Turkey in a Trash Can!




About: I am a 20 something guy with too much time on his hands, a PR degree, and a 22' Catalina sail boat. I don't have a clue what I'm doing, but it's going to be good times.

We've been cooking turkeys this way for years and I figured everyone needs to try it at some point. We always make it a big event and this goes wayyyyy beyond a backyard cookout. That being said, it's easy to pull off and it's not that expensive if a few people chip in to make it work. The cooking will take more than an hour so make sure to have some form of entertainment for the guests. We love our new game of Kubb ( https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Make-a-Kubb-Set/ ).

Have fun and be safe! Now on to the cooking...

You will need:
- A Turkey (Thawed Out)
- One NEW Metal Trashcan that has been washed out with dishsoap
- Two Med Size Bags of Charcoal (The kind that does not need lighter fluid)
- A Metal Rod or Pipe with a "T" on Top
- Tin Foil
-Bricks or Rocks
-Pan for Drippings (and catching falling birds)

- Wood Chips
- Beer and/or Cocktails
- Friends

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Step 1: The Base

For this you will need the tinfoil, the bricks, the metal rod/pole, the drip pan, and a hammer.

First, find a spot of grass that you don't mind killing. Please note that the grass will NOT SURVIVE the process so don't do this in the middle of the front yard. (I warned you).

Second, lay out a square of tine foil larger than the diameter of the trashcan top. Use the bricks/rocks to hold down the edges to keep the wind from blowing the foil up. I have found that if you fold the edges of the foil together as you place them down it helps.

Third, in the center of the foil square place the pan in the center and run the pipe/tube through it and hammer it into the ground. This is what you will place you turkey on for the cooking. Make sure you put the pan there because your turkey will literally fall apart during cooking and this pan will catch it. You want the top of the rod to be about 10" from the top of the pan so your bird can "stand up."

Step 2: Mounting the Bird

For this step you will need the bird, the trashcan, and woodchips (if you have them).

First, you want to season your bird. We use some olive oil, salt, and pepper but you can use almost anything. I do know that if you want a crisper skin use some type of oil on the outside of the bird.

Second, take your prize to the tinfoil square and place the bird on top of the pole with the pole running up through the bottom. If you do this correctly the bird will be "standing" just above the pan for the drippings with the wings out. (On a side note, this is a great time for your guests to call you crazy and/or awesome.)

Third, if you have wood chips sprinkle SOME around the bird but not directly under it.

Fourth, carefully place the can over the bird. Make sure not to knock it off the stand.

Step 3: Fire (Almost)

For this step you will need charcoal and the wood chips if you have them.

First, place a ring of wood chips around the rim of the trashcan on the foil.

Second, on the top of the can (not touching the foil) put a layer of charcoal. Then using the rest of the charcoal form a ring around the foil side of the can. If the ring starts to get to large you can put more on the top of the can.

Step 4: FIRE!


Light the charcoal. It's best to light the top (non-foil side) of the can and then work around the bottom. Make sure that everyone is watching and camera’s are ready. This is going to be awesome.

Once the coals are lit just leave it alone and go play those yard games we talked about. If you do head a loud bang and then some hissing it's okay, the bird fell and it's part of the process.

Step 5: Lifting the Can

Let the bird cook until the coals are completely burnt and almost cool. You will need oven mitts to lift the can, but the coals should not be hot. Be careful when lifting the can, make sure to lift dircetly up so the coals/ashes do not get on the bird. Once evenyone gets a good look at your masterpiece take it off the rod and carve that baby.

I hope you enjoy and let me know if you make your own. Be safe and have fun!

- Jake C.

P.S. This was my first shot at posing so any/all comments are appreciated.

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    19 Discussions


    3 years ago

    I hope you do not use a new can without pre burning all of the galvanize off first. Using a new can could be potentially be unsafe as the galvanize material has chemicals in it.


    4 years ago on Step 5

    I had a friend come over and cook a turkey in a trash can years ago, and it was one of the most beautiful turkeys I have ever seen. Really cool for sure. I don't know if I will be able to find pictures but I know we took some.

    We cooked it in the garage on a concrete floor, so no grass to kill. The other thing we did was use a couple of bricks and a grill grate to keep it off the ground (same difference).

    I rarely ever agree with the safety ninnies, but in this case I would absolutely say you need to burn off the galvanization. Otherwise rock on!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    i make these turkeys with the boy scouts all the time. the come out perfectly juicy and tender every time. if you guys have the space to try it i highly recommend it. BTW great instructable!


    7 years ago on Step 5

    Awesome! I hope to try this when I have my very own yard I can destroy, or find someone else who's yard I can destroy.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    That is an incredible way to cook - And I guess everyone could sit around to keep warm while the bird cooks.....
    Can you reuse the can once you've washed it, or does it get destroyed?

    Yep, slightly mad, but incredible!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Reminds me of 'Hay bail' chicken (chicken under metal pail, cover with bail of hay, burn and eat). Does the smoke from the wood chips do a lot for the bird? Step 3 is a little unclear to me but the picture seems to explain it- unless the picture leaves something out? Any concerns about heating the galvanized can?

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    The wood chips did seem to add another layer of slight flavor, but they say if you cook on top of different types of grass/ground it can differ too.

    If you are worried about the cans you can burn a smaller fire on/in the can before cooking to remove any coatings/chemicals before cooking. Just make sure you wash it VERY well because some are shipped with a thin oil coating.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for posting this! This is how my family cooked the turkey every year before we moved north. Makes the best turkey. It always came out perfect and moist.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    burning the galvanized trash can will infuse the turkey with heavy metals, the galvanization must be fully burned off with a long hot fire before it would be safe to consider using


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Just checking for safety- are those stainless steel cans? Burning galvanized steel produces toxic fumes.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    It takes about 1.5-2 hours, once the coals are cool you're okay. With both of our birds we left the "cooking" sensers in them and they were both confirmed done when we lifed the cans.


    7 years ago on Step 5

    If you keep cooking like that...the girls will be following around.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I have never seen a turkey cooked this way - seems just crazy enough to work! :D