Introduction: Turkey on a Tripod

Cook a Turkey Outdoors with Charcoal while it dangles from a tripod like a trapeze artist on a BARREL KNOT.

An aluminum foil reflector oven, coals and a tripod are all that are needed to cook a delicious, moist, Thanksgiving feast outdoors. (no dangerous oil flare-ups here!).  Also, included here are instructions for tying a Barrel Knot  to keep the turkey suspended off the ground.

This Instructable documents an outdoor cooking method used by our Boy Scout Troop at our annual Thanksgiving campout.  This ingenious method of cooking a turkey with coals was taught to us by a venerable  "Master" of Scoutmasters, Mr. Martin.  I am publishing the technique on his behalf so that others may give it a twirl.

This Instructable is entered into the Homemade Holidays Food Contest.  Please Vote.

Step 1: Build the Outdoor Theater (oven)

- 44"x18" Wire mesh
- (4) metal tent stakes
- 18" wide roll of Aluminum Foil 
- (4) metal binder clips (office supplies)
- Metal tripod (the one shown is a camp cooking tripod that comes with a round metal grill that adjusts up and down.  The grill and 3 side chains have been removed.
- 3 feet of Sisal rope (be sure to use natural fiber rope.  Some plastic ropes may melt or not be safe to use with food.)
- (2) Plastic oven bags (these bags are designed for use in household ovens and will handle regular cooking temperatures)

and one more thing....I'm forgetting...uhmm...oh yes the star of the show!   

- (1) Turkey (thawed) 

Make the 4 Coal Towers ahead of time (they are reusable)

Cut a piece of wire mesh about 11" by 18" for the Coal Towers

2. Roll the mesh into a 3 1/2" diameter x 18" tall cylinder

3. Secure the seam on the cylinder by "sewing" it together with a length of thin gauge wire or by cutting a few of the squares along the edge of the mesh and fold them back on themselves "hooking" the other edge of the seam. 

Step 2: Position the Coal Towers

1.  Lay two to three sheet of aluminum foil on the ground shiny side up.  Over lap the the edges.  (He may perform without a net but this turkey needs something on the ground. Not to catch his fall but to reflect heat.)

2.  Place the Coal Towers at the four corners of the foil.  The distance between the towers should be 18" apart. (use the 18" roll of aluminum foil as a measuring gage)

3. For the high wire act, place the tripod scafolding over the foil as shown.

Step 3: Secure the Towers

 1. Stake all four Coal Towers at the outside corner of the aluminum on the ground.  

Use a single metal tent stake to hold each tower upright.  The position of the stake at the  outside corner prevents the towers from toppeling inward when the aluminum sidewall is wrapped around them.

Step 4: Build a Turkey Pen

Add the sides to the reflector oven.

1.  Wrap aluminum foil around the towers (shiny side inward)

2. Secure the foil at the top of the towers with the metal binder clips

The oven is done.

"DONE?  Where's the top of the oven?"

No we didn't run out of foil.  That's top required...never had one...not needed.   

Step 5: Prep the Star - Barrel Knot

 The turkey dangles from the tripod on a rope sling.  The sling is made by tying a Barrel Knot around the turkey. (Houdinni would be proud of this act)

Use natural fiber Sisal Rope to tie around the turkey.  Stay away from synthetic plastic ropes.  They may melt or may not be safe to use on food.

The following steps show how to tie the Barrel Knot.  Wire is used in the photo series as it is easier to "pose" than rope.  Obviously do not tie up a frozen turkey still in the wrapper.  A frozen stunt double turkey was used for these action shots due to the dangerous nature of this shoot.  (salmanilla danger to me that is).  

1. Place the turkey on-end (neck end down / legs pointing up)
In the photo below the rope is along the center of the bird (legs on the left and right side)

Step 6: Barrel Knot - Step 2

2.  Bring the ends of the rope up and tie a simple overhand knot at the top of the bird (left end over right end and then under)

Just to orient things: This photo is looking down on the top of the bird. The neck end is down on the table.  The breast is to the right and the legs are at the top and bottom of the photo.

Step 7: Barrel Knot - Step 3

3.  Separate the center of the overhand knot to create an opening as shown

4. Slip the opening in the overhand knot down over the sides of the bird
(as shown in photo 2 thru 4)

Step 8: Barrel Knot - Step 4

This first photo is how the rope should look after the previous step.

5.  Pull the two loose ends of the rope to the top of the bird and tie it tight.

The rope on the sides should be down far enough to just capture the top of the wings.  You want the rope to hold the wings against the body, but not be positioned too low on the bird  If the rope is too far down on the wing the bird could be top heavy and could roll out of the knot.

6. Tie a loop in the loose ends.  The loop is used to hang from the hook on the tripod chain.

7. After the rope work is done place the turkey in the oven bag and twist-tie at the top.  
Double bagging is recommended insurance. (you don't want to lose the juices on the ground.)

Step 9: Light the Burning Ring of Fire

Ok so technically its not a "Ring" of fire ("Square" of fire just doesn't have the right "ring" to it)  

1. Start the Charcoal Briquettes.

A Chimney Starter is the method of choice.  No need for flammable petrochemical liquids, and the coals are easy to dole out from the starter with tongs.

After the coals are glowing in the starter, divide them equally amongst the four towers using tongs.

2. Top-off the towers with additional un-lit briquettes.  They will gradually self-start from the hot coals below.

Step 10: On With the SHOW!

"Step right up and see the daring young turkey dangling from a tripod as it cooks high above a flaming bed of coals

The turkey should be about 3-4" off the ground and centered between the 4 coal towers.

Cook just like you would in a 350 F degree oven.

Our 26lb turkey took 4 1/2 hours to cook.  (160 degree F internal temperature)

Occasionally throughout the cooking process, add additional briquettes to the top of the towers as
the lower coals burn down.

Step 11: Be Thankful It Works

A Thanksgiving campout is an annual tradition for our troop.   This past week-end just happened to be an unusually warm 50 degree F but this technique has proven itself over the years, and works just as well with our more typical 20-30 degree F November weather.  
(Photo 3 shows the two turkey set-up we had this year)

No mater the temperature outside, a piping hot turkey is a warming welcome and is truly something to give thanks for against the backdrop of the occasional falling snow shower.

Nothing beats a thanksgiving that a snow ball, or a scoop of frozen mashed potatoes on your plate?
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