How to Cook a Turkey In an Oven-Safe Bag
Follow these rules for juicy meat and crispy skin, minus the cleanup.
By Leah Brickley for Food Network Kitchen
Leah is a Senior Culinary Editor at Food Network
Roasting your turkey in a heat-proof bag means a lot of great things, including faster cook time, minimal cleanup and extra-juicy meat. Here, a step-by-step how-to, plus answers to the most common questions including how long to cook your turkey in a bag.
What Is an Oven Bag?
An oven bag is exactly what it sounds like: a durable heat-resistant (up to 400 degrees F) and BPA-free nylon bag that locks in the moisture of whatever is cooking inside. Readily available at grocery stores, they often come in two different sizes: large, which fits 8 pounds of meat – enough to feed 4 to 6 people, or turkey-size, which can accommodate a bird up to 24 pounds large. The bags are single-use and should be disposed of after cooking. It’s important to note that you should only use bags specifically designed to withstand the heat in an oven.
What Is the Benefit of Cooking Turkey In an Oven Bag?
Using an oven bag is perfect if you appreciate no-mess cooking – your turkey will stay neat and tidy, no splattering or juice drips or scrubbing dirty pans.
In addition, oven bags help food stay tender by trapping in most of the moisture; condensation collects in the bag and drips onto the bird automatically basting it for you. That means juicy, flavorful meat – but crispy skin fans will have to look elsewhere.
The juices collected in the bag can be strained off to make gravy.
How to Cook a Turkey In an Oven Bag
Select the Right Turkey
Select a turkey that weighs 24 pounds or less and thaw it completely.
Prep the Bird
Prepare the bird however you would an unbagged bird – brine it if you’d like, rub it with butter or oil and season it with your choice of herbs and spices.
The Best Turkey Brine
This is our go-to brine for turkey. It's simple, flavorful and most importantly leaves you with a succulent, juicy, perfectly-seasoned bird. It's also perfect for chicken, pork chops, Cornish game hens – you name it. While we like the combination of thyme and sage, you can also use other hearty herbs such as rosemary, oregano or marjoram.
Add Flour to the Bag
Open the bag, add 1 tablespoon of flour and shake it all around to roughly coat the inside. This step is important: the flour will combine with the fat and juices from the turkey ensuring the bag won’t burst.
Add Vegetables to the Bag
Fill the bag with cut vegetables (onion, carrot, celery) and stems of fresh herbs. This will act as the rack for the bird. Place the bag in a roasting pan.
Secure the Turkey In the Bag
Place your turkey, breast-side up inside the bag. Use the enclosed oven-safe tie to secure the bag at the top. Snip six 1/2-inch-long slits in the bag with scissors – be sure to put one near a breast and a thigh, that way you can sneak your thermometer in to check the temperature.
Transfer the Roasting Dish to the Oven
Transfer to the oven, making sure that no part of the bag is touching the inside of the oven or the heating element. There’s no basting necessary, just let the bag and the turkey do their thing.
Cook the Turkey for 1 Hour Less Than Your Recipe
Your bird will cook about one hour less than your recipe specifies so start to check a little on the earlier side – you’re looking for 170 to 180 degrees F in the deepest part of the thigh.
Rest the Bird In the Bag
Let the sealed bird rest for at least 30 minutes before cutting the top off the bag and peeling it down around the turkey.
Can I Stuff Turkey Cooked In an Oven Bag?
That depends, stuffing made with eggs needs to be cooked to 165 F. Since a bag cooks turkey faster, there’s a chance the stuffing won’t have enough time to heat up to a safe temperature. You can opt for making dressing (stuffing baked in a casserole dish) instead, or be sure to take the temperature of the stuffing before serving.
Can You Get Crispy Skin In an Oven Bag?
If you roast your turkey in an oven bag for the entirety of its cooking, the answer is no. However, for crispier results, let the turkey cook on the roasting rack for the last 15 minutes of roasting time. Take the turkey out of the bag by carefully slitting the skin and lifting it out of its cooking liquid, then place it, uncovered, on the rack.
How Long Should You Cook a Turkey In a Bag?
First and foremost, you should always use your thermometer as a guide, and keep in mind that turkey cooks faster in a bag than on a roasting rack. Here are some general rules for whole, unstuffed turkey.
10 to 12 pounds: 1 1/2 to 2 hours
12 to 16 pounds: 2 to 2 1/4 hours
16 to 20 pounds: 2 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours
20 to 24 pounds: 2 1/2 to 3 hours
Can I Make Gravy from the Drippings In the Oven Bag?
Yes! Remove your cooked and rested turkey and transfer to a serving platter. Strain the collected juices through a colander and into a saucepan. Add stock as needed and make your tried-and-true gravy recipe.
The Best Gravy
Our gravy delivers rich flavors from a homemade stock made with the turkey giblets, onion and fresh herbs. Roast turkey drippings and a dash of Worcestershire sauce round out this creamy, lump-free holiday must-have.