Campfire Turkey (aka Trashcan Turkey)

Yep, you read it correctly.  Turkey.  Cooked over the campfire. The perfect solution when you have no electric stove and your cookstove is so small it barely fits the mashed potatoes.

Upon the instructions of my brother, who has done a trashcan turkey or two during his camping adventures, we got our supplies.  First off, the trashcan.  You need a regular galvanized steel garbage can and you need to have a fire or two in it to burn off the coating first. This was a fun event in itself so Soldier Boy had several fires in it.  It turned from a nice shiny silver to a dull and beat up looking grey.

Everything you need to cook your turkey over a campfire - a wooden stake, bricks, lots of tinfoil, at least 2 bags of charcoal, a garbage can and a hammer or hatchet.
Everything you need to cook your turkey over a campfire – a wooden stake, bricks, lots of tinfoil, at least 2 bags of charcoal, a garbage can and a hammer or hatchet.

You’ll also need a wooden 2×2 stake.  This stake should be at least 6″ shorter than the garbage can.  Sharpen one end and then hammer it into the ground.  Wrap it in tinfoil.

Layer tinfoil on the bottom of the fire pit in order to salvage any unfortunate turkey that falls off during the cooking stage. It can also be used to wrap around the bottom of the trash can to keep in the heat.

Wrap some bricks or rocks in tin foil.  Place the tinfoil-wrapped bricks on top of the tinfoil-ed pit, around the bottom of the stake.  This served two purposes for us.  The bricks helped anchor the stake so that it wouldn’t topple over but it also helped raise the trash can higher since our stake ended up being a couple of inches too high and the turkey was touching the top (which is actually the bottom) of the trash can when it was later placed over the turkey.

We also added a cheap aluminum roasting pan by stabbing the stake through it.  This cooked the gizzard and other innards (even the dogs get a good meal in our house) and would also serve to catch any fallen turkey pieces.

Make a large ball of tinfoil on the top of the 2×2 stake. This will hold the turkey on the top and keep it from slipping down.

This is what it ended up looking like.
This is what it ended up looking like.

This whole process took about twenty minutes but a lot of that was repositioning things so everything would fit.  Next time, I’m sure it won’t take as long.

Then we added the turkey!!

The turkey fit beautifully onto its
The turkey fit beautifully onto its “spit”.

And BACON!!  We layered one pound of bacon over the top of the turkey.  I would have no problem using an additional pound.  And just so you know…country bacon – bacon directly from a pig down the road – is so much better than packaged bacon in the supermarket.  The bacon will cook at the same time and the grease will drip over the turkey, keeping it moist while it cooks.  YUM!!

We criss-crossed one pound of bacon across the top of the turkey to keep the bird moist while cooking.
We criss-crossed one pound of bacon across the top of the turkey to keep the bird moist while cooking.

We also tied the turkey to the stake with twine so it wouldn’t fall off as it was getting tender.

Satisfied that we had done everything right up to this point, we placed the garbage can over the turkey, set it on the bricks, with the aluminum pan inside it, and sealed the bottom edge with the layered tinfoil.

We poured the charcoal on top of the trashcan and around the bottom of it.
We poured the charcoal on top of the trashcan and around the bottom of it.

We poured two 20lb bags of charcoal around the garbage can and on top of it.  I’m sure it wouldn’t have hurt to have even more.  We had created our very own trashcan pressure cooker!!  We were so excited!  This was it…the moment we’d been waiting for.  The actual start to the cooking of the Thanksgiving turkey!!  And…

…then whole process screeched to a halt.

For the next hour, we could not, for love nor money, get the bloody charcoal lit!  We tried lighting firestarters, dead leaves, birch bark, paper, NOTHING worked.  There was a fairly strong breeze blowing that snuffed every spark.  There must have been just enough dampness in the firestarters that they wouldn’t light.  Soldier Boy had to hop in the car and go to the nearest village store to get lighter fluid while I stayed back and tried again, and again, and AGAIN to light the damn rocks.  Before Soldier Boy was back with the lighter fluid, guests had started arriving and I had managed to get only half of the charcoals on one side lit.  Then we just kept moving the white coals under the cool coals and lighting them that way.  When the lighter fluid arrived, we finally got the rest of the charcoals lit and could finally start the clock on cooking.

And so we waited.  And drank.

Three hours of waiting. Good thing there was lots of wine.
Three hours of waiting. Good thing there was lots of wine.

After three hours of drinking, I mean, waiting, we decided to pull off the trashcan and pray to God we didn’t ruin everyone’s Thanksgiving dinner.

Here’s the big reveal:

You know it's done when the turkey is golden brown and the bacon is black on top. Yum!
You know it’s done when the turkey is golden brown and the bacon is black on top. Yum!
Success!!
Success!!

We transferred it to the metal roasting pan and took it into the cabin, where the dressing, mashed potatoes, grilled root vegetables and other fun holiday foods were waiting.  Soldier Boy carved it while all of us drooled.  (Well, except for the vegetarian.  But I think she was still impressed we were able to cook something in a trashcan.)

As soon as he was done, everyone loaded their plates, and moved to the table outside.  We refilled our glasses of wine, cracked open some more beer, raised our glasses and made a toast to good friends, delicious food, crazy adventures and all the beautiful things that Life has to offer.

And it was absolutely delicious.

It was an absolutely amazing weekend filled with good food and great people.
It was an absolutely amazing weekend filled with good food and great people.

Shout out to Pete for his great photos of the weekend.  

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