BaconturkeyDuring the holiday season our thoughts at BaconGeek.Com often turn to extreme cooking hijinks. Many of our favorite all-time culinary endeavors involve ensconcing meat with a material near and dear to our hearts (in more ways than one). What better way to baste the holiday bird than with a blanket of Bacon. Whether it be a “Standard” oven broiled Turkey dinner, roasted on a smoky rotisserie, done up on the grill, or the “Trash Can” variety I’m going to describe, you can never go wrong by wrapping the quarry in bacon .

You might think that cooking a turkey wrapped with bacon in a trash can sounds complicated and messy, but it’s well worth the trouble. I’ve gone the distance on numerous occasions, and field-tested techniques that will take a lot the the guesswork out of your own attempts an provide great results. Dinner guests will be lining up to dine at your table time and again. In addition to the basics, I’ll give you a few ideas to take it well-beyond your wildest dreams!

Preparing Before you Burn:

As with most things in life, preparation is key for successful execution. There are a number of variables that can affect the outcome that you might not anticipate up-front, which I’ll explain in-detail so you don’t need to learn the hard lessons yourself. Nobody wants to dig in to an over-done or under-done bird, especially when you may need to convince your guests that cooking the thing in a trash can is both safe and superbly tasty. We’ll also provide you with a materials list to make your trip to the local home and garden store more efficient. We recommend that the first time you endeavor to cook in a trash can, you’ll want to start a day early to get all the supplies and prepare your pit.

Aside from getting yourself a decent Turkey and a whole Mess-O’-Bacon, there are three keys to keeping things safe and producing a meal that you will have your family and friends clamoring. Arguably the most important thing to consider is where you’ll want to situate your Bacon Bird Blast furnace. Don’t place the operation too close to any structures, dry grass or locations that would would present a fire hazard. seasoning the can and having a good supply of wood. That’ why I stress preparation; since you’ll be working with open fire as well as flammable fats from both the Turkey and the multiple pounds of Bacon

You’ll also want to find a location that is safe and where you don’t mind making a mess; your going to have a fire pit, fat dripping onto the fire and the ground, and there’s a good chance you’ll have a pile of beer cans and bottle that were used to quench your thirst from the hot fire!

Classic Trash Can Bacon turkey

Classic Trash Can Bacon Turkey - Notice the Ring 'o Bricks!

To prepare properly for making your own Trash Can rig, below are some pointers and a list of the items that are probably available at your favorite local hardware or home store. I found that this setup works best out of all the incarnations that I’ve tried, and of course feel free to experiment.

Season the Can:

Seasoning the can is very important, and many of the instructional guides that I’ve found leave out this vital detail. A brand new steel garbage can generally comes with a layer of Zinc that has been electroplated to the outside surface of the steel to inhibit rusting. Considering Zinc melts at around 787.15 °F (or 419.53 °C for the rest of the world), and the fire will get to between 900 °F and 1,200 °F, who really wants even a little Zinc to get vaporized on their food?  That’s why the night before your meal is a great time to build a fire to season the can, whereupon it is best to ceremoniously toss the garbage can into the flames and hot coals. The goal is to can get the can red-hot on all sides and while turning and occasionally quenching the inside of the glowing can with a garden hose. This will help to remove the Zinc galvanization from the surface of the can, rather than it being vaporized on any food that you plan to eat!

Don’t ever use construction debris or  materials for your seasoning or cooking fire; they generally don’t burn hot enough to sustain proper cooking, and if they are treated with any chemicals or painted they can leach toxins into the food.

The Pit:

The idea is to use the Stainless steel tubing to stabilize the rack that you’ll fabricate from the rest of the parts. Before you leave the store, make sure that the threaded rod fits inside the stainless steel tubing, like a sleeve. Also check that the round grill replacement racks that you’re going to purchase fit inside of the steel trash can. They will need to fit this way when it’s time to cook the bird!

Assemble the rack by sandwiching the first grate to the threaded rod about half-way, and the second almost all the way to the top. This will be used like a slide-hammer to drive the steel tubing into the ground at your selected site. If you decide to cut the steel tubing to a shorter length, drive at least 2.5 to 3 feet so as to insure that your “stand” will be stable enough. Using the assembled rack apparatus as your slide hammer, drive the tubing into the ground, pulling it out a few times to remove the dirt that ends up filling the tube; use the apparatus to poke the dirt out of the end of the tube. Continue driving until you have 3 or 4 inched of tubing left above-ground. This will now be a permanent place for you to cook whenever you like.

A less-permanent approach for cooking on concrete, where you can’t drive steel tubing into the ground, requires cutting the threaded rod to a length that will fit inside the over-turned can. Then place fire brick underneath the bottom rack to stabilize, confirm the can will fit over the entire assembly.

Parts List:

1 – 30 Gallon Galvanized Steel garbage can

2 – 20″ Round Steel Grill replacement grates

1 – 24″ to 36″ 1/2″ Stainless Steel tubing (to hold threaded rod )

1 – 36″ to 48″ length of Steel threaded rod (to hold grating, make sure rod fits inside of SS tubing)

4 – Hex nuts that fit the treaded Rod

4 – Washers w/ inside diameter that will fit on the threaded rod, and outside diameter large enough to hold the grate.

Additional Supplies:

1/4 to 1/2 of a face-cord of seasoned hardwood. Don’t hesitate to add fruit wood and/or hickory, alder or any other “smoking” wood. I always put small pieces and BBQ chips under the bird to give it a smoky flavor.

Garden Hose and/or Fire Extinguisher

Heavy Leather Work Gloves, and/or Nomex “Oven Gloves”

5 Gallon Bucket

Prepping the Bird:

You can keep the preparation of the bird as simple as rinsing and throwing it into the pit naked. I like to insure a juicy result, so I always brine my birds. I like to rub butter and herbs between the skin and the breast and back of the bird as well, this is a great opportunity for experimentation. To really take the whole thing to the next level though, encasing the entire bird in a blanket of bacon is a wonderful option. It helps to protect against scorching the bird, and Bacon imparts its own delicious goodness to anything that is swathed in it.


25 – 30 lbs. Turkey

10 lb pack of Bacon

2 lbs of moist fruits and/or vegetables like onion, oranges, Brussels sprouts,

1 lb. Butter, softened to room temperature

Your choice of seasoning


2 – 3 2.5 lb. Boxes of Kosher Salt

2 Bulbs of crushed Garlic

Your choice of Poultry Seasoning

To make an adequate brine solution, mix 1-part Kosher salt with 2-parts water; dissolve the salt and mix the the herbs of your liking into the 5 Gallon bucket. Place the thawed bird in the solution overnight and keep it as cool as possible. Rinse the bird inside and out prior to dressing or cooking it.

On the Conventional Oven Rack - Bacon turkey FTW!!!

Conventional oven method wrapped in Broadbent Applewood Bacon - Photo courtesy Scott Kveton

Cooking the Bird:

Cooking the bird is not difficult, but it can take some practice to get consistent results. That’s part of what led me to create this post; I’ve made plenty of mistakes and I hope that you’ll learn from mine! Remember, don’t ever use construction materials for your cooking fire or you’ll wind up with a poisonous, undercooked bird.

The basic idea is that the threaded rod should go through the center of the bird inside the neck and chest cavity. The rack on the bottom of the set-up holds the weight of the bird and the top rack can be used  to help hold the bird upright. The upper rack can also hold additional items like a rib-roast, game hens or a chicken or two.

Build a starter-fire somewhere nearby where you’re cooking pit is located. It is best to have hot coals to shovel around the base of the upturned can ready to go as opposed to building the fire at the base of the upturned can. You’ll want the inside of the can to heat up quickly and not take the time it takes to get the fire to get hot enough to cook Make sure you’ll have enough hot coals to surround the base and have a pile for the top of the can. You can add wood to the hot coals one they are moved, and surround the fire with rocks or bricks for safety and to keep more heat contained.

Whatever you put underneath, the first 60 to 90 minutes should see the can untouched. Leave it sealed to allow everything cook and keep the moisture in the can. Considering the temperatures inside the can get pretty high, allow about 4 to 5 minutes per pound and a little more depending in whether and with what you decide to stuff the bird.

More to Come:

I’ve had a ton of fun cooking a bunch of different things via the trash can method. I will be sharing more experiences and recipies so that you can put your new trash can rig to good use. I know a few folks who have a permanent set-ups at their homes and lake houses. Those rigs get used nearly every year to cook-up a bird, sometimes even with a rib-roast hovering on the rack above the bird! It’s a fun, communal culinary endeavor that tickles the palate time and time again!

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