This Dutch Oven Turkey is smothered in garlic sage butter and will turn your outdoor Thanksgiving into a fragrant traditional feast. It can be cooked on the campfire or grill or even indoors in a regular oven. Find more of my delicious cast iron campfire Dutch oven recipes.
Camping. You either love it or hate it. But you can’t argue with the fact that decompressing with nature is good for all of us, even those who hate camping!
It could be a weekend in a cabin by the lake or even just sitting in your backyard porch, even 10 minutes on a park bench can recharge our worn out batteries.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it is not about buying gifts or eating candies, but about being thankful and grateful for what we have in our life. Friends, family, good food and a break from the rat race to recharge our batteries.
Now if you are able to combine these two wonderful events and get to celebrate Thanksgiving outdoors, even better! This year the hubs is going to smoke our turkey in our grill. But if you are camping or want to prepare the holiday turkey outdoors another way, why not try this Dutch oven turkey.
See my Dutch Oven Roast Turkey Web Story for a quick visual guide to making this recipe.
Why you should try this recipe
I love all the foods and flavors of Thanksgiving, but we all know that the turkey takes center stage! I have shared my tips on how to cook the perfect roast turkey at home. I also have a fabulous roasted spatchcocked (butterflied) turkey which cuts the cooking time in half.
You can easily roast a turkey in a Dutch oven, as well. The key is not to overcook it, whether you are cooking it at home in your kitchen or outdoors over coals. If you have never cooked in a cast iron Dutch oven, I share all of my cooking tips so you can learn how to cook in a Dutch oven. Trust me, it’s super easy.
This recipe produces a very moist and juicy turkey. Because we are roasting a smaller turkey in the Dutch oven, it will cook faster than a large turkey. Most people overcook the turkey, which dries it all out.
But my favorite way to keep your turkey moist is BUTTER! This garlic sage butter is smeared all over the turkey on the outside and underneath the skin, against the meat. It not only gives your turkey tremendous flavor, but keeps the meat moist.
If you don’t want to use butter, don’t worry. Brining your turkey is another great way to insure a moist and juice roasted turkey. Here’s a great way to dry brine your turkey and then just follow my directions on how to make Dutch oven turkey.
“We were out camping and we tried your Dutch oven turkey recipe!!! Loved it, everyone was jealous!! 😊 Thanks for all the fantastic Dutch oven ideas!!”
Ingredients you need
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- Whole turkey: You will need a turkey that fits inside your Dutch oven. This usually means a small turkey, about 10-pounds. If your Dutch oven is not extra deep, then you need to butterfly the turkey to make it fit in a 12-inch Dutch oven.
- Butter: I rub butter, garlic and herbs under the skin of the turkey breast for moisture and flavor. You will need to bring your butter to room temperature.
- Garlic: For best flavor, use fresh garlic. But you could use garlic powder if you do not have it.
- Fresh sage: Again, fresh herbs are so much more aromatic than dried. You could also use thyme and rosemary.
- Onion: A chopped onion is stuffed into the cavity of the turkey for flavor.
- All purpose flour: If you are making gravy, you will need some flour.
- Salt and pepper
Step 1: Prepare the butter.
In a small bowl combine softened butter, garlic and chopped sage until mixed completely.
Step 2: Prepare the turkey.
Season the entire turkey with salt and pepper then rub it all over with herb butter, including underneath the skin of the turkey breast.
If turkey is butterflied, place chopped onions and sage sprigs in bottom of a 12-inch Dutch oven place seasoned turkey over it, breast side up.
If turkey is whole, make sure cavity is season and place onions and sprigs of herb inside. Using heavy duty aluminum twist up a big ‘U’ and place in the bottom of the deep 12-inch Dutch oven. Rest turkey over the foil, breast side up.
Step 3: Heat up the briquettes
In a fire ring or coal chimney add 24 charcoal briquettes. Light the briquettes and allow to heat up for approximately 15 minutes.
If you are preparing this at home, preheat the oven to 325ºF.
Step 4: Roast the turkey
When flames are down and coals are hot, place 9 hot coals underneath the Dutch oven. Place lid on top and evenly place remaining 15 hot coals on the lid.
Roast turkey for 1 ½ hours, replacing used up coals with fresh hot coals after 1 hour.
For remaining 20-30 minutes, transfer all the hot coals to the lid of Dutch oven to crisp the skin. Turkey is done when meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh away from the bone registers 170º-175ºF.
Recipe tips and FAQs
The best way to insure that your turkey is done is to use a meat thermometer. Just slide it into the thickest part of the thigh, making sure you do not hit bone. You want and internal temperature of 170°F.
But to guesstimate when your turkey is done, here’s a great rule of thumb to follow. Set your cooking time estimate at 13 minutes per pound for an unstuffed turkey. So for this recipe, I used a 10-pound turkey. My turkey should be done in about 2 hours.
Use your visual cues of the tightening on the skin and whether the juice from the turkey runs clear or not. For crispy skin, place all the hot coals on top of the lid of your Dutch oven for the last 20-30 minutes.
This cookbook was definitely a labor of love! I share 100 recipes, from breakfast to mains, even drinks, all prepared over a campfire. I share multiple cooking techniques, including ash, grilling and Dutch oven cooking. There is something for everyone!
Picking a Dutch oven
If you have never cooked in a cast iron Dutch oven, I share all of my cooking tips so you can learn how to cook in a Dutch oven. Trust me, it’s super easy.
Think of your cast iron Dutch oven as a mini oven. You can bake bread in it, make stews in it, and yes, roast a turkey in it, too. You can cook almost anything in a Dutch oven, over coals and yes, in the great outdoors.
When choosing a Dutch oven to roast your turkey over hot coals, you want to make sure it has little feet underneath it. This elevated the Dutch oven so air can flow underneath eat and give fuel to the hot coals.
You also want to make sure the lid is flat and has a lip or ridge around it. This keeps the hot coals and ash sitting on top of the Dutch oven from spilling into your food with you lift the lid.
And finally, you want a Dutch oven that is large enough to roast a turkey in it! For my 10-pound turkey, a 12-inch Dutch oven was the perfect size. But my Dutch oven was not extra deep like this one so it was a snug fit.
My trick to making my turkey fit was to cut down the backbone, press down to crack the breast bone and butterfly it. If I had the extra deep Dutch oven, I would not need to do this.
If you do use an extra deep Dutch oven, be sure to twist up some heavy duty aluminum foil to make a make-shift roasting rack to rest the turkey on.
Thanksgiving side dishes
If you are camping this Thanksgiving, you can make your meal less stressful by doing all of the prep work at home. For example, you can make the garlic sage butter in advance, along with the cranberry sauce. My family’s personal favorite is my pomegranate cranberry sauce.
Other family favorites include saffron mashed potatoes and this whole wheat moist stuffing with Swiss chard. Both of these dishes can be made a couple days before the big day and then reheated. You can also easily prepare them over campfire with a… you guessed it, Dutch oven.
In my cookbook, The Camp & Cabin Cookbook, I share some other great recipes you can make over the campfire that would be perfect with this Dutch oven roast turkey.
How about some acorn squash roasted directly in hot ash or jalapeño popper hasselback sweet potatoes prepared in foil? And for dessert, maybe a peach and blueberry cobbler with chai topping or baked apples stuff with nuts and raisins?
- 1 10-pound turkey
- 8 TBS softened butter, divided
- 5 garlic cloves, crushed
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh sage
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 small onion, quartered
- 3-4 sprigs fresh sage
- 2 TBS all purpose flour
- Pat turkey dry with paper towels. Remove gizzards and neck and reserve and place in a small saucepan.
- If your Dutch oven is not extra deep, then you need to butterfly the turkey to make it fit in a 12-inch Dutch oven. If you are using an extra deep Dutch oven skip these steps.
- Place the turkey, breast side down, on a large cutting board.
- Using a large sharp knife or poultry shears, cut along one side of the backbone.
- Flip your turkey over, cut side down. Using your hands, press down firmly to break the breastbone and flatten the bird.
- In a small bowl, combine 6 TBS butter, garlic and chopped sage until mixed completely.
- Season the entire turkey with salt and pepper then rub it all over with herb butter.
- Slide your fingers under the skin of the turkey to loosen it from the meat and rub turkey breast with remaining butter.
- If turkey is butterflied, place chopped onions and sage sprigs in bottom of a 12-inch Dutch oven place seasoned turkey over it, breast side up.
- If turkey is whole, make sure cavity is season and place onions and sprigs of herb inside. Using heavy duty aluminum twist up a big 'U' and place in the bottom of the deep 12-inch Dutch oven. Rest turkey over the foil, breast side up.
- In a fire ring or other fire-safe container add 24 charcoal briquettes.
- Light the briquettes and allow to heat up for approximately 15 minutes.
- When flames are down and coals are hot, place 9 hot coals underneath the Dutch oven. Place lid on top and evenly place remaining 15 hot coals on the lid.
- Roast turkey for 1 ½ hours, replacing used up coals with fresh hot coals after 1 hour.
- For remaining 20-30 minutes, transfer all the hot coals to the lid of Dutch oven to crisp the skin. Turkey is done when meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh away from the bone registers 170º-175ºF.
- While the turkey is roasting, cover the neck bone and gizzards with water. Simmer broth for about an hour then strain turkey broth, and reserve.
- When turkey is done, remove from heat and transfer to a cutting board, loosely covering it foil. Let turkey rest while you make the gravy.
- Melt 2 TBS butter in a skillet heat over medium-high heat. Stir in flour.
- After flour is browned, whisk in reserved turkey broth and strained drippings from the roasted turkey in your Dutch oven.
- Whisk until fully incorporated and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes or until gravy has thickened.
You can also cook this in the oven at home in an enamel cast iron pot. Choose a pot that is large enough to hold your turkey, as described in the post. Bake in the oven at 325ºF (without the lid) for 2 hours, or until meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh away from the bone registers 170º-175ºF.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 791Total Fat: 36gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 432mgSodium: 741mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 108g
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