Cooking Turkey in a Bag

Get a perfectly moist, golden brown turkey by cooking the turkey in a bag. Everything you need to know for seasoning and cooking turkey.

We’ve shared how to cook turkey many different ways: in the slow cooker, turkey in the electric roaster, smoked turkey and bacon wrapped turkey.

All of those are delicious, but today I’m sharing the way my mom always cooks turkey…turkey in a bag!

A close up of whole turkey

Is it better to cook a turkey in a bag or not?

Although it can seem strange, cooking a turkey in an oven bag is a great option. Here’s why:

  • It keeps the turkey moist.
  • The skin gets golden brown which makes a beautiful presentation.
  • The juices get trapped in the bag which not only makes the turkey more tender and flavorful, it also makes it easy to use the juices for gravy.
  • Spices, seasonings and butter get locked in the roasting bag, making your turkey taste amazing.
  • The roasting pan will be easier to clean!

Does a turkey cook more quickly in a bag?

When you use an oven bag you can actually accelerate your turkey cooking time up to an hour faster. It is enclosed in a bag which traps the heat and helps your turkey to cook more quickly.

A plastic bag filled with turkey and vegetables

How to Season a Turkey

We often like to keep our turkey simply seasoned. We place onion, celery and carrot in the baking bag, then stuff butter under the skin of the turkey.

Add a touch of salt and pepper if you’d like, and this turkey will create juices that are perfectly flavored for a simple homemade gravy.

Cooking Turkey in a Bag

Cooking a turkey in a bag is an easy method. Here’s how to do it!

  • Preheat the oven to 350º Fahrenheit. You’ll place the turkey on the lowest roasting rack so make sure you have your oven prepared for that before it gets hot.
  • Place the flour inside the oven bag and shake it to coat the bag.
A plastic bag with flour inside
  • Remove the giblets and neck from the turkey. Discard or save for gravy or another use.
  • Place the turkey inside the bag. Place the turkey in a roasting pan.
  • Place a few pieces of the onion, carrots and celery inside the turkey, then place the rest around the turkey.
  • Cut the stick of butter in tablespoon slices (8 slices).
  • Loosen the skin of the turkey from the breast.
  • Slide the butter slabs under the skin of the turkey breast. We do 4 slices on each side.
uncooked turkey in a cooking bag
  • Sprinkle the turkey with salt and pepper if desired.
  • Seal the turkey bag with the tie. Be sure to have the bag loose around the turkey.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut 3 slits in the top of the bag.

How long do you cook a turkey in an oven bag?

Almost all oven bags I’ve gotten come with a chart with cooking times. The exact amount of time it takes can depend on many different things such as how big the turkey is and whether it is unstuffed or stuffed. An 18-22 pound turkey will take around 3-4 hours to cook.

You’ll find many different charts and suggestions about cooking time, and almost all of them will be slightly different.

It’s most important to test the internal temperature of the bird to know if it is done or not.

uncooked turkey in a cooking bag

What temperature should turkey be cooked to?

According to the USDA, a whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F. Using a food thermometer, check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and the thickest part of the breast.

Many people find that they prefer turkey meat cooked to a higher temperature, around 170-180º Fahrenheit. You definitely don’t want your turkey dry, however, I do prefer the texture of a turkey cooked to a higher temperature.

**We LOVE our Thermoworks ThermaPen to quickly test meat temperatures. This probe thermometer is AMAZING.  Get it here.**

slice of oven roasted turkey

Can you cook a turkey in a bag in an electric roaster?

You should not use a plastic oven bag in an electric roaster. No part of the bag should touch the sides, top or bottom of the roaster (or oven for that matter), and in an roaster oven, that is sometimes hard if the roaster is small.

Side Dishes for Turkey

When you are planning your Thanksgiving dinner menu, consider these easy side dish recipes:

oven roasted turkey in a bag

How to Use Leftover Turkey

Because this turkey is so moist and tender, it is great to use in casseroles and soups!

Common Turkey Questions

How much turkey per person?

You should plan for about 1 pound of turkey per person. If you want leftovers, plan for 1 ½ pounds per person.

Is it necessary to rinse turkey before cooking?

Although it is common, the USDA recommends NOT rinsing your turkey before cooking it. This can actually spread more germs than you realize.

Can you stuff a turkey that you cook in a bag?

Yes! You can cook a turkey in a bag either stuffed or unstuffed.

Is it safe to stuff a turkey?

If you choose to stuff a turkey, be sure you loosely pack the stuffing into the turkey cavity. At cooking, make sure that the center of the stuffing reaches 165º Fahrenheit. If you follow these requirements, the stuffing will be safe.

Do you cook a turkey at 325ºF or 350ºF?

Both are common, but the important thing to remember is not to bake a turkey at a temperature less than 325ºF. When we cook a turkey in a bag, we roast it at 350ºF.

golden brown Turkey in a Bag
golden brown Turkey in a Bag

Turkey in a Bag

4.67 from 3 votes
Get a perfectly moist, golden brown turkey by cooking the turkey in a bag. Everything you need to know for seasoning and cooking turkey.
Servings 18
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Resting Time 15 minutes

Ingredients
 

  • 18 pound whole turkey (completely thawed)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 carrots (peeled and cut into large chunks)
  • 4 stalks celery washed and cut into large chunks)
  • 1 large yellow onion (peeled and quartered)
  • 1/2 cup salted butter (1 stick)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • turkey sized oven bag

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350º Fahrenheit. You'll place the turkey on the lowest roasting rack so make sure you have your oven prepared for that before it gets hot.
  • Place the flour inside the oven bag and shake it to coat the bag.
  • Remove the giblets and neck from the turkey. Discard or save for gravy or another use.
  • Place the turkey inside the bag. Place the turkey in a roasting pan.
  • Place a few pieces of the onion, carrots and celery inside the turkey, then place the rest around the turkey.
  • Cut the stick of butter in tablespoon slices (8 slices).
  • Loosen the skin of the turkey from the breast.
  • Slide the butter slabs under the skin of the turkey breast. We do 4 slices on each side.
  • Sprinkle the turkey with salt and pepper if desired.
  • Seal the turkey bag with the tie. Be sure to have the bag loose around the turkey.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut 3 slits in the top of the bag.
  • Roast the turkey until the temperature measures a minimum of 165º Fahrenheit in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. (We like to cook ours just a little bit longer than this.)
  • The exact time will depend on how big the turkey is, and if you've stuffed the turkey or not. Plan for 3-4 hours for an 18 pound unstuffed turkey. Adjust timing from there.
  • Let the turkey stand for 15 minutes after removing from the oven.
  • Then cut slits in the top of the bag to allow any steam to release.
  • Use the pan drippings for gravy, then slice and serve!

Nutrition

Calories: 511kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 70g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 245mg | Sodium: 420mg | Potassium: 789mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 2076IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 46mg | Iron: 3mg
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Calories 511
Keyword how to cook a turkey, how to cook turkey, Thanksgiving turkey
A close up of food, with turkey and Oven bag

About Julie Clark

I'm Julie Clark, CEO and recipe developer of Tastes of Lizzy T. With my B.A. in Education and over 30 years of cooking and baking, I want to teach YOU the best of our family recipes.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Came out great ! It was my first turkey so I didn’t know what to expect but this was nice and simple ! I just messed up and cooked it breast down 🤦🏻‍♀️. I had a 13 lb birdie. I did the suggested 2:30 but I think next time for that size I’ll do 3:00.

    1. 5 stars
      I cooked one upside down once, on purpose. I read a tip that says it makes the Breast meat more juicy and tender. So you didn’t mess up at all!

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