Crazy for Crust

Mom’s Thanksgiving Turkey in a bag

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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!

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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:


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.
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Servings: 1 turkey

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.


  • 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


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Remove the neck and giblets from your turkey, then rinse and pat it dry. Discard giblets and neck1.
  3. Place sliced citrus and onion in the cavity of the turkey.
  4. Whisk soy sauce, sherry, brown sugar and pepper together in a measuring cup.
  5. 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).
  6. 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.)
  7. Seal the bag according to package directions and cut six 1/2 inch slits in the top of the bag.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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

Amount per serving (4 ounces) — Calories: 40

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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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.

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  1. I love oven bags and have recently discovered they can be super versatile, not just for cooking turkey. I did a one bag pasta + chicken and that was a game changer for me. Your turkey looks PERFECT! And I can see totally juicy and moist!

    • Averie, the one bag pasta + chicken sounds wonderful. Could you share the recipe, please or where it can be found? I’ve never heard of this oven bag technique and I’m going to try the above “turkey in a bag” recipe ASAP!!. I’m also interested in any “super versatile” in a bag recipes. Oh my gosh . . . game changer food prep, here I come!! Thanks very much from Claudia in CA.

      P.S. Dorothy — I so appreciate your terrific web site: design/format, clear complete fun info and super photos. Just wanted you to know . . . thank you. Claudia

  2. The main reason that I started using bags to cook my turkey in was the first time that I made a turkey (without a bag) it splattered all over my oven and cleaning it was BAD! The extra moist breast meat and the shortened cooking time were just a bonus. 🙂

  3. I am trying this – your mom’s  turkey is the best! Yum!

  4. Looks delicious! Is it possible at the same time to also cook the stuffing in the turkey? That would make it perfect!

    • Marie, most commenters will probably say no but I cook mine in the bag with it stuffed. I’ve been doing it this way for over 30 years and I’m still alive. Haven’t killed anyone yet

  5. Growing up, my mom cooked her turkey in an actual paper bag.

  6. There is no link for the mashed potatoes.

  7. I loved that episode of Rosanne where she did thanksgiving and was up at 4a.m. making the turkey. All the other TV mom the mom was one up making turkey. As a child I lived NY grandparents and my Mom. . Thanksgiving dinner was always at my grandmom house. I remember my grabdmom and mom and I granddad would be up early to get dinner doneMy grandmother would make turkey and ham. My mom would make stuffing and granddad make candy yams. My grand mom Rosanna, other TV moms and me would not dare use oven bag to make thanksgiving dinner. I like cooking. Even know I have get up early and cook turkey its OK. Because I like cooking. I could use oven bag but i like fact I can cook a juicy bird without the bag. The reason my grandma taught me how to cook is because when she dead and gone she need make sure her grandchildren could eat. Woman who cook dinner,holiday dinner and sunday dinner do it because we love cooking.Rather use bag or get up in cook bird it dosnt matter. Important thing is spending time with one you love. i still use Reynolds foil to cover the turkey.After I clean the turkey and add season. I put bird in oven I use foil to cover bird. I use the roasting pan. I got mine for Walmart online it holds a 18 pound . its making in USA it costs under thirteen dollars. You can cook bird put on table. Put in fridge when you finish. And it cleans up easy. I use reyonals foil to cover the turkey

  8. I’ve been cooking my turkey in a bag for years. When I moved to AZ it was too hot to cook inside so I started to cook on my grill but the turkey dried out so I started using the bag and still cooked on the grill. Best turkey ever. Even though im now back on the east coast i still do it this way

  9. Perfect for pot roast recipes easy roasted , inexpensive chuck is one of the most flavorful cuts of beef. Simmering it slowly and gently in the oven results in a wonderfully tender pot roast. Vegetables like onions and potatoes give the pot roast recipe even more comforting flavors.

  10. OMG …someone is actually cooking with a turkey bag with garlic, onion, celery.. This is the first blog that I have subscribed to that uses them. I cook my turkey over night low and slow in one and then its ready for us on Thanksgiving (I keep it in turkey broth after I separate out all the meats) Then reheat and serve. Our mashed potatoes/sweet potatoes are done in the crockpot as well. Veggies are usually the little green bean casserole with french onions over the top baked that day prior to everyone. Desserts are cooked a week ahead and frozen if possible. Only one that isn’t is the peanut butter pie and that is an easy one to make prior to everyone…Rolls are cooked prior to everyone coming over and I put butter with rosemary on top of them. Herb/honey butters are also made in advance refrigerated . An easy to pull together turkey feast with little stress.
    Thank you for chatting about the “Bag” as its a great invention for sure !!

  11. Do you cook it breast down or up?

  12. 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. 🙂

  13. 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!

  14. nice article. i always cook my turkey in the bag because by using the bag you can keep your oven clean. once i tried to cook the turkey without bad and it

  15. 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?

  16. we are simmering the turkey in the beg and it saves our time to clean the oven. Amazing tips for the beginners.

  17. 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!

  18. Great recipe!
    I usually use this one for Thanksgiving but I’m planning to cook yours this year!

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