Turkey in the Hole Recipe for Thanksgiving

Guest post by Eckerd Kids Staff  

turkey in the hole
The picture of Chief Jo Lynn that created the internet stir.

Happy Thanksgiving! Eckerd Kids staff will be celebrating with family and friends this holiday season and we are so thankful for every child, family, volunteer, mentor and staff member that is a part of our growing Eckerd family. We recently posted a picture on social media of Chief Jo Lynn digging the turkey out of the ground at Camp E-Nini-Hassee during our annual Thanksgiving dinner. It seems our traditional “Turkey in the Hole” way of cooking created quite the buzz from our followers including many former campers! Everyone wants to know how to make that delicious and incredible looking turkey from the fire pit.

We thought we would share with you the origin of our tradition and the recipe for “Turkey in the Hole” as we affectionately call it. The celebration dates back to the early days of our programs, and the recipe was discovered quite by accident.  Youth on a two-week canoeing trip discovered that by mistake, they had been given a whole turkey in their supplies, but no way to cook it.

So they built a large bonfire, wrapped the turkey in foil, and buried it in a pit with the coals from the fire. The next day they dug up a perfectly pit roasted turkey.  The tradition continues to this day at our outdoor programs.



  • Preparation begins in early October as each group of youth in the program collect piles of wood for the fire.  The competition for the largest pile is fierce, because the winner gets the honor of staying up all night to tend the fire, watch movies and eat snacks.
  • Once the wood is ready, the youth and staff dig an enormous ditch approximately four feet deep by 20 feet long and three feet wide.
  • The day before the feast, four cords of pine kindling and oak logs are dropped into the hole.  In late afternoon, the fire is lit, allowing it to burn all night until the wood coals are like rich, black briquettes.
  • The next morning, before the sun is up, the campers place eight to ten thickly wrapped turkeys into the hole.  The coals are raked over the turkeys to trap the heat.  They steam all day until the meat is tender.  The feast usually starts about sundown.


Meet Chief Jo Lynn and the rest of the E-Nini-Hassee Leadership Team.