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Nov 23, 2010 07:45 PM

turkey in a bag

I thought I'd try doing my turkey in a bag this year. Can anyone comment on any experience with either the Reynolds bags or just a plain brown paper bag?

Also . . . I saw on the Reynolds website that they say to put a meat thermometer into the bird while it cooks. I don't own that type of thermometer (I only have an instant-read, but the plastic parts wouldn't survive the oven for long); do I absolutely need to get one to cook a turkey properly this way?

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  1. You can pierce the bag with your instant-read thermometer to check for doneness.
    Keep an eye on the temperature, I find when using the Reynold's bag the turkey seems to cook a bit faster than expected.
    Remember the temperature can rise almost 10 degrees once you remove the turkey from the oven.

    1. I used those baking bags for many years with very good results. You will want to do your best to pull as much of the bag as possible away from the surface of the turkey to minimize it sticking to the skin and pulling skin away when you remove the bird from the bag. Not a major issue, but worth consideration. Remember when you pierce the bag (I used kitchen shears) to check the temperature at the thigh/breast joint and thickest part of the breast that the bag is full of steam. Avoid a steam burn by cutting a small slit in the bag to allow some steam to escape before you actually insert the thermometer. Your instant read thermometer will work just fine. Monku's recommendations and cautions get my endorsement.

      5 Replies
      1. re: todao

        Actually the bag never gets full of steam.
        The directions say you should put a few slits in the bag before you put it in the oven.
        I always put it in breast down for the first hour then gingerly try and turn it breast up for the remainder.

        I always check the breast and not the inside the thigh. My thinking is if the breast meat is overdone, the turkey is going to be dry. Rarely is the dark meat overdone. When the breast temperature reaches 160 degrees I take the turkey out, because by the time it rests for 30 minutes it's easily going to reach 165-170 and will be done and hopefully not dry.

        1. re: monku

          Nothing personal here monku, but for the purposes of helping folks on the form I must keep in mind that the thigh doneness test is a USDA recommendation "... use a food thermometer to be sure the temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast reaches the safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F."
          )and I'd never advise anyone to disregard those guidelines.

          1. re: todao

            They are guidelines, not law.
            If you take the turkey out and let it rest like you're supposed to for 30 minutes, the temperature will rise anywhere from 5-10 degrees depending on how big the turkey is.
            Believe me, taking it out at 160, it will easily be at 165 when it's finished resting. Ask any chef or anyone that's cooked turkeys like myself for 30+ years.

              1. re: todao

                Moist Thanksgiving Turkey Tips
                "No matter how you choose to cook your bird, the number one reason people end up with dry turkey is that they wait until the white meat reaches 165ºF before taking it out of the oven. So, whether you spatchcock, cook the white and dark separately or roast whole, don’t forget that the temperature of the meat can rise another 10 to 15 degrees once it comes out of the oven. Don’t forget to compensate for carry over cooking, and you will be rewarded with a juicy turkey this Thanksgiving."


            1. One caution about this method- nowadays brown paper bags are often treated with fire retardant chemicals which could be toxic. I think that's one reason why this technique has fallen out of popularity in modern times. It's important to make sure the paper is safe to cook in.

              4 Replies
              1. re: eclecticsynergy

                The paper bag method actually stopped being widely popular a few decades ago, end of the 70's/early 80's, IIRC, with the advent of the "brown in" bags available in the market. Given the enormous lack of paper bags in my local supermarkets now, I wonder why manufacturers would consider the extra step of using fire redardant chemicals on something that's totally recyclable, biodegradable and not used much these days, although seemingly making a come back. I can't find any information on the web to suggest that brown paper bags are chemically treated with anything. Do you have a source for that info?

                I do know that plasic pallets which are used to ship, cool and store produce contain decabromodiphenyl ether (Deca), a flame retardant chemical and known neurotoxin that may leach onto the fruits and vegetables inside. Not plastic bags, not paper bags, but still capable of leaching chemicals into produce. I have much more concern about the use of certain plastics for food containers then roasting my turkey in a paper bag once a year.

                1. re: bushwickgirl

                  My local supermarket manager has said he thinks there's a law requiring that paper bags be flame resistant. I don't know whether that's NY or federal law. but I did a bit of web searching about the chemicals:

                  The flame retardants are bromated poly diphenyl esters, BPDEs, bad stuff along the lines of PCBs. Also the reason why you should wash your hands immediately after handling any thermal-printed charge slip. According to a recent NPR blurb, most of our paper money now has trace amounts of these chemicals also, transferred from charge slips.

                  "These compounds have the same properties as PCBs and DDT,' says Ake Bergman, head of environmental chemistry at Stockholm University. 'It's just a matter of time before we have a toxic effect. We knew less about PCBs when they were banned than we know about BPDEs today ... Didn't we learn from PCBs?'

                  So far industry has successfully kept things pretty quiet about these, and a 2005 study by the CDC which found BPDEs in 95% of Americans tested is no longer in the public archive.

                  I don't think supermarket bags fall under the purview of the FDA since they normally aren't in direct contact with food. And I don't enjoy sounding like such an alarmist, but I definitely feel it's important to make sure your brown paper bag doesn't have them before you cook in it!

                  Here's a link to a Canadian article from 2008:

                  1. re: eclecticsynergy

                    Interesting research on your part.
                    I wonder if those paper bags are made in China.

                    1. re: monku

                      Awhile back, fires were starting in homes while people were away at work or wherever. This is due to the fact that many people stored the brown paper grocery bags in that space between the kitchen wall and the fridge. Turns out, this is a bad idea. I'm sure that fridge manufacturers have addressed the problem (probably due to lawsuits) to prevent the bags from igniting while in that space. But paper bag manufacturers probably shared in the liability, as well. Thus, the addition of fire retardant chemicals to help protect you from yourself. (Sorry, I work for attorneys).

              2. I always cook a turkey in a Reynolds oven bag. I put celery, onions, and garlic in the bag with a tablespoon or so of flour. Then I rub the turkey (under the skin too) with softened butter mixed with salt, pepper, ground, sage, and thyme. I also salt and pepper the cavity and place cut up lemons, onions, and fresh sage, rosemary and thyme in it. I usually bake at 350 for around 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

                2 Replies
                1. re: vafarmwife

                  Thanks for the pictures! I didn't really want to cook my turkey in a bag because I wanted the skin to come out brown and crispy and it seems like the bag would prevent that from happening. But looking at the pictures changed my mind.

                  1. re: Duquesne

                    The secret that gorgeous browned crispy turkey skin is using the softened butter rub. Butter makes everything better.