Have you ever wanted to try cooking a turkey in a non-traditional way? Look no further than the trash can turkey method! This unique cooking technique involves using a metal trash can as a makeshift oven to roast a whole turkey. It may sound unconventional, but many people swear by this method for producing a perfectly cooked and delicious turkey.

So, how long does it take to cook a trash can turkey? The cooking time will depend on the size of the turkey and the temperature of your cooking fire. As a general rule of thumb, you can estimate about 15 minutes of cooking time per pound of turkey. This means that a 12-pound turkey will take approximately 3 hours to cook.

However, it’s important to remember that cooking times can vary depending on various factors such as the heat of the fire, the size and thickness of the turkey, and even the weather conditions. It’s always a good idea to use a meat thermometer to ensure that the turkey reaches the safe internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).

While the actual cooking time may take a few hours, the preparation for a trash can turkey is relatively simple. All you need is a metal trash can, charcoal or wood for the fire, a wire rack to hold the turkey, and some aluminum foil to cover the can. With a little patience and preparation, you can impress your friends and family with a delicious trash can turkey!

The trash can turkey method may not be your traditional cooking technique, but it’s sure to be a unique and tasty experience. Just remember to plan ahead for the cooking time, monitor the internal temperature of the turkey, and enjoy the process of trying something new in the kitchen!

How Long to Cook a Trash Can Turkey

4 new from $9.99
1 used from $11.54
as of May 28, 2024 3:51 am

If you’re looking for a unique and delicious way to prepare your Thanksgiving turkey, consider cooking it in a trash can. This unconventional cooking method results in a moist and flavorful bird that is sure to impress your guests.

Gather Supplies

Before you begin, make sure you have all the necessary supplies. You will need a clean metal trash can with a lid, a wire rack that fits inside the can, charcoal briquettes, lighter fluid, aluminum foil, and a meat thermometer.


Start by thoroughly cleaning the trash can and removing any labels or residue. Place the wire rack inside the can, ensuring that it is stable and level.

Rub your turkey with your choice of seasonings and place it on the wire rack. Cover the top of the trash can with aluminum foil, securing it tightly to trap in the heat.

Cooking Time

The cooking time for a trash can turkey will vary depending on the size of the bird and the temperature of the coals. As a general guideline, plan on cooking the turkey for about 10-12 minutes per pound.

Ensure that the coals are evenly distributed around the bottom of the can and light them using lighter fluid. Place the trash can over the coals and let the turkey cook.

See also  Can you cook raw meat in the microwave

It is important to monitor the internal temperature of the turkey throughout the cooking process. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the bird, making sure to avoid touching bone.

When the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C), your trash can turkey is ready to be removed from the heat. Allow the turkey to rest for about 15-20 minutes before carving.

Remember to always exercise caution when cooking with an open flame or hot coals. Keep a close eye on the cooking process and use oven mitts or gloves when handling the hot trash can and lid.

Once your trash can turkey is cooked and ready to serve, your guests will be amazed by the unique and delicious flavors. Enjoy!

Preparing the Trash Can

Before cooking the trash can turkey, it’s important to properly prepare the trash can. This involves a few simple steps:

Step 1: Clean the Trash Can

Start by thoroughly cleaning the trash can to ensure it is free from any dirt, debris, or residue. Use a mild detergent and warm water to scrub both the inside and outside of the can. Rinse it well and allow it to dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Step 2: Add a Heat Shield

To protect the turkey from direct flames, it’s important to create a heat shield inside the trash can. You can use a disposable aluminum foil pan for this purpose. Simply place the pan upside down in the bottom of the trash can.

Note: Make sure the heat shield is positioned securely and covers the entire bottom of the can.

Step 3: Create a Cooking Rack

Next, you’ll need to create a cooking rack that will hold the turkey off the bottom of the can. This can be done by using metal rods or bricks placed inside the can, arranged in a crisscross pattern. Make sure the rack is sturdy and evenly spaced, providing enough support for the turkey.

Note: The cooking rack should be positioned above the heat shield and allow for proper air circulation during cooking.

Once these steps are complete, your trash can is ready to be used for cooking the turkey. Be sure to double-check that everything is secure and in place before moving on to the next steps in the cooking process.

Choosing the Right Size Turkey

When it comes to cooking a trash can turkey, choosing the right size turkey is crucial. You don’t want a turkey that’s too small and will dry out during the cooking process, nor do you want a turkey that’s too large and won’t cook evenly. Here are some guidelines to help you select the perfect-sized turkey for your trash can cooking.

First, consider how many people you will be serving. The general rule of thumb is to estimate about 1 to 1.5 pounds of turkey per person. If you’re feeding a big crowd, you may want to lean towards the higher end of that range to ensure everyone gets their fair share.

See also  How to cook frozen green beans in air fryer
Number of People Weight of Turkey
4 4 to 6 pounds
6 6 to 9 pounds
8 8 to 12 pounds
10 10 to 15 pounds
12 12 to 18 pounds

Keep in mind that these are just general recommendations. If you prefer to have leftovers or want a little extra meat for sandwiches or other dishes, you may want to choose a larger turkey. However, if you have limited space in your trash can cooker or don’t want too many leftovers, you can opt for a smaller turkey.

It’s important to note that the cooking time will vary depending on the size of your turkey. A smaller turkey will cook faster, while a larger turkey may take longer. That’s why it’s crucial to follow a cooking chart or recipe that specifically addresses trash can turkey cooking times.

By choosing the right size turkey for your trash can cooking adventure, you can ensure that your meal turns out well and satisfies all your hungry diners.

Seasoning and Marinating the Turkey

Before cooking a trash can turkey, it is important to season and marinate the turkey to enhance its flavor. Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Start by rinsing the turkey under cold water and patting it dry with paper towels.
  2. Prepare a seasoning rub by combining your favorite herbs and spices. Some popular options include salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and dried herbs like thyme, rosemary, and sage.
  3. Coat the turkey generously with the seasoning rub, making sure to cover all parts of the bird.
  4. For an extra boost of flavor, consider marinating the turkey overnight. You can use a marinade of your choice, such as a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and minced garlic.
  5. Place the turkey in a large resealable plastic bag or a covered container and refrigerate it overnight to allow the flavors to penetrate the meat.
  6. Make sure to remove the turkey from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking to bring it to room temperature.

By seasoning and marinating the turkey before cooking, you can ensure that every bite is packed with delicious flavors. This step is essential for achieving a tasty and succulent trash can turkey.

Setting up the Trash Can Cooker

When it comes to cooking a trash can turkey, setting up the trash can cooker is an essential step. Follow these instructions to ensure a successful cooking process:

  1. Choose a large metal trash can: Make sure the trash can is made of metal and has a lid. Avoid using trash cans with plastic or flammable materials as they can melt or catch fire during the cooking process.
  2. Prepare the trash can: Thoroughly clean the inside and outside of the trash can using soap and water. Rinse it well to ensure that there are no cleaning product residues left. Dry the can completely.
  3. Create a cooking surface: Place a wire rack or a layer of crumpled aluminum foil at the bottom of the trash can. This will prevent the turkey from sticking to the can and help in even cooking.
  4. Prepare the coals: Light a sufficient amount of charcoal briquettes in a separate location. Let the coals burn until they are covered with white ash, indicating that they are ready for cooking.
  5. Assemble the trash can cooker: Place the trash can on a sturdy fireproof surface, preferably outside in a well-ventilated area. Place the hot charcoal briquettes in a circular formation surrounding the wire rack or aluminum foil.
  6. Position the turkey: Place the seasoned turkey, breast side up, directly on the wire rack or crumpled aluminum foil. Make sure the turkey is centered and does not touch the sides of the can.
  7. Place the lid on the trash can: Cover the trash can with its lid, making sure it fits securely. This will help to trap the heat inside and create an oven-like environment for cooking the turkey.
See also  What to use instead of cooking spray for baking

Remember, safety should always be a top priority when setting up the trash can cooker. Ensure the cooker is placed away from flammable objects and keep a fire extinguisher nearby, just in case. Follow these steps carefully, and get ready for a deliciously cooked turkey!


What is a trash can turkey?

A trash can turkey is a method of cooking a whole turkey outdoors in a metal trash can, using charcoal as the heat source.

How long does it take to cook a trash can turkey?

The cooking time for a trash can turkey depends on the size of the turkey and the heat of the charcoal. On average, it takes about 2-3 hours to cook a 12-15 pound turkey.

What temperature should the charcoal be for cooking a trash can turkey?

The charcoal should be burning at a high heat, around 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit, to ensure the turkey cooks evenly and thoroughly.

Do I need any special equipment to cook a trash can turkey?

No, you don’t need any special equipment. All you need is a metal trash can with a lid, charcoal, a metal grate or wire rack to hold the turkey, and some heavy-duty aluminum foil to line the inside of the can.

Can I use wood chips or chunks for added flavor when cooking a trash can turkey?

Yes, you can use wood chips or chunks to add a smoky flavor to the turkey. Soak the wood in water for about 30 minutes before adding it to the charcoal. Place the soaked wood directly on top of the hot coals.

What is a trash can turkey?

A trash can turkey is a method of cooking a whole turkey in a metal trash can lined with aluminium foil.