Instructables

How (not) to cook a turkey-under-a-can

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This Instructable describes how to barbecue a turkey under a (clean) paint can in just under two hours. This isn't the only Instructable on turkey-can-barbecue methods, but I have had very positive results with it. As noted in the title, I will also present a few does and don'ts along the way, as well.

Why cook a turkey under a can? Well, because...

+ you can avoid heating up your kitchen for hours of turkey cookin'
+ you can avoid burning your house down with a deep fried turkey fire
+ it is a pretty quick way to cook a 12 lb turkey.
+ it is a good, cheap way to feed a large group of people.
+ it is a good way to cook a turkey without access to a kitchen.
+ all the guests you invite over to share your turkey will either say, or think to themselves "this will never work, I hope he has Dominoes Pizza on speed dial."
+ when the turkey comes out golden, tender and delicious, they will all eat their words. Literally!

You will need...

+ a 12 lb turkey, thawed (this can take a few days in the fridge, so get your frozen turkey ahead of time)
+ one stick of butter
+ an injection marinade for turkey and injector (optional). There are several recipes online... google is your friend.
+ a new 5 gallon metal paint can (not plastic)
+ two charcoal chimneys
+ at least 10 lbs of charcoal, more if it is a cold day
+ lighter fluid, if you like big fires, want to scare your wife or children, or just enjoy the madness of a Y-chromosome.
+ newspaper kindling to light the chimneys
+ long handled barbecue grill lighter
+ large size, heavy duty aluminum foil
+ welders gloves
+ barbecue tongs to move the coals around
+ a "stake"

The stake is the only potentially specialized piece of equipment. Mine happens to be a stainless steel "T". The shaft is about 2 feet long, slightly pointed at the end, as it must be pushed or driven into the ground. Welded to the top of the shaft is a two inch cross piece, to help hang the turkey on as it cooks. My uncle made the stake for me in the machine shops where he works, as he gave this kit to me as a gift (packaged in the nice green tub you see to the right in the picture). Anything that provides the same function as described, and will stand up to the cooking heat should work.
 
 
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Super_Geek2 years ago
I would suggest making sure your can is not galvanized or enamel coated either. Both of those can release very toxic substances when heated to high temperature, that would soak right into the meat through smoking.
Autiebell4 years ago
That outfit and smile says this is one FUN Thanksgivin' bash!  You must be in SoCal or Arizona with those shorts!  Great instructable as well.  I do have a question regarding the actual barbequeing: I have a badass huge grill/smoker that I'm fully intending on using this Turkey Day...I suppose my question is do I make any adjustments or just set the paint can over the turkey on top of the grill; I HAVE to collect the drippings for gravy, which is why I am adament about the grill.  Tips please, intrepid BBQ'd Turkey Master!
I'm thinking, to collect the juices from the turkey while using kovo's plans, you could use a angelfood cake pan, with the stake through the center hole in the pan, to collect the juices, as long as the cake pan is steel, and not aluminum. I guess I'm a little late, but perhaps this could be useful to future readers as well. Thanks for the plans, kovo.
kovo (author)  Autiebell4 years ago
Hmmm, good question...

I think one of the reasons this works so well is that the can forms a low pressure seal with the ground, keeping lots of moisture in with the bird. Also, having the bird up on the rod keeps it from sitting in its juices, which may or may not be important. I think if you can recreate that situation on a grill, it will likely work.

That said, the only way I have ever tried this is as you see in the 'ible (in fact, I will be doing it again in a few days). I would say, try it on the grill and see how it works. But, you might want to try before Turkey day if you have lots of guests on the way...

There are methods for grilling turkey directly, and grilled turkey is very good as well.

Best of luck, and please post your methods and results! Happy Thanksgiving!
isochronous3 years ago
If you're using a chimney starter, there's no reason to use lighter fluid. The whole point of a chimney starter is to avoid the nasty smell and aftertaste of lighter fluid. If you want to insure that your charcoal gets lit, then just drizzle or spray a tiny bit of vegetable or canola oil onto your newspaper before crumpling it up. The oil will make the paper burn both hotter and longer than it would otherwise, and I've never had the charcoal fail to catch when using this technique.
kovo (author)  isochronous3 years ago
But lighter fluid is so much fun!

Good tip with the oil on newspaper. I am definitely going to try that out.
beehard44 kovo3 years ago
i normally use petroleum jelly smeared on cotton balls
naughtydred5 years ago
Looks like a very good way to cook a yardbird.....I'm itchin' in anticipation to try this. I would suggest you edit, and specify the paint can is metal and not the empty plastic paint cans from you big box hardware store.
Another thing to watch out for is that the metal can doesn't have a lining (like you see inside acidic food cans) and that seams are not sealed with solder.  We do the same thing with #10 cans (think large office coffee cans) with chicken. 

Putting an apple on the top of the post keeps the bird from slipping down and keeps moisture in the 'oven'.

Otherwise I have cooked turkeys like this under large terra cota pots and it works great...just like the clay pots you use in the oven.

Cheers!
kovo (author)  justafew4 years ago
Terra cota pot! Great idea!
kovo (author)  naughtydred5 years ago
Thanks for the comment, and I have made the edit. Oh, and which Yardbird will you be cooking? Hopefully not Clapton...
Clapton looks a little pale for my liking.... I was thinking Charlie Parker....I love soul food :)
twocvbloke5 years ago
Though not a fan of Turkey (probably through poorly cooked, dry, horrible xmas Turkeys), I would love to try this out, my mother's partner works for a paint manufacturer so can get hold of paint tins of varying sizes, from the small pots to huge barrels... :D All I need now is a bigger yard to try it in!!! :P
kovo (author)  twocvbloke5 years ago
Try it, you'll love the turkey. Let me know how it goes for you!
dombeef5 years ago
lol
galactiphat5 years ago
Great instructable, I've done this with a chicken and I can't wait to upgrade to a turkey! On a side note, you should never grill/roast anything so close to your house, especially charcoal.
kovo (author)  galactiphat5 years ago
On a side note, you should never grill/roast anything so close to your house, especially charcoal.

You better believe it's a bad idea! Maybe saggy vinyl siding will become a new landscaping craze...

Thanks for the comment. I have a colleague who does this with chicken as well.
nerdologist5 years ago
Mmmm. Turkey. I have got to try this. Cool 'ible.
tercero5 years ago
Well done (the instructable...and the bird presumably).
jnixon6 years ago
This is very cool. I think I'll try this at home!
sonaps jnixon5 years ago
In home or at home, one of those could cause disastrous results so I'm hoping you mean in your yard.