Thanksgiving turkey recipes: 7 ways to cook a turkey

Christine LindstromNovember 3, 2021

Thanksgiving turkey recipes: 7 ways to cook a turkey

Is there any other holiday where food is more of a focus than at Thanksgiving? The feast is the focal point, which is why there are so many Thanksgiving turkey recipes. Families and friends gather around long tables full of indulgent, festive dishes, and at the center: the turkey. It’s like a Norman Rockwell painting.

But what do you do when you’re spending Thanksgiving in an RV about the size of that table in the painting? Or when the turkey in question is larger than the oven in your RV — if you even have an oven? Before you resign yourself to turkey sandwiches this Thanksgiving, try one of these less traditional ways to cook a turkey in an RV or over a campfire.

We’ve got 7 Thanksgiving turkey recipes to choose from:

  1. Instant Pot turkey
  2. Deep-fried turkey
  3. Foil-wrapped turkey
  4. Dutch oven turkey
  5. Trash can turkey
  6. Beer can turkey
  7. Campfire rotisserie turkey
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Note: With all of these recipes, use a meat thermometer, properly inserted, to be sure your turkey is thoroughly cooked. Nothing spoils the holidays quite like food poisoning. A turkey should reach a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

1. Instant Pot turkey

The Instant Pot has many features that are ideal for small-space living. It can also cook your Thanksgiving turkey. An 8 to 9-pound turkey can fit in an 8-quart Instant Pot!

How to cook Instant Pot turkey

  1. Put 2 cups of broth or stock to the bottom of the Instant Pot
  2. Add sliced onion, garlic, and celery
  3. Mix oil, paprika, salt, pepper, and poultry herb mix (thyme, rosemary and sage) to make herbed and spiced olive oil
  4. Set the turkey breast side up in the trivet and brush it with the olive oil
  5. Place lid on the Instant Pot and set valve to sealing position
  6. Press “manual” and set it the timer
  7. When the IP is done, let the pressure release naturally
  8. Once the pressure pin is down, carefully open the lid
  9. Check the temperature of the turkey (It should be at least 165 degrees F)
  10. Remove turkey from Instant Pot (Broil if you want crispy skin)
  11. Make gravy with liquid remaining in the Instant Pot.

More detailed instructions

2. Deep-fried turkey

Many people with perfectly good, full-sized ovens still choose deep-fried Thanksgiving turkey recipes. The turkey cooks faster than in a traditional oven, and the skin gets crispy while the meat inside is tender and juicy. If you have a deep fryer or a large stockpot that will fit your turkey with margins, this is a great choice to cook your bird.

How to cook fried turkey

  1. Heat oil (peanut oil recommended) to 350 degrees Fahrenheit before adding the turkey
  2. Have oil to submerge the turkey, but not so much that it overflows when the turkey is added
  3. Use a poultry rack or similar holder to make sure the turkey can be lowered in and removed safely
  4. The turkey should be cooked for 3 minutes per pound, plus about 5 minutes (A 10-pound turkey should be fried for 35 minutes)
  5. Let the turkey rest for 15 to 20 minutes before serving

More detailed instructions

3. Foil-wrapped turkey on campfire coals

Get back to basics and cook your turkey using coals from your campfire — no special devices or appliances required!

How to cook turkey over a campfire

  1. Season the turkey as desired, but be sure to rub oil onto the exterior of the turkey
  2. Wrap the turkey generously with cheesecloth and seal it tightly in four layers of aluminum foil
  3. Insert the thermometer
  4. Build a campfire with hardwood logs and allow about an hour for them to burn down into a good supply of glowing coals
  5. Meanwhile, dig a hole about 6 inches larger than your turkey in all directions
  6. Rake coals into the bottom of the hole, add the turkey, and surround the turkey on all sides with coals
  7. Cover your little oven with dirt and wait about 3 hours
  8. When the thermometer indicates the turkey is well-cooked (at or above 165 degrees F), dig it up, and let it rest in the foil for 20 minutes before unwrapping
  9. Enjoy!

More detailed instructions

dutch oven thanksgiving turkey recipes

4. Dutch oven turkey

Instead of digging a hole, which might not be appreciated at some campgrounds, campfire coals can also be used to cook the turkey in a Dutch oven. A rather large Dutch oven is needed to ensure that the turkey does not touch the sides in any direction, which would prevent the oven from heating properly and evenly.

How to cook turkey in a Dutch oven

  1. Start a campfire with hardwood logs and let it burn for at least an hour
  2. Rub oil thoroughly on exterior and interior of turkey
  3. Sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper, and other seasonings
  4. Place the turkey in the Dutch Oven
  5. Insert the probe of the thermometer into the center of the breast meat
  6. String the thermometer’s lead out to the sending unit and place the cover tightly on the Dutch Oven 
  7. Place coals below and on top of the oven
  8. Replenish as they turn to ash
  9. Remove when the internal temp hits 165 F (a 12-pound turkey will cook in approximately 3 hours)
  10. Allow the bird to rest covered for about 20 minutes
  11. Carve and serve!

More detailed instructions

5. Trash can turkey

Don’t have a large enough Dutch oven, but don’t want to dig a hole in the ground? This variation involves creating a makeshift Dutch oven out of a (new) metal trash can.

How to make trash can turkey

  1. Lay sheets of aluminum foil on the grass to make about 3×3 square feet
  2. Pound a wooden stake into the ground in the center of the aluminum foil
  3. Fill the lid of the garbage can with a large pile of charcoal and light
  4. Place the whole turkey onto the stake, legs down
  5. Turn the garbage can upside down over the turkey
  6. Place piles of lighted coals on the top and around the sides of the can
  7. Cook for at least 1 1/2 hours
  8. Brush the charcoal off of the can and lift off carefully
  9. Make sure the thickest part of the thigh is 180 degrees F 

More detailed instructions

thanksgiving turkey recipes

6. Beer can turkey

If you have a grill with a lid, a roasting pan, and two cans of beer, you can try one of the less traditional Thanksgiving turkey recipes.

How to cook beer can turkey

  1. Heat the grill to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and season your turkey as desired
  2. Remove the top of a beer can with a can opener, pour about 1/3 into the roasting pan, and put the can in the pan
  3. Place the turkey onto the beer can, legs down
  4. Pour half of the second beer into the roasting pan and move the pan to the grill
  5. Close the lid and cook for 2 hours and 30 minutes
  6. After the first hour, pour the other half of the second beer over the turkey
  7. An hour later, baste the turkey and monitor the temperature until the turkey is fully cooked

More detailed instructions

7. Campfire rotisserie turkey

Perhaps one of the oldest Thanksgiving turkey recipes that we know of is roasting on a spit over an open fire. If you’re handy, you could rig your own, but standing and spinning your roasting spit for several hours might not be how you want to spend your Thanksgiving. Thankfully, there are battery-powered roasting spits available.

How to cook campfire rotisserie turkey

  1. Brine and season your turkey as desired, then mount it on the spit and sit back to watch it spin
  2. Be sure to keep a fire going to refresh the coals every 30 to 40 minutes, and avoid roasting the turkey over an open flame
  3. Use a drip pan to catch the juices as it cooks (an 8 to 10 pound turkey will take between 3 and 3.5 hours)
  4. Remove the turkey from the spit and let it rest
  5. Carve and eat!

More detailed instructions

Happy Thanksgiving!

With a little creativity and planning, it’s possible to enjoy both the great outdoors and a traditional dinner this Thanksgiving! So pick your favorite recipe, decorate your RV, and get to eating with the ones you love. Whether you gather around a big dining room table or pull up chairs around the campfire, we wish you a very happy Thanksgiving!

Christine Lindstrom, Outdoorsy Author

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