How to Cook a Trashcan Turkey


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How to Cook a Trashcan Turkey

The trashcan turkey is exactly what it sounds like, a turkey cooked inside a metal trashcan in a matter of hours. Check out the step-by-step below!

Photo: Trashcan Turkey at work during Turkey Fest 2018. Sullivan Hardware. 

The infamous trash can turkey, it’s been a tradition for Turkey Fest since the beginning. We take the unconventional way to cook a turkey to a whole new level. The best part is it cooks in 2 hours! Want to try it for yourself? We’re here to guide you through the magical ways that is the can.


Before we get started, there are some housekeeping rules we need to inform you about. Yes, having fun is important and the main reason to try this method out, but we want to make sure you are smart in the process.


Rule #1: Make it the secondary turkey. If it’s your first time, don’t put that extra pressure on yourself in case things go south. Seriously, no one needs the drama of a less than perfect turkey on Thanksgiving.


Rule #2: Be safety conscious. Don’t set up near the house or a fence. Pay attention to how close the kids get too.


Rule #3: Speaking of safety, do NOT put oils on this turkey. This will cause an actual explosion, which is not any fun. Just add a little salt and pepper and let the juices do the rest!


What you’ll need

40lb bag of charcoal

20lb turkey

Tin foil

3/8 solid rod

2 bricks

20 gallon metal trash can  (plastic is a no go!)



  • Pick a spot in the yard that has level ground. That way when we put the can down it’ll be completely sealed off.
  • Make a bed of tin foil. Cover the area fairly well with tin foil to keep things clean.
  • Wrap bricks up in some tin foil.
  • Take your rod and drive it into ground in the center of your tin foil bed.
  • Grab the two bricks and place one on each side of the rod. Sandwich them together with the rod in between.


Time to Cook

  • Now it’s time to grab the star of the show, your 20lb turkey. Place the turkey “head first” and slide it down the rod. Yes, that does sound painful! REMEMBER NO OILS SHOULD BE ON THE TURKEY.
  • Grab your trashcan and place it over the turkey.
  • Time to heat up the coals. We use a couple of weber chimney starters. Load charcoal in the starter, place some newspapers underneath and light.
  • Once the charcoal is nice and hot, it’s time to transfer to the trashcan.
  • Put a layer of charcoal on top of the can; spread the remaining coals around the base. Slowly keep spreading the coals around until the 40lb bag is completely used.


Now this next step is important…

Grab yourself a beer, wine, or drink of choice and relax for the next 2 hours.



The Reveal

  • After the two hours is up, it’s time for the reveal!
  • First, grab a pair of good gloves. This can got pretty hot working hard the last couple hours so be careful.
  • Take a shovel and pull the coals aside.
  • Lift the can slowly off your (hopefully) golden brown turkey.
  • Use a thermometer to check the temp of the turkey before you remove it. It should be at least 165 degrees.
  • Lastly, hold for applause as your family is in awe of your masterpiece.


….and ENJOY!


To see Pat demonstrate this right of passage, check out the video below:



Don’t miss us at Sullivan Hardware, 71st and Keystone, for this year’s annual TURKEY FEST. We’ll be talking about the trashcan turkey and other ways to make your thanksgiving the best it can be!


Tune in every Saturday, 9am-1pm, right here on WIBC

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