How to Cook Turkey Underground?

Have you ever wondered about the origins of cooking turkey underground?

Explore the fascinating method of underground turkey cooking, from the tools you need to how to prepare the turkey for this unique cooking method.

Learn how to build a fire pit, how long it takes to cook the turkey, and how to check if it’s done.

Discover tips, tricks, and a guide on serving and carving your underground-cooked turkey!

Key Takeaways:


  • Discover the origin of cooking turkey underground and its rich cultural significance.
  • 2.

  • Learn the essential tools needed for cooking turkey underground, including a shovel and fire pit.
  • 3.

  • Master the steps for preparing, wrapping, and cooking the turkey underground for a delicious and unique dining experience.
  • What is the Origin of Cooking Turkey Underground?

    What is the Origin of Cooking Turkey Underground? - How to Cook Turkey Underground?

    Credits: Poormet.Com – Zachary Anderson

    The origin of cooking turkey underground dates back to ancient traditions where tribes used earth ovens to slow-cook meat, infusing it with natural flavors and tenderness.

    These underground cooking techniques have been passed down through generations, becoming a cultural hallmark of certain regions. Deeply rooted in tradition, the process involves digging a pit, heating rocks, and burying the turkey with layers of leaves for insulation. As the turkey cooks slowly over several hours, the earth’s natural heat envelops it, creating a succulent and flavorful dish that represents community and togetherness.

    What Tools Do You Need to Cook Turkey Underground?

    To cook turkey underground successfully, essential tools include a sturdy shovel for digging, rocks to retain heat, a fire pit for controlled cooking, coals for consistent temperature, and aluminum foil for sealing in moisture.

    Aside from these basic tools, it’s also beneficial to have a large roasting pan or Dutch oven to place the turkey in. The roasting pan helps in cooking the turkey evenly and keeps the juices intact. Having a reliable meat thermometer is crucial to ensure the turkey reaches a safe internal temperature.

    • Choosing the right rocks is essential; avoid porous rocks that might crack under high heat. Opt for dense, heat-resistant stones that can hold and distribute heat evenly for thorough cooking.

    When selecting aluminum foil, opt for heavy-duty foil to withstand the intense heat underground. Remember to securely wrap the turkey to prevent any moisture loss and ensure a juicy end result.


    A durable shovel is critical for digging the cooking hole where the turkey will be buried, ensuring proper insulation and heat distribution during the underground cooking process.

    When choosing a shovel for this task, opt for one with a sturdy build and a comfortable grip to make the digging process easier and more efficient. The shovel’s blade should be sharp enough to cut through soil effortlessly, but not too sharp as to cause accidental injuries.

    As you unearth the earth to create the pit, the shovel becomes your trusty companion, shaping the cooking environment to achieve the perfect conditions for your succulent turkey.

    Once the pit is dug, the shovel plays a key role in managing the hot coals and embers. Use it to carefully arrange the coals around the turkey, regulating the heat to ensure even cooking. Remember, safety comes first – always handle the shovel with caution, especially around the fire. With the right shovel in hand, you’ll be on your way to mastering the art of underground cooking like a seasoned pro!

    Fire Pit

    The fire pit serves as the heart of underground turkey cooking, providing a controlled source of heat that gradually cooks the bird to perfection while infusing it with smoky flavors.

    Constructed carefully underground, the fire pit acts as a natural oven, enveloping the turkey in a cocoon of delicious aromas. It’s like the campfire’s sophisticated cousin, adding that rustic charm to the cooking process.

    • By regulating the amount of wood and airflow, the fire pit ensures a consistent temperature, preventing the risk of overcooking or undercooking the turkey.
    • The smoky essence from the wood chips permeates the meat, giving it a distinct and mouthwatering flavor that cannot be replicated through any other cooking method.

    Aluminum Foil

    Aluminum foil is essential for wrapping the turkey securely before burying it underground, ensuring that the meat retains moisture, cooks evenly, and stays protected from direct contact with soil and ash.

    When preparing to cook turkey underground, you want to ensure that every layer counts. Thick aluminum foil, approximately 18 inches wide, is ideal for creating a strong barrier against the elements. The key is to wrap the turkey snugly but not too tightly, allowing room for heat circulation while keeping moisture locked in. Remember, the foil acts as a shield, preventing the soil’s grit and ash from sneaking into your delicious dish. Choosing a durable, high-quality foil can make all the difference in the final taste and texture of your turkey.


    A reliable thermometer is crucial for monitoring the internal temperature of the buried turkey, ensuring that it reaches the desired level of doneness for safe and flavorful consumption.

    When underground cooking a turkey, accuracy is key, and the thermometer becomes your trusty companion in this culinary adventure. Placing the thermometer in the thickest part of the bird, away from bones, gives you the most accurate reading. Remember, precision matters; a few degrees can make a big difference! Calibrating your thermometer before each use ensures its accuracy, safeguarding your feast from undercooked mishaps. To prevent it from wandering off or falling, secure the thermometer in place with safety wire, giving you peace of mind as you wait for that perfectly cooked turkey.

    How to Prepare the Turkey for Cooking Underground?

    How to Prepare the Turkey for Cooking Underground? - How to Cook Turkey Underground?

    Credits: Poormet.Com – Donald Jackson

    Preparing the turkey for underground cooking involves thorough cleaning, seasoning with herbs and spices, stuffing with aromatic ingredients like onions and apples, and securely wrapping in aluminum foil for protection and moisture retention.

    Once the turkey is prepared, it’s time to insulate it to ensure even cooking and optimal flavor. This is where the ingenious use of bath towels comes into play. By wrapping the foil-wrapped turkey in several layers of bath towels, you create a cozy cocoon that helps maintain a consistent temperature while the bird roasts underground.

    Cleaning and Seasoning the Turkey

    Before cooking underground, it’s essential to clean the turkey thoroughly, removing any giblets and excess fat, then season it generously with a blend of herbs and spices to enhance its flavor profile.

    Cleaning the turkey serves the dual purpose of ensuring hygiene and allowing the flavors of the seasonings to penetrate deep into the meat during the cooking process. This step helps in creating a tender and flavorful dish that will tantalize the taste buds of all your guests.

    Regarding seasoning, the key is to not hold back! A generous amount of salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, and rosemary rubbed both inside and outside the turkey will infuse it with a rich and savory taste.

    Wrapping the Turkey in Aluminum Foil

    Wrapping the prepared turkey tightly in aluminum foil not only seals in moisture and flavors but also protects the meat from direct contact with smoke and ash during the underground cooking process.

    For a foolproof wrap, lay out a large sheet of aluminum foil and place the seasoned turkey in the center. Loosely bring the edges of the foil together above the turkey and fold them over a few times to create a secure seal. This method ensures that the aluminum foil wraps snugly around the bird, preventing any juices from leaking out or allowing excess smoke to penetrate. Remember, a well-wrapped turkey means impeccable moisture retention, enhanced flavor infusion, and shielded protection from unwanted ash intrusion.

    How to Build the Fire Pit for Cooking Turkey Underground?

    Constructing a sturdy fire pit for underground turkey cooking involves arranging rocks in a circular pattern, creating a bed of coals, and igniting the fire with kindling to establish a steady heat source for the cooking process.

    Begin by selecting a suitable location for your fire pit, keeping in mind safety and airflow. Clear any flammable materials around the area and lay out a foundation of rocks to form the base of your pit. Ensure the rocks are stable and create a solid ring to contain the fire and support the weight of the cooking materials.

    Next, fill the center of the pit with a generous layer of charcoal or wood coals to provide sustained heat throughout the cooking. It’s crucial to distribute the coals evenly to ensure uniform cooking of the turkey.

    Once the coals are in place, carefully light the fire using kindling sticks or a fire starter. Be mindful of the wind direction to prevent smoke from blowing towards the cooking area. Gradually build up the flames to achieve the desired temperature for cooking.

    How Long Does it Take to Cook Turkey Underground?

    The cooking time for turkey underground varies based on factors like the bird’s size, the heat consistency of the fire pit, and the desired smokiness of the final dish, typically ranging from several hours to half a day for a thoroughly cooked and flavorful result.

    When hosting an underground turkey feast, you’ll want to consider the weight of your turkey. A smaller bird, around 8-12 pounds, may cook in 3-4 hours, while larger ones upwards of 20 pounds could take 8-10 hours. Remember, the intensity of the fire influences cooking time too. If the flames are roaring, expect a quicker cook, but if it’s a slow burn, you’ll need patience. To keep tabs on progress, utilize a meat thermometer or, better yet, a trusted thermometer gadget for peace of mind!

    Factors Affecting Cooking Time

    Several factors influence the cooking time of turkey underground, such as the bird’s weight, the fire’s temperature, the depth of burial, and the presence of additional smoking elements like applewood chips.

    Regarding the bird’s weight, a larger turkey will naturally require more time to cook thoroughly. If you’ve got a hefty, butterball of a bird on your hands, be prepared to add some extra hours to the underground roasting timer. The fire’s temperature is also crucial – you don’t want it blazing like the sun or smoldering like a dying ember.

    The depth of burial plays a significant role. Too shallow, and you risk uneven cooking; too deep, and you might end up with turkey jerky no one wants to chew. As for those applewood chips, they can infuse your turkey with a delightful smoky flavor, but make sure not to overdo it, unless you want your meat to taste more like a bonfire than a feast.

    Recommended Cooking Time for Different Sizes of Turkey

    For Thanksgiving feasts or family gatherings, recommended cooking times for underground turkey can vary from 4 to 8 hours, depending on the bird’s weight and the desired level of doneness, ensuring a succulent and flavorful centerpiece for the celebratory meal.

    When dealing with a smaller bird, say around 10 to 14 pounds, you might lean towards the shorter end of the cooking time spectrum – aim for that perfectly tender meat with mouthwatering flavors.

    On the other hand, if you’ve got yourself a hefty 20-pounder, you’ll want to give it the full 8-hour underground treatment to make sure every inch is cooked to juicy perfection. Remember, patience is key when it comes to underground cooking; slow and steady wins the race in delivering a delicious turkey that will have your guests begging for seconds!

    How to Check if the Turkey is Cooked?

    Verifying the turkey’s doneness during underground cooking involves using a reliable thermometer to check the internal temperature, aiming for a safe threshold to ensure thorough cooking and delicious results.

    When checking the turkey, remember that the target temperature should reach 165°F (74°C) to guarantee it’s safe to eat. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the bird, ensuring it doesn’t touch any bones as they can give a false reading. Wait for the temperature to stabilize; if it’s below 165°F, the turkey needs more time. Patience is key here, as you want to avoid any undercooked surprises at the dining table!

    Using a Thermometer

    Employing a thermometer to assess the turkey’s internal temperature is a reliable method for gauging doneness, ensuring that the meat reaches a safe threshold for consumption and optimal flavor.

    When cooking a turkey underground, using a thermometer becomes even more crucial to ensure that the bird is cooked through thoroughly. Proper placement of the thermometer is key – make sure it’s inserted into the thickest part of the turkey, avoiding contact with bones for accurate readings.

    Interpreting the thermometer readings can be a bit tricky, but remember that poultry should reach an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to be safely consumed. This step not only guarantees food safety but also determines the succulence and tenderness of the turkey.

    Using the ‘Wiggle Test’

    The ‘Wiggle Test’ is a classic technique for checking the turkey’s doneness during underground cooking, involving gently nudging the bird to assess its tenderness and readiness for serving, a time-honored method passed down through generations.

    Legend has it that this method originated in ancient feasts where tribal chiefs would use the wiggle test to impress their guests with perfectly cooked poultry cooked in a pit. The technique involves delicately prodding the turkey’s thigh or breast, feeling for the resistance and bounce that indicate it’s cooked to juicy perfection. Mastering the Wiggle Test requires a deft touch and a keen sense of intuition, as misinterpreting the results could lead to either overcooked dry meat or, even worse, undercooked poultry unsafe for consumption.

    How to Serve and Carve the Turkey Cooked Underground?

    How to Serve and Carve the Turkey Cooked Underground? - How to Cook Turkey Underground?

    Credits: Poormet.Com – Russell Nguyen

    Serving and carving the turkey cooked underground is a festive tradition that involves unwrapping the bird from foil, presenting it whole on a bed of rocks or burlap, and skillfully carving tender slices to delight family and guests with a memorable dining experience.

    Once the turkey is placed on the makeshift table of rocks or burlap, it’s like a centerpiece that commands attention. The art of carving the meat requires finesse, with the chef expertly slicing through the succulent meat to ensure each piece is flavorful and juicy. Carving with precision, the chef provides a theatrical performance that adds to the anticipation of the meal. Whether using a traditional carving knife or a more modern electric knife, the goal is always the same – to serve up perfect slices of heaven.

    For garnishing, fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme add a fragrant touch, while cranberry sauce and gravy are classic accompaniments that enhance the flavors.

    This age-old tradition is more than just a culinary display; it’s a symbol of togetherness and celebration. As each slice is served, it symbolizes the shared bond of friends and family gathered around the table to enjoy the fruits of the laborious cooking process. The earthy aroma of the underground cooked turkey combined with the rugged presentation on rocks or burlap creates an authentic experience that transcends mere dining.

    So, next time you witness the ritual of serving and carving an underground-cooked turkey, remember it’s not just about the food – it’s about creating cherished memories and connecting over a shared love for good food.

    Tips and Tricks for Cooking Turkey Underground

    Tips and Tricks for Cooking Turkey Underground - How to Cook Turkey Underground?

    Credits: Poormet.Com – Raymond Brown

    Mastering the art of cooking turkey underground involves tips like using safety wire to secure tools, selecting rocks that retain heat efficiently, igniting the fire with newspaper and kindling for a robust flame, and monitoring the cooking process closely to achieve succulent and smoky results for a memorable outdoor feast.

    Regarding underground turkey cooking, safety should always be a top priority. Make sure to wear heat-resistant gloves and eye protection while handling hot rocks and tools. Food safety is crucial too; use a reliable meat thermometer to ensure your turkey reaches the safe internal temperature.

    Preparing the fire pit is an essential step in this unique cooking method. Dig a pit deep enough to accommodate the turkey and the rocks—around 2 feet is typically ideal. Line the pit with fire-resistant rocks to create an even heat distribution.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the best way to cook turkey underground?

    The best way to cook turkey underground is by using an underground oven or pit. This method has been used by many cultures for centuries and results in tender, juicy, and flavorful meat.

    How do you build an underground oven for cooking turkey?

    You can build an underground oven by digging a hole in the ground, lining it with rocks, and building a fire inside to heat the rocks. Once the rocks are hot, remove the fire and place the turkey (wrapped in foil) on top of the hot rocks. Cover with more hot rocks, dirt, and a layer of leaves for insulation.

    How long does it take to cook a turkey underground?

    The cooking time for a turkey underground depends on the size and weight of the turkey, as well as the heat of the rocks. On average, it takes about 4-6 hours to cook a 10-12 pound turkey using this method. It is important to monitor the temperature and make sure the turkey is cooked thoroughly.

    What are some tips for cooking turkey underground?

    Some tips for cooking turkey underground include making sure the rocks are evenly hot, using a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey, and adding aromatic herbs and spices to the foil wrapping for added flavor.

    Can you cook other meats underground besides turkey?

    Yes, you can cook other meats underground such as chicken, pork, beef, and lamb. The key is to adjust the cooking time based on the weight and type of meat. You can also experiment with different marinades and seasonings for different flavors.

    Is cooking turkey underground safe?

    Yes, cooking turkey underground is safe as long as the turkey is cooked to the recommended internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). It is important to take proper safety precautions while building and using the underground oven, such as wearing gloves and using a long stick to move the hot rocks.

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