Brown Bagging It

Every year I contemplate how I’m going to prepare my turkey and I get all excited about trying something new. Then I remember I’m blessed with a mother who insists on making the turkey herself because, in her words, she does it best (love you, Mom). But this year is my first official Thanksgiving with my soon-to-be-in-laws and I was going to offer to cook the turkey.  I’ve heard about the brown bag turkey recipe for years, but always shied away from it because it sounded odd and a little disgusting. Well, I’m still intrigued. I’ve heard the turkey will either come out moist and flavorful or it will burn your house down. Has anyone tried this? Good or bad?


  • Craig

    A couple of things: First, the link to the recipe needs fixing. Second, note that the USDA says not to cook turkeys in brown bags, as some of the materials therein are toxic (

  • Kristin Hart

    OK. Good to know. It didn’t seem very sanitary but all these recipes make it sound fine. You’d think the USDA would put a higher emphasis on warning the public considering how many people cook the brown bag turkey. Thanks Craig!

  • John

    Despite Craig’s ominous warning, I’ve been “brown bagging” the bird for years and will continue this year (I do try to get a bag with little or no printing on it). The resutl is consistently good.

  • Craig

    Heh, not trying to be ominous, just passing on the note. I would guess that if you can find non-recycled bags without ink on them, you’d probably be okay, as it’s the unknown recycled stuff and ink that is probably toxic. However, what I want to know is what makes the brown paper bag method superior to the standard oven bag method? Either way, the steam and juices would be self-contained, so I would think the benefits would still be there, no?

  • Big Tex

    Grill it…..low and slow

  • Billusa99

    You may not want to chance it and use Jenny-O’s version.

  • Cynthia

    Kidd Kraddick on KHKS 106.1 has been raving about HIS brown-bag turkey recipe for days now. Here it is:

    A turkey
    Olive oil
    Carrots, cut into approx 3″ sticks
    Purple onion, quartered
    Several cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
    Celery, cut into approx 3″ sticks
    Roasting pan
    Brown paper bag

    Turkey: any brand, any size, depending on how many people you’re feeding and how many leftovers you want.

    Olive oil: you can use any degree of olive oil you want (extra light in flavor to extra virgin), just don’t use butter. Butter will dry out your turkey.

    Veggies: these are just for flavoring, not for serving. Use as many vegetables as you do or don’t want, because you’ll throw them away before serving the turkey.

    Smashed garlic: i’m totally not trying to insult your intelligence, but some cooks don’t know to smash garlic before using it for its flavor. Just peel the skin off, place the garlic clove on a flat surface, and lay your knife (flat) against it. Hold the heel of your palm against the (flat) blade and press down to smash the garlic.

    Brown paper bag: you may want to use two paper bags if your turkey is extra large. The brown bag won’t burn unless (a) it touches the heating element, which can be avoided by using the lowest oven rack or (b) if the oven reaches more than 451 degrees (F). To roast the turkey, it is important that you use a brown paper bag (the kind you can get from the grocery store). Using a Reynolds turkey bag will steam the turkey, which gives it a different look, taste and texture.

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees (F)

    Take out all the junk in the turkey. (Check the main body cavity and the neck cavity.)

    Wash the turkey thoroughly, then dry it off.

    Stuff both cavities of the turkey with your mixture of carrots, onion, celery, garlic (and any other veggies you want to include).

    Rub olive oil over the entire turkey, top and bottom. Go ahead – give it a good massage.

    Place the turkey in a roasting pan.

    Slide the turkey and roasting pan into the brown paper bag. Staple the bag shut. Don’t use tape.

    Sprinkle the bag lightly with water. (Remember: paper doesn’t burn unless it reaches 451 degrees, and you’re only cooking at 325.)

    Cook the turkey 13 minutes per pound

    Don’t feel tempted to cook the turkey longer just because you’ve cooked it for 23 hours in the past. The turkey, cooked as directed above, will be tender and juicy. And you’ll be the hit of the party.

    Kidd swears it’s the BEST recipe known to man…

  • Margaret

    I have done the Jennie O version and it is great!! Granted I did the bone in breast and boneless breast, not the whole turkey, but it was great. Juicy and delightful.

    Plus no messing with those gizzard things.

    I would go get one now…

    And it makes the house smell like turkey.

  • Brandy

    Buy ‘the Best Recipe’ cookbook at Half Price Books, follow their tried and tested instructions to the tee… Perfection! I did my first turkey last year and was scared to because my mom has always done it. It was the best I’ve ever had! (sorry Mom). Crisp browned skin and meat that actually glistened when we cut into it! They’ve tried all the different ways and saved me from having to do my own ‘experimenting’.

  • Adam

    Craig – A stapled brown paper bag allows some moisture to leave the bag and blocks radiative heat, which can dry out the surface more. Basically it’s the same, except it changes the interior environment a little. We did this last year and it was very good. Better than the attempts at the bag (though I’ve also become a thermometer nazi). we’ll likely do it again.