Trash turkey: Step by step
Heat the coals before you're ready to roast the bird.
After preparing a large, foil cooking space, impale the turkey feet down on a roasting stake.
Spread coals on top and bottom of the trash can, and let the turkey cook for 90 minutes.
Lift the can off the turkey to reveal a golden brown, moist turkey ready for carving. You can see a picture of the roasted bird at the top of the page. (Photos by P. Casey Daley, The Tennessean)
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Talkin' trash turkey: Bird baked in the can gets raves
Sure, you can labor like the rest of America on Thanksgiving. You can baste and brush, fret and check, peek anxiously through the oven door. You can make little foil tents to keep your turkey from burning up, tremble over the timing and be a slave to the thermometer.
But how about a bird in the can. Like all those phone service commercials, the only numbers you need to remember are 10-10-12-90:
10-pound bag of charcoal
10-gallon metal garbage can
90 minutes cooking time
We first learned about garbage can turkey from entrepreneur Nat Harris of Nashville, Tenn., who learned it from his uncle, Lt. Col. J.G. McDonald, a retired Air Force navigator. Stationed overseas, McDonald discovered the military secret for cooking the big holiday bird. Through trial, error, and probably a few burned and undercooked birds, he returned with the perfect formula.
Skeptics scoff at the thought of cooking a 12-pound turkey in just 90 minutes, but when the non-believers sink their teeth into the final product, they're converted.
What you've done is create an incredibly hot convection oven that seals all the swirling moisture inside. That's why the turkey remains so moist.
It's easy if you just follow a few simple directions.
10-gallon metal trash can with lid, unpainted
10-pound bag charcoal
3 bricks (to balance the upturned trash lid, where you start your coals)
heavy-duty aluminum foil
36-inch wood or metal stake (must support turkey)
small foil pans
small shovel for transferring coals from lid
beer or wine
Preparing the turkey:
Once you've thawed and rinsed your 12-pound turkey (and removed the neck and bag-o-giblets), you should give it a good injected marinade. Instructions call for an ounce of marinade per pound.
On the outside, give the bird a good olive oil massage followed by a generous sprinkling of dry rub.
If you have your own favorite marinade or rub recipe, go for it. For this trial I rubbed the bird with Paul Prudhomme's Poultry Seasoning. For the marinade, I used Tony Chachere's Creole Butter Injectable Marinade (it comes with a syringe). Both products are MSG-free and available in most major supermarkets.
While the turkey and spices are getting to know each other, head out to the yard to choose your cooking area. It should be level ground. Pound in the cooking stake to a depth that allows the garbage can to cover it plus 3- to 4-inch clearance. Set your foil on the ground and over the stake and you're ready.
Warning: The coals leave a nasty burn on the ground, so pick an area that you don't mind renaming the ''Ring of Fire.''
1. Prepare the cooking area with heavy-duty aluminum foil, making sure to cover the stake with foil. Then impale the bird, legs down, on the roasting stake. Optional: Fill pans beneath turkey with beer or wine and giblets.
2. Cover the turkey with the 10-gallon trash can, leaving 3- to 4-inch clearance between the can and the bird. The can should be snug and level on the ground.
3. Carefully transfer one layer of hot coals onto the top of the can. Distribute the rest of the coals along the bottom circumference, scrunching them as tight as you can against the can. Once the coals are in place, you have 90 minutes to ponder the meaning of Thanksgiving. Or to go get another beer. You'll hear some sizzling, but remember, no peeking.
4. When the 90 minutes is up, scrape the coals off the top and away from the bottom. Then, with good quality oven mitts, carefully remove the hot can and set aside.
5. Lift off! The bird may stick a bit, but with some gentle twisting and cajoling you can pull it off the stake and place it on a platter to rest before carving. From the can to the platter, this golden brown turkey is moist and tender enough to convert the skeptics.