Yes, you read that correctly! Cooking a turkey in a trash can produces a very moist turkey that will typically fall from the bone while cooking. Those that have tried this nontraditional method of cooking a turkey swear by it.
So you ask, just how do you cook a turkey in a trash can? Well let me give you the details. First it is very important that you start with a clean (preferably new) galvanized metal trash can. Some recommend starting a fire in the trash can before using it to burn the finish off but it is not necessary since the turkey does not actually touch the trash can. You will also need a roll of heavy duty aluminum foil, a wooden stake approximately 2×2 and long enough to keep the turkey off of the ground when the turkey is resting on the stake. You will also need approximately 10 pounds of charcoal briquettes.
Before starting the cooking process it is necessary to find a safe place to cook your turkey. You should find a flat area that is free from foliage that could cause a fire. If necessary, you can cover a large area of ground with your foil and cook the turkey over the foil. After your site has been chosen, it is time to prepare a stake for your turkey. This step is as simple as driving the stake into the ground in the middle of the area that you have chosen to cook your turkey. The stake should be covered in foil to protect it from burning and to keep your turkey as clean as possible. Once your have prepared the area to cook your turkey, it is time to start the charcoal.
The safest way to start your charcoal is to start it on an area that is covered with foil but far enough away from the turkey that the charcoal will not be caught under the trash can once it is placed over the turkey. While allowing the charcoal to burn for a while, now is the perfect time to double check that the turkey has been cleaned thoroughly and has been seasoned. Some trash can turkey cookers will wipe their turkey down with a light oil, others prefer to infuse the bird with a seasoning mix.
The turkey has been seasoned, and the charcoal has had some time to cook, it is time to place your turkey cavity over the stake and to let the cooking begin. Carefully place the turkey on the stake and cover it with the metal trash can. Try to keep the turkey as close to the middle of the trash can as possible. Once the turkey is covered, it is time to shovel the charcoal. You can start by putting approximately a third of your charcoal on top of the trash can and the remaining around the perimeter of the trash can. Make certain to build the charcoal up around the rim of the trash can approximately 6 inches. As the cooking progresses, you may need to add more charcoal briquettes to the pile to keep the heat consistent.
The most common question about cooking a turkey in a trash can is how long to cook your bird. I have cooked an 18 to 20 pound turkey using this method and was happy with the results after 2 and 1/2 hours. I have read reports where others have had similar results but if it is particularly cold in your area, you will want to add about 30 minutes to your cooking time. The best advice that I can give is to purchase a turkey that has a pop-up timer. While you will not be able to monitor your turkey while it is cooking you will be able to see if it is sufficiently done once you have uncovered it.
Cooking a turkey in a trash can is a fun way to celebrate your holiday with friends and family members. Who knows, you may start a whole new family tradition.