Trash-Can Turkey Recipe

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  • 20 Gallon Metal Garbage Can
  • Wooden pole - 1-inch diameter by 3-foot length
  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • 20 pounds of charcoal
  • String or twine


  • 1 15 pound turkey



  • Thoroughly rinse the bird and remove the giblets and neck
  • Tie wings back with twine
  • Do not stuff the turkey or add any more moisture
  • Light the charcoal
  • Drive the wooden pole into the ground
  • Slope ground toward the wooden pole so juices stay under the garbage can or you can trap with a foil pan
  • Line ground with foil (laid flat) and wrap the wooden pole with foil
  • Make a ball of foil and put it on top of the pole to prevent the bird from sliding down
  • Place bird on the pole, legs down
  • Place the can over the bird. The bird should be centered in the can. The can should be pressed firmly into the ground to create a tight seal. Sand works well under your foil.
  • If using a 20 gallon can make a trench around the diameter of the can. So that it will make a tighter seal with the ground. This will allow the bird to cook faster.
  • Place the lit charcoal on top of the can and around the bottom of the can - all of it. All 20 pounds of it.
  • It will take 2 hours to cook the bird, so plan your cooking time for any other sides around that.
  • After 2 hours, you can lift the can and check on the bird. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. According to the USDA, it’s done at 165.


  • Make sure to place foil on the ground in case the bird does slide down the pole.
  • Sloping the ground allows you to catch the juices - either to use or to at least make sure it doesn’t leak and extinguish the charcoal.