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This is my Mom’s Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe and it’s cooked in an oven bag! It’s moist every time with delicious flavor thanks to her secret baste recipe.

If there is one recipe from mom I look forward to all year, it’s her turkey. It’s the turkey I grew up with and ate every holiday, and now I make it for myself and it’s SO easy to cook turkey in a bag.

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stuffed baked turkey surrounded by herbs on a white plate
Table of Contents
  1. Why make a turkey in a bag?
  2. What is a turkey bag?
  3. Mom’s Turkey Baste Recipe
  4. How to make the BEST Thanksgiving turkey in a bag:
  5. Mom’s Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe Recipe

Why make a turkey in a bag?

I loved the TV show Roseanne when I was younger (remember that show? I loved it, especially when they switched out the Becky character and never said anything). The episode that most sticks in my mind is one of the Thanksgiving ones, when Roseanne is up at 4am (or some ungodly hour) to put the turkey in the oven so it can be done by meal time. In fact, on every family sitcom I remember watching, the mom would get up when it was still dark to do the same thing on those holiday episodes. I remember thinking….why on earth would you do that to yourself? Why isn’t everyone cooking their turkey in an oven bag?

Why isn’t the oven bag some sort of revolutionary thing? I just don’t get it…if I lived in Star Trek and had the capability to say order up an instant Thanksgiving meal, I would. Using an oven bag is like doing that: poof! your turkey is done! WHY ISN’T THIS A THING?

(By the way: this post is NOT sponsored by Reynold’s, the maker of said bag. I’ve just been using them since…well…forever.)

My mom cooks her Thanksgiving turkey in an oven bag. It’s just how she’s always done it. It’s the only way I’ve ever seen it done. It’s the way I learned how to cook a turkey, the way I cook it, and it’s the way I’ll teach Jordan.

Why spend 8 hours making something when you can pop it in a bag and it’s done in 3 with no basting required? With my mom’s secret special baste (which is actually a sauce, because there is no basting), the turkey comes out moist every time. My mom has never made a dry turkey, ever. That’s more than I can say for 90% of the other turkey recipes I’ve tasted. Sorry if I’ve eaten at your house…it’s just the truth.

Mom’s know best, after all.

sliced turkey surrounded by herbs on a white plate

What is a turkey bag?

The secret of the oven bag is that it self-bastes your turkey. The liquid boils in the hot oven and somehow, as if by magic, makes the entire thing golden and tasting delicious. Once the turkey is done and you remove the turkey from the bag, you save the basting liquid and anything that’s drained off the turkey and you make your gravy with it. My mouth is watering thinking about it, seriously.

Once you prep your turkey and add it to the bag, you just need to pour the baste all over it. The bag catches it, so there is no mess. The turkey cooks in the exact amount of time specified on the instructions in the bag box. There is a range of time for your turkey size, but basically your turkey will be done in about 2-3 hours. Also: since your turkey cooks in a bag there is almost ZERO pan clean up. << THAT is something I love.

Cooking turkey in a bag is like magic: done in 2-3 hours!

PRO TIP

Did you read that? 2-3 hours for an entire turkey (12-18 pounds or so). AND it comes out moist and flavorful every single time. I promise. (It was even moist the time the power went out and we had to cook the turkey in an RV oven!)

Instead of setting a timer to baste all day, just watch football and drink wine until 3 hours before dinner. Pop your turkey in and do the rest of your prep. Dinner will be ready before you know it!

Mom’s Turkey Baste Recipe

Mom’s Thanksgiving Turkey in a bag is always a huge hit with her secret basting sauce.

My mom’s super not-so-secret baste is a combination of soy sauce, brown sugar, sherry or white wine, and ground pepper. That’s it! You don’t even need to salt your turkey, because the soy sauce does that for you (and you can even use low sodium soy sauce).

stuffed baked turkey surrounded by herbs on a white plate

How to make the BEST Thanksgiving turkey in a bag:

  1. The baste is important, don’t skip that step. Use a sherry or wine you’d drink, not cooking sherry. You can omit it if you don’t do alcohol, just use chicken stock instead.
  2. Be sure to flour the bag as directed on the box, and to make sure to cut the holes in it. Both are really important steps.
  3. Be sure to save the liquid in the bottom of the bag for gravy. Strain it and scoop off the fat, then use it in your favorite gravy recipe.
  4. Follow the cooking times on the instructions on your box. It goes according to weight, but use a thermometer to make sure it’s done.

Have leftover turkey?

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stuffed baked turkey surrounded by herbs on a white plate

Mom’s Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

4.39 from 26 votes
Mom’s Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe is cooked in an oven bag! It’s moist every time with delicious flavor thanks to her secret baste recipe.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 10 minutes
Yield 8 servings (depending on size of turkey)
Serving Size 4 ounces

Ingredients
 

  • 1 whole turkey thawed (you can also use a bone in turkey breast)
  • ½ orange or lemon sliced in quarters
  • ½ medium yellow onion skin removed and sliced in quarters
  • ½ cup (118ml) low sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ cup (59ml) sherry or white wine
  • ½ tablespoon (6g) packed brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • Reynolds Turkey Sized Oven Bag
  • 1 tablespoon (9g) all purpose flour

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Remove the neck and giblets from your turkey, then rinse and pat it dry. Discard giblets and neck (see note).
  • Place sliced citrus and onion in the cavity of the turkey.
  • Whisk soy sauce, sherry, brown sugar and pepper together in a measuring cup.
  • Prepare the oven bag as directed on package (shake flour inside the bag and place the bag inside a roasting pan that is at least 2 inches deep).
  • Place the turkey in the bag. Pour the baste over the whole bird. (You do not need to salt the bird; the soy sauce does that for you.)
  • Seal the bag according to package directions and cut six 1/2 inch slits in the top of the bag.
  • According to the directions in the bag, the cooking time will be 1.5-2 hours for an 8-12 lb turkey, 2-2.5 hours for 12-16 lb turkeys, 2.5-3 hours for 16-20 lb turkeys, and 3-3.5 hours for 20-24 lb turkeys.
  • Cook turkey until the internal temperature reaches 180° in the thickest part of the thigh not touching the bone. Remove from oven and let stand in oven bag another 15 minutes.
  • While turkey is still in the pan, cut open the bag carefully and remove the turkey from the bag. Save the juices. Place on cutting board to rest until ready to carve.
  • Store leftover turkey in the refrigerator for 3 days. Freeze for up to 3 months.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

  • Servings depend on size of turkey, as does baking time.
  • Because of the onion/citrus inside the bird, it may take to the longer end of the cooking times suggested on the bag instructions.
  • Neck: Want to make your own stock while the turkey cooks? Add the neck with a roughly chopped onion, carrot, celery stock and herbs to a 4Qt saucepan and fill with water (at least 1 inch above the items in the pan). Cover and simmer for 2 hours or until it’s reduced by half. Drain out large chunks then strain through a wire mesh strainer. Use when making gravy.
  • I love making gravy with the juices left in the bag. Pour juices into a measuring cup and spoon off fat, then measure out however much needed. Normally with a mid-range size turkey I get about 2-3 cups juice just from the bag. Supplement with homemade or store bought turkey stock to make gravy as needed.
  • Turkey should rest at least 15 minutes before slicing.
  • Turkey will take 1 day for each 4-5 pounds to defrost in the refrigerator so plan accordingly!

Recipe Nutrition

Serving: 4ounces | Calories: 40kcal
Nutritional information not guaranteed to be accurate
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Author Dorothy Kern
Keyword turkey

Items needed to make this recipe:

Making Thanksgiving for two? Try my friend Chelsea’s Thanksgiving Dinner for 2 made on sheet pans! And if you’re looking for a fun dessert idea for the kids, check out Amy’s Easy No-Bake Thanksgiving Treats.

Mom’s Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe is cooked in an oven bag! It’s moist every time with delicious flavor thanks to her secret baste recipe.

Last Updated on September 30, 2022

Dorothy Kern

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31 Comments

  1. Somehow I missed this post last year but will surely use your baste recipe this year! I have made my turkeys in a bag for several decades and always simply rub the turkey with softened butter after I have placed it in the bag. It’s time to try something different than just butter. Many years in the past, I have needed two turkeys; the day before I would put one in the oven before leaving for work, come home at lunch to take it out, put the second one in the oven as soon as I got home for the day, debone both turkeys throughout the evening and refrigerate in broth while simmering the necks and giblets with chopped celery and onions (used in the sage dressing). The next day I only have to prepare the dressing, make mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, reheat the sliced turkey meats, and thicken the gravy. I have so many wonderful memories of having so many people at my Thanksgiving table and all of this day-before prep made it fairly easy to do!

  2. This was excellent! Possibly the best turkey I’ve ever roasted. We’ve all decided that we need to eat turkey more often since this was so easy to make and cooked so quickly. Thanks for the great recipe!

  3. This year will be the year I finally nail the turkey. The last few years have been a real disappointment. I don’t know why I’ve had such a difficult time of it. I’ve got a good feeling about this one.

  4. Delish! I have always used a cooking bag. Best thing ever invented never a dry turkey since the first time I used it. So moist believe it or not that I cook my turkey the day before, Cut it and leave it in its own juices until the next day which is Thanksgiving of course.

  5. My father always made our turkeys in 2 brown paper bags. He would slide the turkey in one and crimp the open end. He then slid the crimp side into the second bag and crimped it. Those turkeys were so tender and tasty.
    Now, I have my butcher cut my turkey into parts like a chicken and I cook it covered in an aluminum pan. No muss, no fuss. Delicious and plenty of juice for gravy!

  6. I followed this last night with a 13lbs turkey for Canadian Thanksgiving. Super yummy and easy to prep. I will use this every year from now on!

  7. The best turkey I’ve had in a long time, easy peazey, and fell off the bone, moist and delicious. Thank you, I am saving this recipe!!!