How to Cook a Turkey in an Oven Bag

Carving roast turkey
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  • 01 of 15

    Gather Your Ingredients

    oven bag turkey ingredients
    Stephanie Gallagher

    It's easy to make turkey in an oven bag, but nowhere is it more important to gather your ingredients for a recipe in advance than when making turkey. Because raw turkey can harbor bacteria, you want to make sure you have everything you need at the ready, and that all of your ingredients and surfaces are kept clean while you're preparing your bird.

    You will need the following for your oven bag turkey recipe:

    • 1 oven bag especially designed for turkey
    • 1 12 to 24 lb. turkey, fresh or thawed acco...MORErding to package directions
    • Cooking spray
    • 1 tablespoon flour
    • 2 stalks celery
    • 1 yellow onion
    • 1 apple (optional)
    • 1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
    • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
    • Kosher salt and black pepper
    • 1/2 cup apple cider (optional)
    • 2 tablespoons maple syrup (optional)

    You will also want to have kitchen shears or a small knife to slice open your turkey and a clean cutting board or mat for the vegetables.

    After you've gathered your ingredients, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

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  • 02 of 15

    Cut the Butter to Flavor the Turkey

    cut the butter to flavor the turkey
    Stephanie Gallagher

    This is the first step in making a "compound butter" (a fancy way of saying a butter flavored with herbs or seasonings) to flavor the turkey.

    Although this step is optional, I highly recommend it because it really makes the turkey moist. There's nothing like slathering something with butter to make it moist, eh? But it's really important when it comes to turkey, because oftentimes the turkey breast can be done before the thigh, and if the breast gets overcooked, the turkey will...MORE taste dry.

    To make the compound butter, just cut the softened butter into 1/2-inch chunks and put it in a small bowl.

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  • 03 of 15

    Mix the Poultry Seasoning and the Butter

    mix the poultry seasoning and the butter
    Stephanie Gallagher

    Add the tablespoon of poultry seasoning to the butter and smash with a fork. Alternatively, you can use a mini food processor to mix the butter and poultry seasoning.

    This compound butter mixture will go under and over the turkey's skin to add flavor and moisture to the turkey.

    *Cook's Note: I use poultry seasoning for simplicity. You can use whatever fresh chopped herbs you like in place of the dried poultry seasoning. Rosemary, sage and thyme are nice in a compound butter.

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  • 04 of 15

    Set Up Your Vegetable and Turkey Stations

    set up the turkey station
    Stephanie Gallagher

    Set aside the compound butter.

    Now you want to make sure you have separate stations for preparing the vegetables and preparing the turkey. Place the vegetables and anything else you plan to use to flavor the turkey (such as an apple) on a clean cutting board with a clean knife. Set this up away from the sink — you want to keep the vegetables (and fruit) away from the turkey.

    Now you want to set up your turkey station. You will need a roasting pan (2 inches deep) large enough to hold the turkey....MORE You will also need the oven turkey bag, cooking spray, the tablespoon of flour, kitchen shears or a knife to open the turkey package, clean paper towels and, of course, the turkey. Then follow these steps:

    • Put the turkey oven bag in the roasting pan, and set it next to the sink. Set the flour, cooking spray and paper towels right next to the roasting pan.
    • Put the turkey in the sink, but do not open the turkey yet. Notice how you haven't touched the raw turkey yet, so you can continue to prep your vegetables without having to wash your hands over and over again.
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  • 05 of 15

    Chop the Produce

    chop the vegetables
    Stephanie Gallagher

    Chop your vegetables and your apple. These ingredients will go into the oven bag to flavor the turkey. These are just suggestions, by the way. If you like the flavor of oranges, you can use sliced oranges instead of the chopped apple. This oven bag turkey recipe is completely adaptable to your tastes.

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  • 06 of 15

    Prepare the Turkey Oven Bag

    Prepare the Turkey Oven Bag
    Stephanie Gallagher
    Spray the inside of the turkey oven bag with cooking spray. This will help keep the turkey from sticking. Pour the flour into the oven bag, and shake so the oven bag is coated with the flour. It's alright if some flour settles in the bottom of the oven bag. There's no need to be perfect. The idea is just to keep the turkey from sticking to the oven bag.
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  • 07 of 15

    Put the Produce in the Oven Bag

    put the vegetables in the oven bag
    Stephanie Gallagher

    Put the celery and onion in the bottom of the oven bag (or whatever vegetables you're using - chopped carrots are nice in an oven bag turkey, too).

    Now set the oven bag in the roasting pan, leaving the oven bag open wide so you can slip the turkey in later.

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  • 08 of 15

    Open the Turkey and Remove the Giblets

    remove the giblets from the turkey
    Stephanie Gallagher
    Now it's time to get your hands dirty. Use the kitchen shears or a sharp knife to slice open the turkey package, being careful not to pierce the turkey's skin. Reach in between the turkey's legs to remove the giblets. Oftentimes the giblets will be packaged in a plastic container. You can use the giblets to flavor your turkey gravy later. Or, if you're not planning to use them, simply discard the bag.
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  • 09 of 15

    Remove the Neck from the Turkey

    remove the turkey neck
    Stephanie Gallagher

    Now reach around the other side of the turkey and remove the neck. Like the giblets, the neck sometimes comes packaged in plastic.

    When you've removed the neck, wash the turkey and pat dry with the paper towels you placed beside the sink. See? Aren't you glad you were prepared?

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  • 10 of 15

    Rub the Compound Butter Under the Turkey Skin

    Loosen the Skin of the Turkey Breast
    Stephanie Gallagher

    Okay, this is the hard part. And honestly, you can make this oven bag turkey without bothering with this step at all. But it does make the turkey nice and juicy.

    Remember that compound butter you made earlier? Now you're going to spread that butter under and over the turkey's skin to flavor it.

    First, gently loosen the skin by sticking your whole hand between the turkey breast and the skin. It's not terribly easy. You will have to gently separate the skin from the breast with your...MORE fingers, working your way down the breast until you've loosened most or all of the skin from the breast meat, being careful not to break the skin. (Actually, if you look closely, you can see I broke the skin. That's the beauty of the oven bag method. The turkey will still come out moist and juice because the oven bag helps lock in those juices, even when the skin isn't protecting the turkey meat.)

    Now take a hunk of the compound butter in your fingers and place it between the turkey breast and skin. Try to cover as much of the breast as you can with the butter. It's okay if you don't do it perfectly. Use about three-quarters of the butter mixture in this step. You will use the rest of the butter in the next step.

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  • 11 of 15

    Rub the Butter on the Outside of the Turkey

    season the outside of the turkey
    Stephanie Gallagher

    Now take the remaining butter and rub it all over the outside of the turkey. It may get clumpy (remember, the turkey will be very cold). Don't worry; it will still taste great. Sometimes I melt the butter for this step and brush it over the outside of the turkey. Finally, season the turkey with salt and pepper.

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  • 12 of 15

    Put the Turkey in the Oven Bag

    Put the Turkey in the Oven Bag
    Stephanie Gallagher

    Put the turkey, breast side up (the usual way) in the oven bag, which should be sitting in the roasting pan next to the sink. If you're using apple slices or herbs or lemon slices to flavor the turkey, put them inside the turkey cavity now. I know I only mentioned apple in the recipe, but any of those flavor-boosters would work well here. Now wash your hands well with soap and warm water.

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  • 13 of 15

    Pour the Apple Cider over the Turkey

    Pour the Apple Cider over the Turkey
    Stephanie Gallagher
    Mix 1/2 cup of apple cider with 2 Tbsp. maple syrup, whisking well. Pour the mixture over the turkey and into the cavity.
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  • 14 of 15

    Tie the Turkey Oven Bag

    Tie the Turkey Oven Bag
    Stephanie Gallagher

    You wouldn't think I'd make a whole separate step for this, but believe it or not, I get a lot of questions about this step. If you can find the nylon ties that came with the oven bag, use them to seal the oven bag. If not (which happens a lot), just tie the oven bag as you would a trash bag, making sure to keep the it loose around the turkey. Do NOT use trash bag ties or other ties you have lying around.

    You don't want the bag to be too tight or it will stick to the turkey. Now tuck...MORE the oven bag ends under the side of the turkey. If they're standing up, they could touch the heating element in the oven and burn. Not good!

    With your knife, cut six 1/2-inch slits in the top of the oven bag to allow the steam to escape from the turkey.

    Now place the turkey in the preheated oven, and roast for 2-4 hours, depending on the size of the turkey, until an instant-read thermometer (compare prices) registers 165 degrees.

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  • 15 of 15

    Let the Turkey Rest

    Let the Turkey Rest, then Carve
    Stephanie Gallagher

    Remove the turkey from the oven, and let it rest 20-30 minutes before carving. This is an important step, because it allows the turkey's juices to redistribute. If you don't let the turkey rest before cutting, as soon as you start to carve the turkey, the juices will run out onto the cutting board, and the turkey will dry out.

    Once your turkey has rested, follow our guide to carving your turkey, serve and enjoy!