Who is looking for a super easy and fun dessert for Thanksgiving? I love pecan pie, but making crusts can be daunting. I created these crustless bourbon pecan pies that are cooked on an outdoor grill – a delicious and fun adventure! (But you can also bake them in the oven.)
My pecan pie is different from most you’ve had. It is a little less sweet and has a lot more nuts. Pecan halves tend to float to the top during baking leaving you with lots of goopy filling on the bottom and nuts on the top. I like to chop half of the nuts so they are more likely to stay suspended in the filling. You can use pecan halves to create a decoration on the top of the pie if you like. And of course you can chop all of them if you like.
Always taste your nuts when you buy them to make sure they are fresh. There is nothing worse than getting halfway through making the pie and finding out that they are rancid.
I often use Steen’s Golden Syrup in any recipe calling for corn syrup. It is made from pure cane sugar and has a cleaner flavor. There is a very slight molasses quality to the flavor that blends beautifully with the smoked pecans.
If you don’t already own ramekins, you should consider buying them or the adorable mini cocottes from Le Creuset. They are incredibly versatile and are often used by The Artist and me for snacks, bowls of nuts on the table, cups of soup for dinner parties, holding small office supplies, and of course for baking. I have an array of them in different sizes and colors. If you don’t know what size ramekins you should buy, look at this article for guidance.
Using your grill for part or all of your cooking relieves the pressure of juggling dishes in your oven and helps you get everything on the table while it is still warm.
In addition to cooking over indirect heat (heat on one side of the grill only), another technique I use when baking on the grill is called double panning. That simply means that you are stacking one sheet pan inside another, creating a layer of insulation and slightly elevating the baking dishes. When you are baking on a grill, this is very helpful.
These pies are the perfect ending to a holiday meal. The lightly smoky pecans combined with bourbon makes a lovely pairing! If you are using your outdoor grill to prepare your holiday meal make sure you don’t forget the dessert! Enjoy these Grilled Crustless Bourbon Pecan Pies!
The Artist and I wish you a delightful harvest season and the happiest Thanksgiving celebration!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Because you are preparing a large, complex meal that may require you to pre-bake and reheat some items, warming your plates will help keep the food warm while everyone is serving themselves at the buffet.
If you are serving people with Celiac or those who are highly reactive to gluten, use a combination of potato vodka and a little brown sugar to get a flavor similar to the bourbon. And if you want to leave it out entirely, that is fine too, just add more maple syrup in its place.
- 1 cup wood chips for smoking
- 2 cups pecan halves (plus more for decorating if desired)
- 1/3 cup (5 tablespoons) butter, melted
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp kosher or fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup Steen’s Golden Syrup or dark corn syrup
- 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons bourbon (for gluten-free use 2 tablespoons potato vodka + 1 teaspoon brown sugar), or more maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons vanilla paste or pure extract
- Lightly sweetened whipped cream or ice cream, for serving, optional
- Smoke the Pecans: Remove the warming rack from the grill. Submerge wood chips in a bowl of water and let soak for 15 minutes while you preheat a burner on one end of the grill on High.
- Strain the wood chips and place in a smoker box or aluminum foil folded into a small square with low sides. Discard soaking water.
- Place the pecans on a quarter baking sheet with sides.
- Place the container with damp wood chips over the heat. Close the top and let the wood start to smoke, about 10 minutes. Open the lid and quickly slide the pecans on the baking sheet onto the cool slide of the grill, opposite the wood chips. Close the lid and smoke the pecans for 15 to 30 minutes or until you taste one and they are lightly smoky. Remove from the grill.
- Transfer pecans to a bowl; set aside to cool. Pecans can be smoked a day or two in advance. Store them in a sealed container. Roughly chop about half the pecans.
- Set up the Grill: Turn the burner you used for smoking the pecans to High heat. You need the grill at 375°F. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain that temperature. For my 3-burner I had the left burner on high and the middle burner on low to reach 375°F and hold it there.
- Butter 6 to 8 ramekins. Use whatever size you have; the smaller their capacity, the more you will need. It is helpful to set out a separate small baking dish, such as an au gratin, in case you have extra filling left over. This recipe makes about 4 cups (32 oz) filling. I used 6 ramekins, which fit perfectly on the quarter sheet pan.
- Stack one quarter sheet into a second one for insulation (right side up) and set the ramekins onto the top sheet.
- Prepare the Pecan Filling: Place the butter in a heatproof bowl and microwave for about 30 seconds until melted. Set aside to cool slightly while you make the rest of the filling.
- In a large mixing bowl, place the eggs and whisk to break them up. Then add the sugar, salt, corn syrup, maple syrup, bourbon (or vodka/brown sugar), and vanilla. Whisk until thoroughly blended and the eggs are incorporated. Pour in the melted butter and whisk vigorously until smooth and emulsified. Add smoked pecans to the egg/sugar mixture, stirring until they are evenly distributed and coated.
- Use a small ladle and scoop the pecan mixture into the prepared ramekins, filling no more than 2/3 full (they will expand as they bake). If you have any leftover, butter the extra dish and fill that. If you have room on the baking sheet, add the extra dish; if not, bake it in a second round on the grill or in the oven. If you want to get fancy you can set some extra pecans on top of the filling in a decorative pattern. Not necessary, but very pretty for serving.
- Cook the “pies” on the Grill: Open the grill lid and slide the ramekins on their baking sheets onto the cooler side of the grill, opposite the heat. Close the lid and bake for 20 minutes. Spin the tray so the opposite line of ramekins is now toward the heat. Continue baking for about 20 minutes longer, a total of 40 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean and the centers barely jiggle when lightly tapped. If the nuts on top are browning before the filling is set, place a sheet of foil loosely over the tops. Note that each grill functions differently and yours may take more or less time than mine did.
- When done, carefully transfer the hot baking sheets with ramekins to a heatproof surface. Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack to cool.
- To Serve: Place a ramekin on a small dessert plate. Add a dollop of sweetened whipped cream on top if desired. To store, cover each cooled ramekin or baking dish with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. They will hold for 1 to 2 days. I usually bake them the day before, saving me time on the day of my event.
- Yield: about 6 servings
Create a New Tradition Today!