sausage and smoke it. If you don’t have a smoker, you can easily cook it on the grill. While the sausage is cooking, you caramelize your onions. Again, you can do that with the grill if you have a burner attachment. Or you can just whip it up on your stovetop. Mix that together with pre-cooked day old cornbread (yes, you can also cook that on the grill!), throw in some herbs like thyme and sage, a handful of sweet cranberries, and some liquid, and put it back in the smoker or grill until cooked and crispy.
I’ve found one of the key ingredients is using good quality sausage since it’s one of the primary flavors. You don’t need a whole lot, as a little goes a long way in this recipe. So make sure to purchase great quality sausage.
The savory sausage is excellent mixed with the sweet caramelized onions, cranberries, cornbread, and herbs. I promise – everyone will love this stuffing (unless they are vegetarian, and if that’s the case, feel free to adjust for dietary preferences). And your friends and family will be so impressed that you did it all on the grill!
- 1 pound bulk pork sausage
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups worth)
- 10 sage leaves, chopped (about ¼ cup loosely packed)
- 10 sprigs thyme, chopped (about 1 teaspoon)
- 6 cups day old cornbread, chopped into 1-inch cubes
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup + chicken stock (may need more or less, see notes)
- 1 egg
- Pre-heat your grill or smoker to 275 degrees.
- Break up the sausage into small bits and place on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Place on the grill or smoker for 90 minutes until browned and cooked through. (Alternatively, if you are cooking it on a standard grill, you can cook at 375 for 30-45 minutes, until browned and cooked through). Transfer to a large bowl.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet (either on the grill or stovetop) set to medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of butter and the chopped onions. Let them slowly soften and nearly caramelize (about 15 - 20 minutes), stirring often. Once they are done and lightly browned, add the sage and thyme and mix together (about 1 minute). Transfer to the large bowl with the sausage.
- Add the cornbread pieces and cranberries to the bowl. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, chicken stock, and one egg. Pour that mixture over the cornbread and stuffing mix. Stir together. Add more chicken stock if the mix looks dry.
- Transfer to a buttered baking dish (I like a 10-inch round cast iron skillet for this portion) and place on the grill preheated to 375 degrees. Cover grill and cook approximately 30 minutes or until hot and crispy on top.
Wine for Thanksgiving Dinner?
As far as wine for my favorite meal of the year, well, we’ve made that easy for you with our Thanksgiving Wine Guide!
There is so much going on with your traditional Thanksgiving dinner and that can complicate your wine selection, and you’re typically not eating each dish in individual courses. So it is not necessary, or advisable, to bother finding a wine for each individual dish. It’s a smorgasbord of flavors, so let’s focus on finding a few versatile wines that pair well with this potpourri of flavors.
You can also see what Amy, the Wine4.Me CEO, has to say about pairing wines with Thanksgiving dinner here.
Now I’m curious to know, have you tried cooking Thanksgiving dinner on your outdoor grill? What’s your favorite dish to cook on it?
Mary Cressler is a Certified Sommelier, a Wine Location Specialist, and the proprietor of Vindulge: Wine Education & Consulting. She conducts wine classes and events and offers consulting for individuals, restaurants, and event planners. She writes about wine, food, and travel on her blog Vindulge. Mary resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband, twin boys, and two Chihuahuas.