The Ultimate Guide to Cooking a Juicy Turkey in a Trash Can

You read that right! Cooking a turkey in a trash can is an unconventional method that has been gaining popularity in recent years. It might sound bizarre, but this cooking technique can produce a deliciously moist and flavorful turkey that will impress your guests. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the step-by-step process of cooking a turkey in a trash can, along with tips and tricks to ensure a successful and mouth-watering outcome.

Why Cook a Turkey in a Trash Can?

Before we dive into the details, you might be wondering why anyone would cook a turkey in a trash can. Well, there are a few compelling reasons:

  1. Efficient Cooking Time: Cooking a turkey in a trash can can significantly reduce the cooking time compared to traditional oven methods. A 15-pound turkey can be cooked to perfection in as little as 1.5 hours!

  2. Moist and Juicy Results: The trash can acts as a makeshift smoker, trapping the moisture and infusing the turkey with a subtle smoky flavor. This cooking method produces a juicy and tender turkey every time.

  3. Outdoor Cooking Experience: If you love the thrill of outdoor cooking, cooking a turkey in a trash can is an excellent way to bring the party outside. It’s a fun and unique experience that will create lasting memories with friends and family.

  4. Energy-Efficient: Compared to firing up a full-sized oven, cooking a turkey in a trash can requires less energy, making it an eco-friendly and cost-effective option.

Supplies Needed

Before you start, make sure you have the following supplies:

  • A new, clean metal trash can (20 gallons or larger)
  • Aluminum foil
  • An 18-inch metal rod or pipe with a “T” on top (for supporting the turkey)
  • Bricks or rocks (to hold down the foil)
  • A drip pan (to catch the drippings and prevent fallen birds)
  • 18-20 pounds of charcoal briquettes (no lighter fluid needed)
  • A lighter or matches
  • Twine (for trussing the turkey)
  • A 15-pound turkey (thawed and prepared)
  • Wood chips (optional, for added smoky flavor)
  • Beer or cocktails (optional, for hydration and fun!)

Preparing the Cooking Area

  1. Find a Suitable Location: Choose a spot on the grass or a non-combustible surface that you don’t mind getting a little charred. The cooking process can be intense, so make sure you’re not too close to any flammable materials or structures.

  2. Create a Foil Base: Lay out a square of aluminum foil larger than the diameter of the trash can’s top. Use the bricks or rocks to hold down the edges and prevent the foil from blowing away.

  3. Set Up the Drip Pan: In the center of the foil square, place the drip pan. This will catch any drippings and prevent the turkey from falling apart during cooking.

  4. Insert the Metal Rod: Run the metal rod or pipe through the drip pan and hammer it into the ground, ensuring it’s sturdy enough to support the weight of the turkey. The top of the rod should be about 10 inches from the top of the drip pan.

Preparing the Turkey

  1. Brine the Turkey (Optional): For an extra moist and flavorful turkey, consider brining it the day before cooking. A basic brine can be made with water, salt, brown sugar, and aromatic herbs and spices.

  2. Season the Turkey: Once the turkey is out of the brine (if using), pat it dry and season it with your favorite rub or seasoning blend. You can also coat it with melted butter or oil for a crispy skin.

  3. Truss the Turkey: Fasten the wings to the body with twine and tuck the legs in or tie them together. This will help the turkey cook evenly and maintain its shape.

  4. Mount the Turkey: Carefully place the turkey on top of the metal rod, with the rod running up through the bottom of the bird. The turkey should be “standing” just above the drip pan, with the wings out.

  5. Add Wood Chips (Optional): If you want to infuse the turkey with a smoky flavor, sprinkle some wood chips around the bird, but not directly under it.

  6. Cover with the Trash Can: Carefully place the trash can over the turkey, making sure it’s centered and not touching the can.

Lighting the Fire

  1. Arrange the Charcoal: Pour one-third of the bag of charcoal briquettes into the trash can lid and light them. Then, form a ring of lit briquettes around the base of the can on the foil. If the ring starts to get too large, you can add more briquettes on top of the can.

  2. Scatter the Remaining Briquettes: Scatter the remaining unlit briquettes around the base of the can, on top of the already lit ones.

  3. Step Back and Watch: Once the coals are lit and the fire is going, step back and let the trash can do its magic. You might hear a loud bang or hissing sound, which is normal and part of the cooking process.

  4. Set a Timer: Cook the turkey for approximately 1.5 hours for an 18-20 pound bird. Use a wireless meat thermometer, if available, to monitor the internal temperature and ensure the turkey is cooked through.

Unveiling the Masterpiece

  1. Check the Coals: After the cooking time has elapsed, check that the coals have completely burned out and are almost cool.

  2. Lift the Can: Using oven mitts, carefully lift the trash can straight up, being cautious not to let any coals or ashes fall onto the turkey.

  3. Admire Your Handiwork: Once the can is removed, you’ll be greeted with a beautifully cooked and aromatic turkey. Take a moment to admire your handiwork and the impressive results of this unique cooking method.

  4. Carve and Serve: Carefully remove the turkey from the rod and transfer it to a cutting board. Carve and serve this juicy, smoky masterpiece to your guests, and prepare to receive rave reviews!

Tips and Tricks

  • Use a New Trash Can: Always use a new, clean trash can specifically designated for cooking. Never use a can that has been used for actual trash.

  • Burn Off the Galvanized Coating: If your trash can is galvanized, it’s essential to burn off the galvanized coating before cooking to prevent any potential health risks.

  • Monitor the Temperature: While the cooking time is estimated at 1.5 hours, it’s essential to monitor the internal temperature of the turkey to ensure it’s cooked through. Aim for an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) in the thickest part of the breast and thigh.

  • Rotate the Can: For even cooking, consider rotating the trash can every 30 minutes or so.

  • Add Moisture: If you notice the turkey starting to dry out, you can add a bit of water or broth to the bottom of the can to create steam and keep the turkey moist.

  • Be Careful When Lifting: The trash can and coals will be hot, so use oven mitts and exercise caution when lifting the can and handling the turkey.

  • Have Fun!: Embrace the novelty of cooking a turkey in a trash can and make it a fun, festive event. Invite friends and family over, play some yard games, and enjoy the unique outdoor cooking experience.

Cooking a turkey in a trash can might sound unconventional, but it’s a surefire way to impress your guests with a juicy, flavorful, and perfectly cooked bird. With the right preparation and attention to detail, you’ll be amazed at the delicious results this cooking method can produce. So gather your supplies, fire up those coals, and get ready to embark on a culinary adventure that will become a cherished tradition for years to come!

Cooking A Turkey In A Trash Can

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