Oven Bag Turkey Recipe

Oven Bag Turkey Recipe

The Spruce

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 2 hrs
Total: 2 hrs 15 mins
Servings: 12 to 18 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
923 Calories
39g Fat
5g Carbs
130g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12 to 18
Amount per serving
Calories 923
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 39g 50%
Saturated Fat 13g 65%
Cholesterol 508mg 169%
Sodium 545mg 24%
Total Carbohydrate 5g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 130g
Vitamin C 4mg 18%
Calcium 75mg 6%
Iron 5mg 28%
Potassium 1136mg 24%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

If you're a novice cook or want to try a new method to cook an entire turkey, our oven bag recipe is the easiest around. It will yield juicy and tender meat and crispy skin, and will avoid entirely the brining or basting steps that most turkey recipes require. By trapping the moisture and heat, oven bags cook the bird faster and make it a breeze to collect all the juices to start making the gravy while the turkey rests. A seasoned butter is placed under the skin to provide extra moisture during cooking, and those buttery drippings make a great gravy base.

Oven bags have been around for many decades, and if you ask, probably whoever was in charge of the cooking during your childhood holidays might have used an oven bag. The classic bag technique is an easy way to cook turkeys and chicken, but it's also a great tool for cooking lamb shanks and pork or beef roasts. Make sure you buy one of the nylon or polyester FDA-approved bags—that is also BPA free—before you start cooking, but most importantly, check that the bag you're using is a proper oven bag, not a brining bag or plastic bag.

Our method is very forgiving, and if by any chance, you overcook the bird, the moisture in the bag will still help you have juicy meat. Once you learn how to cook a turkey in a bag, you will never go back to another method again.

2:13

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces

  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced

  • 1 (12- to 18-pound) turkey, thawed

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened

  • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning

  • Kosher salt, to taste

  • Ground black pepper, to taste

  • 1 medium apple, sliced

  • 1/2 cup apple cider

  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for the oven bag turkey recipe
     The Spruce
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

  3. Place an oven bag in a 2-inch deep roasting pan. Spray the inside of the bag with cooking spray to prevent sticking, and add flour to the bag. Shake to coat.

    Oven bag in a 2-inch deep roasting pan
     The Spruce
  4. Place the chopped celery and sliced onion in the bag.

    Chopped celery and sliced onions in the bag
     The Spruce
  5. Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey. Carefully pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Set the turkey on a clean surface, such as a cutting board. Discard the organs unless you're using them to make giblet gravy.

    The turkey neck and giblets are removed
     The Spruce
  6. In a small bowl, combine the softened butter with the poultry seasoning. Using your hands, gently lift the skin of the turkey breast away from the meat with your hands and rub half of the mixture on the breast between the turkey and skin.

    Rubbing the butter and poultry seasoning under the turkey skin
     The Spruce
  7. Rub the remaining butter mixture on top of the turkey breasts. Season the outside of the turkey with salt and pepper to taste.

    The butter and seasoning are rubbed over the turkey skin
     The Spruce
  8. Place the apple slices inside of the turkey cavity.

  9. Place the turkey, breast-side up, in the prepared oven bag.

    The tturkey is placed in the oven bag
     The Spruce
  10. Whisk the apple cider and maple syrup together. Pour the mixture over the turkey, letting some spill into the cavity.

    Apple cider and maple syrup mixture poured over turkey
     The Spruce
  11. Seal the oven bag with the enclosed nylon ties; alternatively, twist the ends of the bag and tuck it under the bird's legs. Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife, cut 6 half-inch slits in the top of the turkey bag to act as vents.

    The oven bag is sealed
     The Spruce
  12. Roast the turkey for 2 to 3 1/2 hours—depending on the size of the turkey—until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the turkey measures 165 F. 

    Turkey is roasted in the bag
     The Spruce
  13. Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest 20 minutes before carving. Resting allows the turkey's juices to redistribute, keeping the moisture.

    Cooked turkey
     The Spruce
  14. The juices in the bag can be used as the base for your gravy.

  15. Enjoy with your favorite sides.

How Do I Know My Turkey Is Thawed?

Thawing a turkey takes a long time. For example, if by the Sunday before Thanksgiving your turkey is still in the freezer, it's time to take it out and place it in the fridge. Here's why:


  • Every 5 pounds of frozen turkey takes at least, 24 hours to thaw. For an 18-pound bird, you need over 72 hours—to be exact, you'll need 86.4 hours, which is three-and-a-half days. That puts you with a thawed turkey by Thanksgiving Thursday at noon—cutting it close.


  • The smaller the bird, the less time it takes, but always do the math when buying the turkey so your cooking time isn't off, or parts of the bird won't be cooked all the way through when it's time to eat.

Perfect Turkey Menu

Here are some ideas for the sides that you can serve with your turkey for a satisfying holiday menu:

  • These easy mashed potatoes are a perfect starch to go with the bird, and the recipe offers plenty of variations.
  • This silky simple gravy is ideal for moistening the meat and goes great with potatoes and vegetables.
  • For a sweet touch, our 15-minute cranberry sauce is essential on your plate.
  • A decadent dish of green beans and bacon is a great accompaniment for turkey. Buttery and crunchy, these beans are ready in no time. Our lemon and garlic broccoli recipe is also a great choice of vegetable.
  • Stuffing is always one of the dishes most guests enjoy. This easy stovetop recipe is filled with a beautiful herby flavor.
  • Many pies are in the contention for the perfect holiday dessert: Choose from pecan, pumpkin, bourbon-apple, or a kid's favorite: chocolate.

How Long to Cook a Turkey in an Oven Bag

A 12- to 15-pound turkey will take approximately 2 to 2 1/2 hours. A 20- to 24-pound turkey will take about 3 1/2 hours to 4 hours. The best measure of a well-cooked bird is a thermometer read: 165 F in the thickest part of the breast, away from the bone.