How to Cook Turkey in a Bag (an Oven Bag, That Is)
After learning how to cook a turkey in a bag, a perfectly browned, juicy Thanksgiving turkey could be on your table this year—finally!
Cooking turkey in a bag sounds strange, but its benefits are legendary. A turkey roasting bag doesn’t just lock in juice and flavor—it keeps in the mess for easy cleanup. Or use the drippings to make gravy from scratch. Now that’s something to be thankful for!
Why Cook Turkey in a Bag
If you’re in a pinch, try cooking your turkey in a bag. Not only does it speed up the cooking time, but it also makes for less dishes to clean. The meat is more juicy as well, and you don’t lose out on the crispy skin.
How to Cook a Turkey in an Oven Bag
Follow this simple method for cooking a turkey in a bag for your juiciest Thanksgiving turkey ever. It’ll be so good, you might not even need our leftover turkey recipes. Remember to defrost the frozen turkey well in advance to avoid any time crunch once you’ve begun!
- Oil or melted butter
- Herbs and spices
- Oven bag: You can’t cook a turkey in a bag without an oven bag. It’s specifically designed to withstand the heat while roasting a turkey.
- Roasting pan: You’ll want a roasting pan that’s at least 2-inches deep to prevent the bag from melting and to keep the juices from running out.
- Kitchen shears: The easiest way to cut clean slits in the bag and then slice open the bag once the turkey is cooked is with a good pair of kitchen scissors.
Step 1: Prep your bag
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Shake 1 tablespoon of flour into the oven bag. The flour will blend with the fat and juices to help prevent the bag from bursting. Place the bag in a pan that’s at least 2 inches deep.
Step 2: Prep your turkey
Brush the turkey with oil or melted butter and season the turkey with herbs and spices. Put it inside the bag. The opening of the bag should be on one side of the bird, not at the top of the turkey.
Step 3: Seal and slit
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Tie the bag closed with its nylon tie. Tuck the ends of the bag into the pan. With a small knife or kitchen scissors, cut 6 half-inch slits in the bag to allow steam to escape.
Step 4: Cook
Bake at 350°F (do not exceed 400°) until the thickest part of the thigh is 170°-175°. When the bird reaches your desired temperature, carefully cut the top of bag open with scissors and remove the turkey. Be careful, as the steam that releases from the bag is very hot.
Before you get ready to serve, read up on how to carve a turkey.
How Long to Cook a Turkey in a Bag
The cooking time varies based on how big your turkey is, which depends on how much turkey per person you plan to serve.
Unstuffed Turkey: A 10- to 12-pound unstuffed turkey should take approximately 2 to 2-1/2 hours to cook. A 12- to 16-pound turkey needs about 2-1/2 to 2-3/4 hours to cook, and a 16- to 20-pound bird will take up to 3 hours. For a 20- to 24-pound turkey, expect it to cook for approximately 3-1/2 hours.
We don’t recommend stuffing the turkey, but if you insist on doing so, add 15 to 45 minutes to the roasting time. The temperature of the stuffing must read at least 165° to safely serve it to your guests. Or try putting herbs, vegetables, apples and other things inside the turkey that aren’t stuffing.
Stuffed Turkey: A 10- to 12-pound unstuffed turkey should take approximately 1-1/2 to 2 hours to cook. A 12- to 16-pound turkey needs about 2 to 2-1/4 hours to cook, and a 16- to 20-pound bird will take up to 2-1/2 hours. For a 20- to 24-pound turkey, expect it to cook for approximately 3 hours.
To check on your bird, insert a meat thermometer right through the bag into the thigh (instead of trying to open the bag when checking the temperature).
Tips for How to Cook a Turkey in a Bag
How do I get the turkey skin to brown?
Believe it or not, the skin will brown inside the bag. To increase browning, brush the turkey with oil or butter before cooking.
Why doesn’t the oven bag melt?
Oven bags are made of heat-resistant nylon acceptable for cooking. Be careful to not let the bag hang over the sides of the pan, though. If the bag touches the top or sides of the oven, it will melt. Allow space for it to expand during cooking.
You cannot cook a turkey in a paper bag (or other type of bag). The glue, ink and other materials are not food-safe. Plus, you can never be sure how your bag will survive in the hot oven.
How long should I let the turkey rest before carving?
After you roast the turkey, wait. It’s best to let the turkey stand for 20 to 30 minutes before carving to lock in the juices. Remove it from the bag, put it on a serving platter, tent with foil and then let it rest.
Can I save the oven-bag drippings for gravy?
Absolutely! The drippings left in the bag can be used to make gravy—here are some of our favorite gravy recipes.