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Cooking turkey in a bag?

Has anyone tried cooking turkey in a plastic baking bag? I've heard this ensures a very moist turkey. I want to brine it as well, but would that be too much - brining AND bagging?

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  1. I brine and bag the turkey. I tend to cook it at 350 for 6 to 8 hours to make sure both the meat and stuffing are cooked to the proper temps, but the meat is moist and the skin is crispy.

    It may sound like it would be very dry, but the double protection of the bag and the brine assure a very moist bird. The bag also assures that all the pan juices don't evaporate and I don't have to worry about basting.

    I would suggest that you put a bit of a compound butter (butter with poultry seasoning) between the skin and the meat before roasting.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Kelli2006

      Kelli2006...can you elaborate on your meathod and recipes for brining ....I have a 21 LBer I need to plan for...

      Also...do bags come in different sizes? Will a big bird fit in?

      1. re: Susanbnyc

        The best brining recipe can be found at Alton Brown's website at Food TV.com.

        The large size bags are marked as to being able to fit a 24lb bird, but you need to check to make sure when you buy the bag. I always buy the large sized bags, as they give me plenty of room and it makes getting the slippery critter in the bag easier. You need to follow the direction when prepping the bag, as they need to be dusted with a bit of flour at the time.

        Clare, I always wash and clean the turkey(remove any missed pin feathers and trim excess fat, removes the metal trussing contraption,and clip wing tips off. I like to mix 1 stick of butter with about 1 TBL of Penzey's poultry spice, and rub this mixture between the skin and meat before roasting. The stuffing CANNOT be inserted the night before, or you are inviting food poisoning.
        Clare, I usually do a 12-15 lb bird and I have no problems. The internal timer will usually pop-up about a hour or so before the internal temp is correct, but don't worry. I like to use a remote probe to make the the internal temps of the stuffing cavity (170 and assume carryover of 5+/- degrees.) is correct. The meat will usually fall off the bone , but it does need to be rested for approx 10 minutes . I cover the bird with foil and a towel during this time period.

        Joan, I make a blonde roux and utilize the pan juices(removed with a turkey baster) and the giblets, to make the gravy while the bird is resting.

        P.S.-I also volunteer at a free meal program, so I will be roasting 3x 12-14lb birds early next week for that program.

      2. re: Kelli2006

        Thanks Kelli - I will do both the brine and bag this year. Around what size turkey do you normally use? Would you mind giving me the specifics?

        1. re: Kelli2006

          hi there,

          do you still tie the bird legs when you stuff and put in the bag?

        2. Although I've tried other methods of roasting a turkey over the years, I always returned to the Reynolds bag. As Kelli says, contrary to what one might presume, not only is the meat very moist but the skin is gloriously crispy. As she also notes, the pan juices don't evaporate, they accumulate in the bottom of the bag. Keep in mind that that means no fond for gravy. If you want gravy, you might want to look into making one separate for the T'giving Day juices. The timing of the bird is very forgiving; you can even let it cook an additional hour without drying out the meat.

          I brine only if I've bought a non-Kosher bird. I find brining a Kosher bird (either turkey or chicken) makes it saltier than I like. But use of the bag does not increase the saltiness of the meat.

          5 Replies
          1. re: JoanN

            I revert to the Reynold's bag too, in fact I chose to use it again this year but used the new 165 degree standard and it turned out really well. I love to experiment with adding various fresh herbs, rubs and small amounts of liquid as it imparts a lot of flavor. The resulting juices produce a good stock than can be transformed into good gravy even without the fond.

            1. re: JoanN

              I also had good luck with the Reynolds bag. Set it and forget it.....it turned out wonderful and the lack of stress was an added bonus.

              Didn't need to brine either. Very moist!

              1. re: JoanN

                I have used a Reynold's bag for years and love it. I set the bag on a rack and about 1 hour or so before I think the bird will be done, I puncture the bag on the bottom and let the juices drain into my aluminum foil lined roasting pan. This gives the juices just enough time to brown for gravy. Have done this for a number of years and have not heard of any complaints about gravy. I don't particularly care for bottled or powdered gravy.

                1. re: mochi mochi

                  Very interesting! I gave passing thought to trying that but was afraid the breast meat, which is always so wonderfully juicy when cooked in the bag, might dry out. Obviously, yours doesn't. I always make do-ahead gravy, but it means more turkey parts to buy and yet another dish to have to cook. I'll try to remember your tip for next year. Thanks!

                  1. re: JoanN

                    I am always trying to save time and energy. You are a very dedicated cook that goes the extra mile for taste. I applaud you for that!

              2. Wow, you cook a 15 lb bird for 6-8 hours and it still comes out moist?

                Thanks so much for all the tips!!


                6 Replies
                1. re: Clare K

                  Clare, I always use a digital probe thermometer and monitor both the breast and stuffing cavity temps. I prefer it done low and slow and 4-5 hours is typical, but the bag gives 60 minutes of hold time when guests don't arrive.

                  1. re: Clare K

                    If you want the tastiest bird EVER make a brine solution (water, kosher salt and a touch of sugar) soak the bird overnight and cook as directed above (brown paper bag). Not only will the bird be tender and moist but it will be especially flavor full.

                    1. re: zamazon

                      A college roommate made a turkey in a brown paper bag without brining one year (we were too lazy to brine). It was great. Thanks for reminding me of this method.

                      ETA: I guess we cooked and ate that turkey at our own risk. I just found this warning on another site while googling "brown paper bag turkey":

                      In May 1998 the United States Department of Agriculture issued the following advice:

                      Do not use BROWN PAPER BAGS for cooking. They are not sanitary, may cause a fire and can emit toxic fumes. Intense heat may cause a bag to ignite, causing a fire in the oven and possibly adulterating the turkey. The ink, glue, and recycled materials in paper bags can emit toxic fumes when they are exposed to heat. Instead, use purchased oven cooking bags.

                      1. re: Neuromancer

                        MIL has used this method for years with outproblems. BTW the brown paper grocery bags work really well in leiu of newspaper as in those charcoal chimneys. They heat the charcoals sooner and aren't as smelly as newspaper.

                        1. re: Neuromancer

                          My father ALWAYS used a brown paper sack to cook his turkey, and out of 7 kids, 7 are still alive huh what do you know, the government is wrong again...lol

                      2. re: Clare K

                        If your oven temp is correct 6 to 8 hrs. is way tooooooo long!!!! (@325 or 350 deg.)

                      3. I tried it for the first time this year and it was less than good. The turkey got done way before it got brown so I had to overcook it so it looked respectable. I will never do it again.

                        1. You can't use a plastic bag but I cook mine the way my 88 year old mom used to. Take a paper shopping bag, butter your bird (that sounds kinda kinky as I read it back, LOL) then put bird in paper bag which you depose in a baking pan. Your turkey will be moist inside and have a golden crispy exterior. ALso prevents the oven from gettin dirty. Just remember to open the paper bag (slit down middle with a knife) approx 15-20 minutes before the bird is done.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: zamazon

                            I cooked turkey in a paper bag once. It tasted great, but there was a great deal of moisture in the bag at the end, and I think I was unable to make a proper gravy from it. It was a natural uninjected bird, but I probably brined it.

                            About bags, the person I bought it from made a point of giving me a paper bag without chemical labeling.

                          2. Another way to insure juicy turkey is to take pats of butter and put them under the skin. I also put a whole raw onion inside the bird's cavity...smells great, tastes great and your guests will fight to have the prize onion. The onion, as it cooks lets off moisture which turns to steam, hence, moist juicy oniony goodness.

                            1. If you are particularly brave you can also deep fry an entire turkey. They sell special pots for this. Contrary to what you might be thinking the turkey is not greasy because deep frying is the best way to fry fish and meats: the hot oil seizes the meat, makes a protective coating and the oil doesn't seep in. YOu get greasier and higher fat count from sauteeing your food. The low heat allows the fat to be absorbed into the food. That's why your french fries are soggy when the oil isn't hot enough.

                              While I'm on the subject, when making fries you should always pat dry, blanch in oil, let cool and THEN deep fry potatoes. You will get crispy on the outside, moist on the inside to DIE FOR fries.

                              PS I was a chef for 15 years and was classically trained but worked in Pubs, Taverns, Reception Halls ect so have 10000001 cool (hot?) tips for cooking!!

                              1. I have done the Turkey in a brown paper bag and it ranks as some of the best turkey ever. But I have always oiled up my brown paper bag with peanut oil before hand. Then put in turkey, fold and staple the top.

                                1. I tried the Reynolds turkey roasting clear bag today. Roasted a hen (less than 15 lbs) at 350 degrees with 1 Tbl flour and the sliced onions and celery in the bottom of the bag.

                                  Well, good thing it wasn't the big show with all the friends and relatives, because there were problems. The bird must have been done at 2 hours, but I didn't even insert the meat thermometer because the turkey was so pale. I just set a timer for another half hour and let it go, keeping it at 350. Well, after 15 minutes I finally put in the meat probe and it had already hit 209 degrees F, guaranteeing dry breast meat. ARGH. BUT the stock in the bottom was lovely -- I strained it into a saucepan, cooked the neck and giblets in it to enrich it further, thickened with flour, and it made a perfect gravy. Breast was dry dry dry dry dry. Found some good thigh meat. How do I fix these problems:

                                  1) too pale when done
                                  2) bag stuck to skin


                                  1. I do it every year (it is a family tradition for about 30 years) and with a Reynolds Oven Bag it comes out perfectly every year. And this is with a 22 to 24 pound turkey each year.

                                    I brined it this year for the first time. I have to say I am not sure I tasted much of a difference. But then we season our turkeys and put them in the bag the night before anyway, so that gives it a great taste. I will never do it any other way, it tastes too good, the skin is crisp, the meat tender...it is just right. This year was no different.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Tom P

                                      Tom, my turkey was small, between 12 and 14 lbs, but the "large" bag seemed tight.

                                      What EXACTLY are the steps to making this come out perfectly? I feel highly motivated to make this work, because I love the ease, the lovely rich stock in the bottom of the bag, and the simple cleanup. Please, help!!

                                      Do you shake the flour around in the bag to coat the bird? Do you put in the flour the night before or just before cooking? Do you oil the bird to keep it from sticking? Do you buy a bag that is extra-loose? Do you cook at 350 degrees? Do you put the bird on the bottom rack of the oven or the next rung up? My oven is small and hotter at the back than the front. Should I rotate it front to back halfway through? Do you use a probe thermometer? At what temperature do you take it out? How long do you rest it? In the bag or out of the bag?

                                      Thank you sooooo much!

                                    2. Has anyone used a different brand of plastic cooking bag other than Reynolds? I picked up some unknown brand on a whim yesterday when I was in a discount store and just wanted to make sure that I am not in for a bad surprise if I use it.

                                      Thank you so much for any advice!

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Tehama

                                        There were reports a number of years ago about turkey bags releasing chemicals that are toxic to birds, although not to humans. Those bags reportedly contained Teflon (PTFE), which the Reynolds bags do not. If you have parakeets or cockatoos around, I wouldn't chance it. Do you know the source of your bags? Are they made in the US? The FDA regulates (supposedly) the use of plastics in oven cooking, but if your bags were manufactured elsewhere, I'd replace them.

                                        1. re: JoanN

                                          JoanN, thank you so much for your reply. I just looked at the packaging and (is this coincidental or ironic? I can never remember the difference), the turkey roasting bags are made IN TURKEY! hahahha That was so funny. It does say it was "specially manufactured for Delta Brands, Inc of NY."

                                          I'll have to google a little further, I guess. No birds around here, but I'd hate to for my kitties or Afghan to get a whiff of something toxic (not to mention me and my guests!). Thanks for all your help!

                                      2. Has anyone ever used an electric roasting pan and the oven bag with success?

                                        1. Do the turkeys in a bag get brown enough???

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: 1foodie1

                                            They get plenty brown, if given sufficient time. The bag gives protection against an overcooked dry bird so don't worry if it looks a bit pale when the internal temp turns 165°.

                                            1. re: 1foodie1

                                              Yes, and you can remove it from the bag or visa versa and let the turkey brown up in the oven for the last hour. I did that once when a former relative wanted crispy skin to munch on.

                                              1. re: 1foodie1

                                                I do use the reynolds bag.. It is always pale...Someone told me to remove the bag.. BUT when? and doesn't that dry it up?
                                                Thank you

                                              2. A Kosher turkey should never be brined (it already was salted). The bird will be moist and if it is a large bird (over 14-16 lbs.) it will brown in the bag but for smaller birds the bag may have to be sliced opened during the last 30 -40 minutes of cooking. Enjoy!

                                                1. Gravy made from the juices of a brined turkey will be way to salty.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: chefirish

                                                    I have never found that to be the situation. If you find it to be too salty you can always add salt-free commercial chicken stock to thin out the turkey juices.

                                                    1. re: Kelli2006

                                                      Sorry, but I'll never try to make gravy from a brine turkey again.

                                                      1. re: chefirish

                                                        I am sorry that you won't.

                                                        I have made extraordinary gravy from brined turkeys for 20 years.

                                                        One only needs to use unsalted broth or stock.

                                                        1. re: chefirish

                                                          I made gravy from a brined turkey today and I thought that it was good. I had to add more chicken stock because there was only 2 cups or so of liquid from the bird.

                                                          I brined the turkey for 12 hours in salt, sugar and a little bit of pickling spice to add flavor. I thought that I overcooked it because it temped at 175° after 3 hours(it was only a 8 lb bone-in breast) but after resting for 30 minutes the meat was surprisingly moist but not salty. The use of the bag likely saved me from eating Styrofoam.

                                                    2. Chiming in years late. I've used turkey bags for years and they have never failed me. I brine my bird for about 15 hrs. Rinse, spice up the outside and add aromatics inside the bird and tie up the legs and wings. I then place a generous bed of celery, onion, and carrot inside the bag, load the bird on top of the bed of veggies. Cook for 2-2.5for a 15 lb. tons of drippings and broth for gravy!!!