Boy Scout Trash Can Turkey

November 22, 2013

Recently I was talking to a good friend about our plans for cooking this year’s Thanksgiving turkeys and he shared a really cool cooking method that is utilized by his son’s Boy Scout troop every November.  After seeing pictures of the trashcan enclosed and charcoal heated turkeys, I reached out to Troop 691’s Scoutmaster John Kellermann to get the scoop on his unique cooking technique.


cooked trash can turkey

So how do you cook a trashcan turkey?

We start by laying down heavy aluminum foil on the ground where the turkeys are going to be cooked then drive a 11/2 inch in diameter stake in to the ground so that it is 3 to 4 inches below the height of an inverted 10 gallon metal garbage can. Once the stake is in the ground, place an empty soup can on top (this prevents the turkey from sliding down) then cover the stake and soup can with aluminum foil so it won’t burn.

Kingsford Charcoal at a Boy Scout camp out


prepping a raw turkey before covering with charcoal and trash can

We then place the soup can in to the cavity of a thawed and washed turkey that has been coated with oil (if you don’t coat the turkey with oil you wont get a golden brown crispy skin) and seasoned withsalt and pepper so that it sits on top of the stake, then cover it with a 10 gallon metal garbage can. We then heat up the charcoal.  Once it begins to ash over we place it along the sides of the trashcan and on top. This makes the can work like a convection oven and you can cook a 12 to 18 pound turkey in an hour and a half.


charcoal ready for the trash can turkey

After 1.5 hours remove all the coals from around the can and from the top (this will give you a nice clean area to work in), then remove the can (we utilize welding gloves to do this).  Be very careful when doing so as the can will be very hot and in our case we are working around several turkeys in close proximity. Have a person ready with a foil pan to catch the turkey in the event it came lose from the stake.

How did you come up with the idea to do this?

We began doing this after hearing about it from other troops doing it. It was then researched online and after some trial and error, it quickly became a tradition for our November camp out.

What’s the most number of turkeys you have done this way at one time and how many did it feed?

The most turkeys we have done was seven and we feed upward of 90 people along with all the traditional Thanksgiving sides — mashed potatoes, corn, cranberries, stuffing, etc. — that were all cooked on charcoals in Dutch ovens.  We love to have the Cub Scouts that are attending the camp out help out with the side dishes as it helps them get a feel for outdoor cooking. If we had more time we could also do the pies in Dutch ovens. We usually purchase those. We have never done less then two turkeys and on average we do four, feeding 60 to 70 people.

Do the boys enjoy it?

The boys really enjoy this camp out and the troop gets a very good level of participation, especially from the parents who have never done or seen this method of cooking turkeys before.  This is also a camp out that we invite cub packs to so the scouts get to show off their scout skills and teach them some basics skills that the Cub Scouts will need to earn the Webelos arrow of light award and advance to Scout rank.


Thanks, John!  I can’t wait to try this out during my son’s next Boy Scout camp out!


- Clint Cantwell, Editor


Related Topics: Boy Scout Turkey | Charcoal | Charcoal Turkey | Clint Cantwell | Editor's Picks | Grilled Turkey | Grilling Turkey | Holiday Meal | Holidays | Thanksgiving | Trash Can Turkey | Turkey

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