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Cutting Turkey

Campfire Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe


If you’re tent camping this Thanksgiving season, you may be wondering how to pull-off a spectacular holiday meal with limited resources. With a bit of planning, it’s possible to assemble a flavorful “camper-cooked” traditional meal for a party of any size.

The key to this juicy turkey recipe is the salty brining process, enhancing both the tenderness and flavor of the bird. You’ll use a Dutch-oven to cook the turkey over a campfire, so grab your best Dutch-oven equipment. This is typically a cast iron pot that enables hot coals to be placed on top (for a method similar to baking) or beneath (similar to cooking on a stovetop).

Dutch oven set

Photo Credits Susqim


2 gallons water

1 cup salt

1 cup brown sugar

2 cups vegetable broth

4 sage leaves

1 fresh whole turkey (approx. 12 lbs. or less, to fit in your Dutch-oven)


  1. Use a stovetop or grate over a campfire to start the brine in a large pot. Add the first 3 ingredients and set over high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil until the salt and sugar are dissolved, then immediately remove and let cool. Stir in the vegetable broth and sage leaves.
  2. After cleaning the turkey, double up 2 extra-large roasting bags and put the turkey inside. Pour the brine over the turkey and into the bag, sealing it when finished. If there is some brine leftover that is fine – just make sure the turkey has been completely covered by the solution. If you have a refrigerator in your RV, leave the brining turkey there for at least 12 hours. If not, you can utilize a large cooler – which can be left outside if the weather is cool enough, or can be packed in ice to ensure the turkey remains refrigerated during this process.
  3. Start a fire in your campsites fire ring. Use dense wood and let it burn for about an hour before cooking, ensuring enough hot coals are produced to maintain a high temperature.
  4. Meanwhile, remove the turkey from the brine and gently pat dry. This is the time to season the turkey to your liking – rub with butter or oil and your preferred herbs and spices. Then place it in the Dutch-oven.
  5. Add hot coals to the bottom of your Dutch-oven and replenish the coals every hour. Cook times will vary depending on the size of the turkey, check for doneness just before the two-hour mark. A meat thermometer inserted into the thigh should read 170*.
dutch oven turkey cooking
Photo Credit Tim Smith

You can use this campfire recipe as a basis and adjust as needed – it’s easy to adapt, and it’s sure to please hungry campers of all ages. If you need a little extra heat try adding a little hot sauce! Enjoy!


Loren Tucker

Loren is a freelance outdoor writer based in the northeastern U.S. She enjoys writing about all nature topics, participating in wildlife conservation, being on the water, and RV-ing with her family - including her cat and sulcata tortoise.

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