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How to cook a turkey overa campfire

October 19th, 2010

Want to cook a turkey on a campfire? It’s easier than you might think, and turns out delicious!

What you’ll need:

  • A smallish turkey, butterflied. Ours was about 11 pounds. You could use a bigger bird, but it would require more cooking time.
  • A large and fairly deep roasting pan that you don’t mind blackening. I used our old one; we just upgraded.
  • Salt, brown sugar, and peppercorns for an easy brine – or your favorite mixture.
  • Red onion
  • Chicken or vegetable broth for the pan
  • A bit of butter
  • Tin foil
  • A campfire with grill on top

Before heading to the campsite, I’d prepared the dry mix for the brine by measuring and putting into a series of large ziplock bags. I used about a cup and a half of kosher salt, a cup of dark brown sugar, and a quarter cup of mixed peppercorns.

Heating the brine

Once at the campsite, I used the roasting pan to dissolve the brine mix in a quart or so of water; I eyeballed based on what I felt would be enough to soak the turkey. I added in a half bottle of beer at the last minute.

Then, once the mixture cooled, we poured it over the turkey into a nested set of sturdy plastic bags. Tying off the top, the turkey sat in the (now dry) roasting pan. I packed ice around it to keep it cool, but since the weather outside was just above freezing, it didn’t need a lot.

Brined and bagged

I recommend only brining for 4 to 6 hours. I brined overnight and it was far too long; the turkey was juicy but quite salty. Your best bet is to begin the brine the morning you want to cook the turkey, and plan on eating dinner around 7 that night.

When we were ready to start cooking, I drained the brine and put the turkey into the roasting pan, skin side up, with a cup of chicken stock and some onion slices. I put a bit of butter on the skin, as I’d do at home.

Ready to cook

This roasting pan doesn’t have a lid, so I used tin foil to create a tight enough seal. On a campfire, the heat will be coming from below, so it’s important to keep as much of it in the pan as possible.

Well foiled

The turkey went on around 4pm. We cooked it over a high fire for the first hour, then let the fire lower for the next two hours.

Campfire cooking

Almost done

At 7pm, the turkey was perfectly cooked; juicy and delicious.

Campfire turkey, butterflied.

Next year, we’ll try it again, with a bit more liquid in the pot and less brining time. Because I didn’t add additional stock as it cooked, the pan drippings burned a little, and were impossible to use for gravy.

Thanksgiving dinner

On the side, we made mashed potatoes by boiling them in water on our camp stove. I also made a pan of sweet potatoes over the fire, cooked in a little broth and maple syrup. I had prepared cranberry sauce the week before, and we had store-bought rolls. A true thanksgiving feast!

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4 Responses to “How to cook a turkey over a campfire”

  1. Gingy Says:


  2. Adrienne Says:

    That looks unbelievably good. Genius!

  3. Laughingrat Says:

    Oh, wow. That looks awesome! *steals your turkey*

  4. knitty_kat Says:

    My Mum used to BBQ turkeys . . I don’t recall what they looked like but they were very tasty.

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