Thanksgiving foodMany years ago as a newlywed I was faced with making my very first Thanksgiving meal for myself and my new husband.  This of course entailed roasting a turkey.  I was clueless!

Seriously, in my single life Thanksgiving meals were prepared by mom, grandmas, and aunties; I think they took turns hosting the family for Thanksgiving each year.  Whatever the case may be I just popped in to where ever it was served and stuffed myself with all the yummy stuff they made.

Alas that year it was not to be.  Mom had moved back to New York where all the relatives were and I was alone in Hawaii, yup, just me and new hubby left to fend for ourselves on Thanksgiving. These days it probably wouldn’t have been a problem, one can just order a Thanksgiving meal for the entire family from one of the local restaurants or supermarket.  But back then this wasn’t an option.  So if I wanted a Thanksgiving meal I would have to figure out how to make it myself, starting with the turkey. (Yes that meant I had to stick my hand into the bird’s cavities and pull out its innards, seriously gross!)

Luckily I had a neighbor who showed me how to roast a turkey using a brown paper bag.  I was hesitant at first thinking the bag would catch fire, burn the house down, and we would be homeless on Thanksgiving day.  After all it was me roasting this bad bird and I could barely make toast unsupervised at that time!

Well my kitchen disaster never happened and I’ve been using this method to roast turkey ever since.  The only issues I’ve run into in recent years is finding large brown bags!

Years ago groceries were packed in large brown bags, perfect size for this roasting method.  The emergence of plastic grocery bags made it nearly impossible to find the paper ones.  Never one to give up I used brown craft paper when I can not locate large brown paper bags. Recently our state outlawed the use of plastic grocery bags and most supermarkets have started selling us large paper bags when we don’t bring our own grocery bags.  Umm that would be me, I always forget to bring the bags I have in my trunk into the stores so I end up purchasing even more bags.

I should mention however that I’ve only ever cooked using electric ovens, I’m told you can still use this method in a gas oven, just be sure to keep paper away from the flame.  I haven’t had the opportunity to try this so I would advise caution if you are going to try it in a gas oven.

Here’s how I do this using 2 large brown paper grocery bags or a very large shopping bag:

1.  Clean and wash turkey.  Be sure to remove the neck and giblets from the cavity.  Refrigerate giblets if you will be using them in your gravy.

2.  Salt the turkey cavity with about 2 tbls of salt

3.  Place a whole peeled onion in the back of the cavity.

4. Rub butter on top of the thighs, wing tips, and the breast; anywhere the turkey may come in contact with the paper bag.

5. If you will not be stuffing your turkey then place it on the rack inside the roasting pan.

If you will be stuffing your turkey then loosely place stuffing in both cavities.  Do not pack in stuffing.  Stuffing expands during cooking and you will have a big mess in the over and no stuffing.
Truss turkey using lacers and twine.  Place it on the rack inside the roasting pan.

6.  Insert one end of the roasting pan into the first brown bag.*

7.  Work the second brown bag onto the roasting pan.  Make sure the bag overlaps with the first bag.*

Brown bag
8.  Place the whole package in the oven using the chart below from allrecipes.com.

Bag in oven

9.  30 minutes before the turkey is done carefully tear off bags and remove.  Don’t jiggle the pan too much, you don’t want the drippings to spill, you will need the drippings for gravy.  Leave turkey uncovered to brown.

10.  When turkey is done remove from the oven and let rest on the rack for 30 minutes.  Do not transfer turkey on to serving tray immediately after cooking, it will fall apart.  Using turkey lifters makes transferring the turkey easier.

11.  If your stuffing is in the bird scoop it out onto a serving bowl before carving the turkey, it’s just neater than having everyone spoon stuffing directly out of the bird.

These times are based on placing the whole turkey on a rack in a roasting pan, and into a preheated 350 degree F (175 degrees C ) oven.

 

 Weight  of Bird

 Roasting Time (Unstuffed)  Roasting Time 
  (Stuffed)
10 to 18 pounds 3 to 3-1/2 hours   3-3/4 to 4-1/2 hours
18 to 22 pounds 3-1/2 to 4 hours   4-1/2 to 5 hours
22 to 24 pounds 4 to 4-1/2 hours   5 to 5-1/2 hours
  24 to 29 pounds 4-1/2 to 5 hours 5-1/2 to 6-1/4 hours

The only true test for doneness is the temperature of the meat, not the color of the skin.

  • The turkey is done when the thigh meat reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. To get an accurate reading, be sure that your thermometer is not touching the bone.
  • If your turkey has been stuffed, it is important to check the temperature of the dressing; it should be 165 degrees F (75 degrees C).
  • When the turkey is done, remove from the oven and allow to stand for 20-30 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, and makes for easier carving.

* If you can not get large brown bags you can use brown craft paper.  You can buy a roll at Walmart or any discount store.  Wrap the paper around the whole roasting pan.  Staple shut on both ends and on the top.

My Turkey

This is my turkey cooked using the brown bag method. This bird weighed 24 pounds.

Jaime's Turkey

My daughter in Colorado uses my method to make her Thanksgiving turkey. This is a small turkey weighing about 15 pounds.