Mom’s Thanksgiving Turkey in a bag

5 from 3 votes

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!

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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.

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. Although I’d love to work with them. Hiiiiii, PR people!)

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.

My mom's Thanksgiving Turkey recipe with her special basting sauce is the BEST turkey I've ever had!

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.

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).

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.

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 Thanksgiving Turkey in a bag is always a huge hit with her secret basting sauce. Moist turkey in 2-3 hours is like magic!

Mom's Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

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.

Items needed to make this recipe:


Mom's Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

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.
5 from 3 votes
Yield 1 turkey
Serving Size 4 ounces


  • 1 whole turkey thawed (you can also use a bone in turkey breast)
  • 1/2 orange sliced in quarters
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion skin removed and sliced in quarters
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sherry or white wine
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Reynolds Turkey Sized Oven Bag
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour


  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Remove the neck and giblets from your turkey, then rinse and pat it dry. Discard giblets and neck1.
  • 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 (shake flour inside the bat 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.2 Place on cutting board to rest until ready to carve.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 4ounces | Calories: 40kcal

Nutritional information not guaranteed to be accurate

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.

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23 CommentsLeave a comment or review

  1. I followed this recipe EXACTLY, including making the stock with the neck, and it came out perfectly. This was the first time we’ve ever hosted Thanksgiving, and I had both my parents & my husband’s parents to impress. I’ve never made a turkey before!!!
    Thank you for posting this recipe. You saved my (turkey) bacon. 🙂

  2. I made this last night & it turned out Perfect!! It was an 11.5 lb turkey & it took 1hr & 45 mins. Thanks for posting!! I will use this recipe again for sure!

  3. I am making a turkey for New Year’s, but my family isn’t big on soy sauce. Is the flavor noticeable, or is there something else I can use instead?

  4. Thanks for your recipe. I’ve been on the hunt for the best turkey recipe for years now. Hopefully I can stop searching now! Just wondering though… do you buy a pre-salted/basted bird? Wasn’t sure if that mattered. Thanks!

    1. I have put citrus in the cavity of my turkeys for 35+ years and it helps it stay moist and creates a moist steam on the turkey. Once I did taste a little citrus in my gravy but I only used citrus that time and no onion or celery.