How to Cook a Turkey in a Fire Pit: A Guide to Wilderness Thanksgiving Feasting

If the current news cycle makes you want to run screaming into the woods for Thanksgiving, we understand. The upshot? If you know what you’re doing, you can cook a turkey over a campfire.

Especially if you follow Steven Rinella’s advice. An expert outdoorsman and hunter, Rinella is also a damn good cook. He’s the author of six game and wildlife cookbooks. The MeatEater Fish and Game Cookbook: Recipes and Techniques for Every Hunter and Angler, his most recent book, will be available on November 20.

But first, a caveat: Rinella doesn’t actually eat turkey on Turkey Day. “The first Thanksgiving was described as an impromptu affair,” says Rinella, who is based in Bozeman, Montana. “They would have eaten whatever they had on hand. ” The time to hunt wild turkeys—the only kind of turkey Rinella eats—is in the spring. It seems absurd to freeze a bird for six months, especially since there is so much more to harvest in the fall. Take, for example, venison, “which was surely on the original Thanksgiving menus,” Rinella says.

He tells us, “But I’ve cooked a boatload of turkeys,” and says his new book has a ton of amazing recipes for wild turkeys. Additionally, since farmed turkeys are almost always larger than wild ones, you can use the recipes below for domesticated birds by simply extending the cooking time.

Before diving in, consider this advice from Rinella. Lose any notion of cooking the bird à la Rockwell—that is, intact. “I would compare that to flying a helicopter,” he says, describing how stressful it would be to have to work so hard to keep the turkey cooking evenly on all sides. “Lower your expectations. ”.

Are you craving a Thanksgiving feast with a wild twist? Look no further than your backyard fire pit! With the right techniques and a dash of adventure, you can cook a delicious turkey over an open flame, creating a memorable Thanksgiving experience.

Why Cook a Turkey in a Fire Pit?

While traditional oven-roasted turkeys are delicious, there’s something special about cooking a turkey over a campfire. The smoky aroma, the crackling flames, and the communal atmosphere create a unique and unforgettable experience. Plus, it’s a fun way to connect with nature and embrace the spirit of Thanksgiving.

Gather Your Supplies:

  • Turkey: Choose a fresh or frozen turkey, preferably one that fits comfortably in your fire pit.
  • Firewood: Opt for hardwood like oak, hickory, or maple for a long-lasting, even fire.
  • Charcoal: Use charcoal to get your fire started quickly and maintain a consistent heat.
  • Dutch oven: A 10-inch Dutch oven is ideal for cooking your turkey evenly.
  • Spices: Sage, rosemary, thyme, and garlic powder add flavor to your turkey.
  • Basting brush: Use a silicone basting brush to apply butter or oil to the turkey.
  • Meat thermometer: A reliable meat thermometer ensures your turkey reaches a safe internal temperature.

Preparing the Fire Pit:

  1. Build a sturdy fire: Start by building a pyramid-shaped fire with dry firewood. Light the tinder and let the fire burn until you have a bed of hot coals.
  2. Add charcoal: Once you have a good bed of coals, add a layer of charcoal to maintain a consistent heat.
  3. Position the Dutch oven: Place the Dutch oven on the coals, ensuring it’s centered and stable.

Preparing the Turkey:

  1. Season the turkey: Rub the turkey generously with your chosen spices, ensuring even coverage.
  2. Stuff the Dutch oven: Place the seasoned turkey in the Dutch oven, adding any desired vegetables or stuffing around it.
  3. Baste the turkey: Brush the turkey with melted butter or oil to prevent it from drying out.

Cooking the Turkey:

  1. Cover and cook: Cover the Dutch oven with its lid and place it back on the coals.
  2. Maintain heat: Add more charcoal as needed to maintain a consistent temperature.
  3. Monitor the temperature: Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey. The turkey is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F in the thickest part of the thigh.

Serving Your Fire-Roasted Turkey:

  1. Rest the turkey: Once cooked, remove the turkey from the Dutch oven and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.
  2. Carve and serve: Carve the turkey and serve it with your favorite Thanksgiving side dishes.

Tips for Cooking a Turkey in a Fire Pit:

  • Start early: Allow ample time for the fire to burn down to coals and for the turkey to cook thoroughly.
  • Use a heat diffuser: If your fire is too hot, place a heat diffuser under the Dutch oven to prevent burning.
  • Baste regularly: Basting the turkey helps keep it moist and flavorful.
  • Be patient: Cooking a turkey over a fire pit takes longer than in an oven, so be patient and let the fire do its work.

Additional Resources:

Cooking a turkey in a fire pit is a fun and rewarding experience that adds a unique twist to your Thanksgiving celebration. With the right preparation and a touch of patience, you can create a delicious and memorable feast that will impress your guests and connect you with the spirit of the holiday. So grab your fire pit, gather your ingredients, and get ready to experience Thanksgiving like never before!

For a Spatchcocked Bird

Place it over the grate, skin side down. (Don’t remove the skin before cooking for either of these methods. Skin keeps the bird moist, and it’s delicious. ) After about four minutes, give the turkey a light baste with clarified butter, then turn it over. You’ll keep basting and turning every four minutes or so as it cooks. Your turkey will not cook evenly, no matter what you do. “So you’re going to eat in stages,” Rinella says. With this method, you’ll precisely do what they do in those old cowboy movies—cut off a piece of meat at a time and eat it while the giant hunk-o-meat continues to cook, basting and turning as you go. Snacking on the bird bits at a time feels festive and social if you have a lot of wine on hand, and you won’t regret skipping the full sit-down meal. It might take you forty minutes or an hour, depending on the size of your bird, to begin digging in. (Its done when a meat thermometer reaches 160 degrees and the juices run clear. ).

Brine, Baby, Brine

“Some people say brining doesn’t make a difference, but screw those guys,” Rinella says. By immersing your turkey in a brine of salt, water, and sugar for several hours, you can achieve “impossible results.” In other words, it enhances flavor and prevents the bird from drying out while cooking. (See Rinella’s turkey brine recipe below. ).

Cooking Turkey UNDERGROUND in a FIRE PIT | Primitive Cooking | Gur Eats


How long does it take to cook a turkey over a campfire?

turkey is 2-3/4 to 3 hours, if stuffed 3 to 3-1/2 hours. Turkey is done when internal temperature reaches 180°F, stuffing 165°F.

Can you fire roast a turkey?

Pecan, hickory, and apple are good choices. Whatever you choose, do not put the bird directly over the flame. As Jonny puts it, “Indirect heat is your friend. Whether cooking over a wood fire or charcoal, try to build a ring of fire around your turkey or to one side.

How many minutes per pound for turkey in pit barrel?

Be sure to tuck the wings underneath the turkey so that no parts burn or cook faster. Roast at 325 degrees F for about 13-15 minutes per pound, or until internal temperature (inserted on middle of thigh and breast) reaches about 165 degrees.

How do you cook a Turkey in a fire pit?

Wrap the turkey entirely in the cheesecloth, and then wrap the turkey in three to four layers of aluminum foil. Once you see that the coals are nice and hot, take your rake to remove half of the coals from the fire. Place them at the bottom of the pit you dug out earlier.

Can you cook a Turkey in a pit?

This style of pit cooking is also know as “Bean Hole Cooking.” If you have the time and place to cook your holiday turkey in an outdoor pit. This Outdoor Turkey Pit Cooking recipe would make a great Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey dinner. A pit barbecue is an exercise in turning a hole in the ground into an oven with hot coals provide the heat.

Can you cook a Turkey on a spit over an open fire?

My campfire turkey! One of the most important things to remember when you are cooking on a spit over an open fire is that you do not want to cook with flames. If the flames of the fire make contact with the turkey, they will burn the outside skin of your turkey that is on the rotisserie. You want to cook with heat and not fire.

How do you cook a Turkey in a briquette pit?

Once you are sure your turkey will fit in the pit with plenty of extra room for charcoal and dirt, lift it back out and place it on a table or have someone hold it. Next, shovel a layer of the hot briquettes onto the rocks and bottom of the pit. Be sure to cover it entirely. Lower your turkey into the pit on top of the briquette layer.

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