Three Perfect Last-Minute Thanksgiving Recipes

happy thanksgiving

Some folks spend all year prepping for a flawless Thanksgiving. Others prefer a more spontaneous approach, choosing to crash a family or friend’s gathering at the eleventh hour. For those last-minute attendees, we’ve got three quick recipes that are instant crowd pleasers and easy to take on the go.

We know what you’re thinking – quick and grilled? Is that possible? After all, some BBQ recipes can require smoking or roasting for nearly half the day. We’ve crafted delicious and speedy BBQ versions of classic Thanksgiving dishes to save the holiday.

Grilled Sweet Potatoes
Makes 4 Servings

  • 3 sweet potatoes, unpeeled
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest, finely grated
  • Canola oil, for brushing
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped


  • Partially cook the potatoes by boiling until fork-tender. Let cool and slice each potato lengthwise into eighths.
  • Prepare grill with Cowboy Hardwood Lump Charcoal. Ensure grates are clean and oiled.
  • To make lime-salt garnish, mix 1 tablespoon salt and lime zest in small bowl and set aside.
  • Brush potato wedges with oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Over medium heat, grill potatoes until golden brown on all sides (including skin), and cooked through (about 1 1/2 minutes per side).
  • Transfer to platter and season with lime-salt mixture and cilantro.

Honey-Glazed Grilled Carrots
Makes 5 Servings

  • 5 medium carrots, halved lengthwise (pick ones that aren’t too crooked)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoon dark brown sugar


  • Prepare grill using Cowboy Hardwood Lump Charcoal. Ensure grills are clean and lightly-oiled.
  • Mix honey, olive oil and brown sugar in a bowl and heat in microwave for about 20-30 seconds.
  • Stir to fully combine and brush carrots with mixture.
  • Place carrots on the grill when it reaches around 400 degrees.
  • After about 4-5 minutes, flip the carrots over and brush with honey-sugar mixture and grill for another few minutes.
  • Total cooking time should be around 7 minutes. Remove from grill and serve!

Grilled Broccoli Rabe with Cider Vinaigrette
Makes 6-8 Servings

  • About 2 pounds broccoli rabe
  • 3/4 cup fresh apple cider
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons shallot, finely chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Dressing Directions:

  • Cook the apple cider in a small saucepan over medium heat until it has reduced to about 2 tablespoons (about 5 minutes).
  • Cool to room temperature.
  • Whisk together reduced cider, vinegar, shallot to taste, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking to form emulsified vinaigrette.

Grilling Directions:

  • Prepare grill using Cowboy Hardwood Lump Charcoal. Ensure grills are clean and lightly-oiled
  • Rinse the broccoli rabe, dry it thoroughly and place in a large mixing bowl.
  • Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil until evenly coated.
  • Place broccoli rabe on the grill and cook uncovered for 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly charred.
  • Using tongs turn it over and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Remove from grill and transfer to platter.
  • Drizzle vinaigrette over broccoli rabe, and toss gently to coat.
  • This dish can be served warm or at room temperature
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    Smoked Cheese – Smoking Your Own Made Easy

    Various types of cheese with bread and fruit

    If you’ve ever tried smoked cheese, you know what a wonderful depth of flavor the smokiness can provide. While it may seem overwhelming to consider smoking your own cheese, it’s actually quite simple. Just be sure to keep the temperature of the grill very low so the cheese doesn’t melt during the process.

    Now that we’ve revealed the secrets…let’s get to smoking some cheese!

    You’ll Need:

    • Cowboy Hardwood Lump Charcoal
    • Cowboy Smoking Wood Chips (wood species of your choice)
    • Cheese of your choice, cut into blocks about 4″ x 4″ x 1″ (we’d suggest a hard cheese like Gouda, Cheddar, Colby or Muenster for your first time smoking)
    • Wire baking rack
    • Roasting pan



    The night before, fill the roasting pan with water and place it in the freezer overnight. This will be used during the smoking process to keep the cheese cool.

    1. Start by soaking your bag of wood chips in water for about 30 minutes. Then drain them on a paper towel.
    2. While your chips are soaking, place 3-4 pieces of Cowboy Hardwood Lump Charcoal on one side of your grill and light it (just enough to create smoke without raising the temperature of the smoker or grill too drastically).
    3. Once charcoal pieces have begun to ash over, add a handful or 2 of the soaked wood chips to the top of the ready charcoal (ensure the bottom grill vents are closed and the top vents are open).
    4. Replace the cooking grate on the grill and put the pan of frozen water on the side opposite the hot coals.
    5. Place the wire rack on top of the frozen water and place the cheese on the rack.
    6. Once the cheese is in place, put the lid on the grill. Position the lid vents directly above the cheese so that the smoke will flow around the cheese. You may have to add more charcoal or wood chips during the smoking process.
    7. 1-2 pounds of cheese should smoke for approximately 2 hours depending on the level of smokiness you’re trying to achieve. The finished cheese will have a slightly darker color. If your cheese hasn’t darkened, keep smoking.
    8. Resist the urge to eat the cheese as soon as it comes off the grill. The flavor will be very harsh. Instead, vacuum seal it (or put it in an zip top plastic bag) and let the cheese rest in the refrigerator for at least a week or two which will allow the smokiness to mellow.


    If the wood chips stop producing smoke, you either need to…

    a) open one of the bottom grill air vents to increase the airflow to the charcoal

    b) add more charcoal to the fire

    c) add more wood chips to the hot


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      Support the Great American Smokeout & Smoke Your Meats!

      Sliced Brisket_849x565_72

      Held annually on the third Thursday of November, the Great American Smokeout, hosted by the American Cancer Society, challenges smokers to stop smoking cigarettes for 24 hours. The intention is to inspire individuals to quit long-term and imagine a routine free of cigarettes. Here at Cowboy, we encourage smoking, but not the kind that involves tobacco.

      Smoking is one of the most traditional ways to cook food, dating back to the time of cavemen. After much trial and error, it was discovered that curing meat with salt and smoking it yielded a product that stayed edible longer and also tasted better. Over time, we’ve incorporated this technique into the BBQ process to produce meats with complex flavors that retain their juices.

      Cowboy’s Smoke-it-Out Brisket
      Makes 12 Servings

      • One, 10-to 12 pound whole beef brisket, fat trimmed to 1/4-inch thickness
      • 1/3 cup kosher salt
      • 1/3 cup freshly ground black pepper
      • 1 head fresh garlic, peeled and crushed


      • Soak Cowboy 100% Natural Wood Chips, flavor of your choosing in water for at least 30 minutes.
      • Rub brisket with salt, pepper and garlic
      • Fill one side of grill with Cowboy Hardwood Lump Charcoal and light. Ensure grates are clean and lightly oiled.
      • Fill 2/3 of an aluminum pan with water and place opposite coals. We’ll be smoking the meat above the pan to maintain a low-and-slow cooking temperature.
      • Once grill is hot and coals have ashed over, drain wood chips and add them to the hot coals.
      • Once chips have pre-heated for about 5 minutes, place the meat on the grill grate above the aluminum pan.
      • Maintain temperature by adding more charcoal and wood chips as necessary about every 20 minutes. Rotating the brisket every 3 hours and flipping as needed if one side begins to brown faster than the other.
      • Meat is done when the internal temperature reaches 190 in the thickest part (it will take approximately 10 to12 hours total).
      • Transfer brisket to carving board and let rest at least 30 minutes. Slice brisket against the grain 1/4 inch thick.

      Cowboy’s Smoked Salmon
      Makes 6 Servings

      • About 2 pounds of salmon filet
      • 1/2 cup brown sugar
      • 1/4 cup coarse sea salt
      • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
      • 1/2 to 1 cup wood chips (we recommend Hickory)


      • Remove any bones from salmon
      • Combine brown sugar, salt and pepper in a bowl.
      • Put 1/3 of mixture on the bottom of a baking pan, set the salmon on top and cover it with the remaining sugar-salt mixture.
      • Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
      • Soak wood chips in a bowl of water for about 30 minutes. When done, drain the chips and put them in a small aluminum pan.
      • Fill one side of the grill with Cowboy Hardwood Lump Charcoal and light. Ensure grates are clean and lightly oiled.
      • Once grill is hot and coals have ashed over, replace the grilling grate and place pan of wood chip on the hotter side of the grill, directly over the coals.
      • Set the salmon, skin-down on the other, cooler side of the grill and replace the grill lid.
      • Cook salmon covered for about 20 minutes until internal temp reaches about 145.
      • You can serve smoked salmon a number of ways…warm, room temperature or chilled!
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        Make Thanksgiving Less Stressful This Year

        roasted duck

        It’s almost turkey time! If planning the menu for a house full of guests is stressing you out, we’ve got some ideas on how to make the day go smoothly, and we’re focusing on the main dish…the bird.

        Baking a large turkey can tie up the oven for hours, leaving you struggling balance the cooking of all the other side dishes. (Or, if you’re like us, you end up borrowing your neighbor’s oven. Yes, it’s happened once or twice…). Fortunately, we have a couple of solutions for this age-old holiday headache.

        For those whose Thanksgiving Day menus wouldn’t be complete without the turkey, we’d suggest cooking your bird on the grill this year which would free up the oven for side dishes and casseroles. We’ve got a great Bourbon-Maple Smoked Turkey recipe that would be perfect for your Thanksgiving feast. Find it here.

        If turkey isn’t a mandatory menu item, trying an alternative poultry might be a great option to consider this year. Chicken, duck and quail are all popular types of poultry with flavor and textures similar to turkey. These birds vary in size, allowing you to choose your animal based on how long they’ll take to cook.

        Your poultry will be crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and infused with a smoky zest of flavor. Consider adding Cowboy BBQ Wood Chips to give your poultry extra flavor. We’d suggest using Hickory, Apple or Mesquite wood for this duck recipe.

        Even though this recipe specifies duck, it could be applied to almost any poultry. Cooking times would vary depending on weight and type of bird selected. Be sure to check specific safe temperatures for the piece of poultry you’re grilling. A guide to safe minimum cooking temperatures can be found here. Tip: to speedup cooking, consider butterflying.

        Grilled Whole Duck

        Serving size: 3-4 servings


        • 1 whole duck, 5-6 lbs
        • 2 teaspoons salt
        • 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
        • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
        • 1 orange, quartered
        • 1 bag Cowboy Wood Chips, your choice (we’d recommend Hickory, Apple or Mesquite)
        • 1 head of garlic, skin removed and top trimmed


        • First, soak wood chips in a large bowl of water for about 30 minutes.
        • On one side of the grill, place a foil pan filled with about 1″ of water. (The pan will sit below the duck and catch the drippings while cooking to prevent excess smoke.)
        • Fill the other side of the grill with Cowboy Hardwood Lump Charcoal and light it.
        • Prick the skin of the duck (avoid puncturing meat below the layer of skin) all over with a large fork.
        • Brush duck with oil and season inside and out with salt and pepper.
        • Stuff cavity of duck with orange quarters and whole garlic head, folding neck skin down to cover cavity.
        • Remove wood chips from water and place on a paper towel to remove excess water.
        • Once the charcoal has ashed over, add about 1 cup of wood chips to the fire and carefully place grate back on the grill.
        • With the lid closed, let the wood chips heat up for about 5-7 minutes.
        • Remove the lid and place duck on grill, breast side up, above drip pan.
        • Replace lid and add additional wood chips and charcoal every 30 minutes as needed throughout cooking process.
        • About halfway through the cooking process, flip duck, breast side down.
        • Cooking time will take approximately 11 to 13 minutes per pound. Internal temperature should be 175 degrees at the thickest part of the leg and thigh joint.
        • Let stand for 15 minutes before removing orange and garlic. Carve and enjoy!
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          Jason King’s Chicken Wings

          The king of barbecue is back at it! Jason King is making to-die-for chicken wings on his latest episode of The Backyard BBQ Show using some of his favorite Cowboy Charcoal products. For this recipe, he uses our all natural Apple and Hickory Wood Chips to ensure these small wings are packed with big flavor.

          This episode includes the whole nine yards – from perfecting the brining process, to creating the perfect bleu cheese dip and hot sauce. This is a one stop shop recipe for tasty wings. If you aren’t already sold, King grills then deep fries these wings for the absolute best of both worlds.

          No matter the occasion, these wings are fit for royalty.

          You can find King and The Backyard BBQ Show on FacebookTwitter and on YouTube.

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