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putting the trash can turkey on the bricks and rebar

Trash Can Turkey

Make Trash Can Turkey using only a metal garbage can and some hot charcoals. A fun and unique outdoor cooking activity for around the campfire, at Thanksgiving, or with your family, scout troops, and friends.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs
Total Time 2 hrs 45 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, BBQ, Smoked, Thanksgiving
Servings 12 Servings
Calories 400 kcal


  • 1 Large Clean Metal Trash Can with Lid
  • A Large Clean Metal Stake or Rebar
  • Aluminum Foil Pans
  • 1 Bag Charcoal
  • 1 Charcoal Chimney
  • Lighter
  • 1 Long Handled Metal Shovel
  • Heat Resistant Welding or BBQ Gloves
  • Instant Read Thermometer
  • 1 Aluminum Ash Can
  • 2 Bricks
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Insulated Carving Gloves
  • Long Carving Knife


  • 1 Whole Raw Turkey Preferably 12-15 lbs
  • ½ Cup Kosher Salt
  • ¼ Cup Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • Your Favorite BBQ Poultry Rub (optional)
  • Cooking oil (optional)


Burn off Chemicals Inside Trash Can

  • Burn a batch of charcoal or firewood inside your clean metal trash can the day before you make your turkey. This will burn off any chemical residue on the innside
    burning a fire in a trash can turkey
  • Empty the cooled ashes into a fire safe ash can and then clean the inside of your trash can again.

Prepare the Turkey

  • Remove Turkey from the refrigerator and remove any giblets or other items from the cavity
  • Trim off any excess skin around the cavity.
  • Wash, rinse, and pat dry your turley on the inside and outside.
  • Season the inside and outside well with salt and pepper and any other seasoning you wish to use such as a BBQ rub. Use a small amount of cooking oil such as Canola or Olive to help it adhere if you wish.
    seasoning turkey
  • Pin the wings and tie the legs to keep the from burning and drying out.

Light Charcoal and Prepare the Cooking Area

  • Make sure to clear any debris or other flammable materials and preferably set up on a clean dirt or gravel bed.
  • Light two large charcoal chimneys full of charcoal. These will take about 20 minutes to fully heat up. You can move on to the next step while waiting for this.
    lighting two charcoal chimneys
  • In the center of your cooking area, push your rebar stake into the ground so that it is sturdy and sticks out of the ground lower than the height of your trash can.
  • Wrap your 2 bricks in aluminum foil and place them on either side of the stake. These will keep your turkey off the ground after you position it on the stake.
    setting up bricks and rebar for trash can turkey

Position the Turkey and Cover with Trash Can

  • Slide your turkey down the metal stake through the neck cavity and position it sitting upright on top of the foil wrapped bricks.
    putting the trash can turkey on the bricks and rebar
  • Place your metal trash can upside down over your turkey so that the bottom of the can is facing up and is now the “top”.
  • Use your shovel to push some dirt around the bottom perimeter of the can and create a nice seal.
    putting dirt around perimeter of trash can

Spread Charcoal

  • Place the metal lid upside down on top of the trash can so it resembles a dinner plate. This will be where you place some of your hot coals.
  • Wearing your flame-resistant gloves, go get your now fully lit charcoal chimneys and spread one batch around the base of the can.
  • Then, using the metal shovel, spread some more unlit coals on top of the lit ones and push them all up against the sides of the trash can.
    placing hot charcoal around perimeter of trash can turkey
  • Shake out the second batch of lit coals gently on top of the overturned trash can lid. Do not pour on so many that they are falling off or that they will make the lid difficult to pick up and move later.
    pouring hot charcoal on top of garbage can

Cook the Turkey

  • Resist the urge to check on your turkey as you will lose the air tight seal you created, possibly resulting in a flare up. This will also significantly increase your cooking time.
  • Cook the turkey for about 2 hours under the hot trash can
  • Variables such as wind, outside temperature, humidity, the size of your turkey, the size of your trash can, the quality if your air seal, and the amount of hot charcoal used will all play into your cook time

Remove the Hot Trash Can, Lid, and Turkey

  • Prepare the area where you are going to move the hot trash can and lid once you remove them from around the turkey.
  • Using only high heat resistant welding gloves, put a sheet of aluminum foil between your gloves and the metal lid to keep your gloves from sticking to the hot metal. Place the lid and hot coals aside.
  • Use the same technique with gloves and foil to remove the metal trash can itself and also to slide the hot turkey up off the stake and into a large aluminum pan.

Check Temperature

  • Check the internal temperature of the turkey with an instant read thermometer. The middle of the thigh meat should read at least 175 degrees and the breasts should read 165 degrees.
  • If needed, place the roasting pan with the turkey into a 325 deg oven until it is done. DO NOT attempt to set the trash can cooker back up as this will be too dangerous with the hot can and lit coals.

Clean Up

  • Make sure to safely dispose of your hot charcoals after you have removed the turkey from the cooking area
  • Do not cover them with dirt or leave them scattered and unattended at your campsite. The best practice is to shovel them into an aluminum ash can and cover with a lid to extinguish over a 24-hour period.

Serve Turkey

  • After removing the turkey from the cook area and checking for doneness, let the turkey rest for about 20-30 minutes before carving into it
  • Use a long slicing knife and cut in long even strokes while holding the bird with your other hand while wearing insulated carving gloves.
  • Serve immediately with your favorite gravy and sides!



Video courtesy of How to Lou.
Keyword bbq, campfire turkey, camping, Charcoal, Garbage Can, garbage can turkey, hot and fast turkey, smoked, thanksgiving, Trash Can, trash can turkey, Turkey