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Have you ever made turkey in a bag? This is my Mom’s Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe – 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.
Table of Contents
Why make a turkey in a 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?
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 you’ll love this recipe
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.
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.
Cooking turkey in a bag is like magic: done in 2-3 hours!PRO TIP
How to make the BEST Thanksgiving turkey in a bag:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Tip From Dorothy
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 cleanup. << THAT is something I love.
I think it’s better because it cooks faster and is always moist.
Follow the directions on the insert in the box the bag comes in. There is a chart for weight and whether your turkey is stuffed or not. The turkey will always cook in the time specified on that chart.
Yes totally safe – the bags are made of food and heat-safe materials.
You can if you want just be sure to follow the directions on the bag box for how long. I don’t recommend stuffing the turkey in general because it can make you sick – but do what you prefer.
Mom’s Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe
- Reynolds Cooking Bag (turkey size)
- 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
- 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.
- 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!
Have leftover turkey?
- Leftover Turkey Pot Pie
- Leftover Turkey Calzones
- Leftover Turkey Pasta Casserole
- Chicken and Rice Casserole (use turkey!)
- Cornbread Stuffing
- The BEST Crockpot Mashed Potatoes
- Homemade Dinner Rolls
- 5-minute Gravy
- Roasted Green Beans
- Mom’s Pecan Pie
Items needed to make this recipe:
- Oven bags – obviously, the recipe is turkey in a bag!
- Roasting pan to cook your turkey in.
- Carving knife – I actually bought myself a new one this year!
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 October 20, 2022
I thought you cooked turkey to 165 degrees and not 180 degrees??
I can’t imagine a turkey tasting like an orange…. How does it taste??
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.
I usually use this one https://youtu.be/ihAqK5Rwvuw for Thanksgiving but I’m planning to cook yours this year!
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!
we are simmering the turkey in the beg and it saves our time to clean the oven. Amazing tips for the beginners.
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?
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
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!
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. 🙂
Do you cook it breast down or up?