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5 Steps To Cooking Your Campfire Thanksgiving Dinner

Gobble, gobble, gobble.

By: Jeremy Pawlowski + Save to a List

I have traditionally cooked a turkey breast in a slow cooker for Thanksgiving and I decided to try my hand at recreating the same meal while out in the woods. I followed what I normally would have done at home and the results were great! Follow these 5 steps to make it for your Thanksgiving camping trip...or on any other camping trip. Turkey is delicious all year round.

Photo: Jeremy Pawlowski


  • 4 lbs. boneless turkey breast
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1 onion
  • rosemary
  • garlic
  • garlic powder
  • bay leaves
  • Dead Rooster Co. black gold rub
  • 1 acorn squash
  • 4 sweet potatoes
  • honey, cinnamon, olive oil, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper (for sweet potatoes & acorn squash)
  • 1 box stuffing
  • 1 box mushroom bisque
  • 1/2 - 1 lb white mushrooms

Materials: Cast iron dutch oven, meat thermometer, aluminum foil, aluminum pie tin

Photo: Jeremy Pawlowski

1. Let It Burn

As always when cooking with a dutch oven, you'll want to start your fire as early as possible. Let your firewood burn for a good 20-30 minutes to get the embers white hot before cooking. You can also bring BBQ coals, just follow the same rule of thumb - when the embers are white hot they're ready to cook with.

2. Prep The Turkey

Using a thawed turkey breast, start by making punctures with a knife throughout. I like to stuff garlic and onion into the actual turkey, especially when cooking over the fire with the long cooking time. This allows the flavors to permeate the meat. The netting that these turkeys come in are actually perfect for the next step so I always leave that on during the cooking process. Take the rosemary sprigs and onion slivers and weave them through the netting. This keeps them right up on the meat during the cook. The folks over at Dead Rooster Co. were nice enough to send me some of their black gold coffee based rub, which I generously coated the turkey with. Finally, I topped it off with a couple of spoonfuls of minced garlic.

Photo: Jeremy Pawlowski

3. Prepare the Oven

Now that the turkey prep is done, take an aluminum pie tin, flip it upside-down, cut slits to allow air and heat to pass through, and place it in the bottom of the dutch oven. Pour in the chicken broth, add some more onions and the half a stick of butter, and place the turkey on top of the pie tin.

4. Bake the Bird

You’ll want to rest the oven above the fire with a rack of some kind. A four pound breast raised about one foot above the coals on a cooking rack took approximately three hours, but adjust accordingly for your bird and your cooking situation. Check after about an hour and keep cooking until the thickest part of the turkey breast registers 160* on the thermometer.

Either way, you’ll have plenty of time to explore, just be sure someone gives the oven a quarter turn every half hour or so just to even out the heat. On this particular trip, we checked out Caddo Lake before starting the sides.

Photo: Jeremy Pawlowski

5. The Sides

Cut the sweet potatoes into roughly square-inch cubes and cut the squash into slices - like a canteloupe. As it turns out, four sweet potatoes is a lot of sweet potatoes when cubed! Since we had so much, we decided to try out a couple different flavors for these and the sliced acorn squash.

Here are a few seasoning combinations we used: olive oil and pepper, butter and onions, olive oil and cayenne, and butter, honey and cinnamon. Wrap the cubes in three layers of aluminum foil and make sure packets are folded tight before throwing them directly in the coal. Leave these on the fire for about an hour or until they felt tender - fold the tin foil neatly so you can unwrap it and check.

For our other sides we just had a box of good old-fashioned Stove Top stuffing with added onions and some store-bought mushroom bisque with added mushrooms. Bring a camping stove to cook these while the turkey finishes up.

Photo: Jeremy Pawlowski

A huge thank you to my friends Folklorica and Fortuna Monsoon for all their help and for making this Thanksgiving an amazing experience.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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