How to Cook a Turkey in a Paper Bag

Paper Bag Turkey,

Easy, No-Baste Turkey Recipe

Why, you ask, would anyone even care to know how to cook a turkey in a brown paper bag?

Because Paper Bag Turkey comes out crispy-skinned, golden brown and juicy every time. And there's no basting; put it in the oven and forget it. Once you learn how to cook a turkey this way you'll never look back.

Also in this issue of Party Yak:

  •  Delicious Turkey Rice Soup Recipe
  •  Tips for Managing Leftover Turkey
  • Let's Talk Turkey: Lots of "Why and How to Cook a Turkey in a Paper Bag" Reader Comments 

Paper Bag Turkey

1 whole turkey, 23-25 pounds
1 or 2 large brown paper bag (grocery bag)
Butter, soft but not melted
Salt or garlic salt and pepper to taste

Remove neck and giblets from cavities. Rinse the turkey and pat dry with paper towels. Stuff, if desired. (I prefer stuffing balls.)

Thoroughly coat the turkey with butter using your fingers or a paper towel. Season generously.

Place the turkey in the paper bag. Seal the bag with staples, paper clips or a needle and thread. (Use 2 bags if 1 is too small.)

Place the turkey on a sturdy shallow baking pan. Bake at 325° for about 5 hours. Reduce the cooking time to 4 to 4 1/2 hours for an un-stuffed or smaller turkey.

And no, the paper will not burn, and the turkey will not taste like paper. But you will enjoy all those little gasps of appreciation when you "unwrap" your perfect paper bag turkey.

Leftover Turkey Tip

    Here's a tip that will keep you from ever having to hear, Oh no, not turkey again! ever again. Instead of going the week-long 'leftover turkey dinner to turkey sandwiches to turkey casserole to turkey soup' route, start with the soup.
    Remove all the meat from the carcass right away, saving the bones for soup broth. Refrigerate any turkey meat you may want for the next day or two and freeze the rest. And voila, turkey only when you want it.

Turkey Rice Soup Recipe

After years of experimenting, this is hands down the favorite version of Turkey Rice Soup, a welcome leftover turkey recipe. But you can add sliced celery and/or chopped carrot to the recipe if you like. Soup is, after all, very adaptable.

Turkey Rice Soup,

This recipe makes a company-size amount of soup that you can adjust to fit your needs.

3 quarts turkey broth (*below)
1 cup rice, uncooked
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cups turkey meat, chopped
Pinch of poultry seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste

    *Turkey broth: Place the stripped turkey carcass/bones in a large pot or stock pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce the heat. Gently simmer for an hour or so. (The trick is to never cook the meat with the carcass; it leaches out all the taste. Let the broth get its flavor from the bones, instead.)
  1. Remove the bones and discard. You should have about 3 quarts (12 cups) of broth, but you can make up any difference with chicken soup base or bouillon and more water. It gives the soup a nice color, too.
  2. Transfer the broth, if you prefer, to another large (8 quart) pot and again bring it to a simmer. Salt and generously pepper the broth. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer just until the rice is cooked, 20-30 minutes. Taste, adjust the spices, if necessary, and serve.


I first learned how to cook a turkey in a paper bag as a newlywed. I must have called the neighbor who taught me six times during cooking, just to make sure that bag was not going to burst into flames in the oven. It doesn't.

Still not sure? Check out the Reader Comments, below

Back to Party Yak

Let's Talk Turkey! Reader Comments:

Subject: Cooking a turkey in a paper bag

The recipe for the paper bag turkey has been repeated in the Dallas News many times going back to, I believe, the 50s. But in their recipe you coat the inside of the paper bag with oil (they suggest peanut oil) which seals in even more of the moisture and basically steams your turkey. I have done it this way several times with the best results. Gary, Maine USA


As I have used this method of cooking Turkeys for many years using both electric and gas stoves I can tell you it is perfectly safe as long as you don't let the bag come in contact with the heating elements or the body of the stove.

Some people like to coat the bag with oil or butter but that is not necessary if you rub the softened butter all over the turkey itself. Doing it this way will help keep the bag from sticking to the Turkey as it gets done but it also allows the bag to absorb the oil from the cooking turkey from the bottom up creating a seal that keeps the juices from being lost or heavy in grease while creating a wonderful gravy or broth when the turkey is finished cooking.

May I also suggest you include the information of using ONLY a large “clean un-used” brown grocery bag. The best part is there is not or should be no cost for the bag or several bags you request from the cashier for the next time you need them. Using this wonderfully unique way of cooking a turkey will fill your home with a hint of an old wood stove and the BEST smelling turkey you have ever known.

After the turkey is finished fully cooking and you have removed it from the stove you simply tear the bag down the middle to release the heat and then just pull it up from the sides and the biggest part of the bag will easily come away from the turkey leaving a perfect turkey still sitting pretty in the pan. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!!! Rita, Laurel Hill, N.C.


Thanks for your recipe. At the end of your article, Gary from Maine advises to first coat the inside of the bag with peanut oil which "steams" the turkey. You can get the same effect with a plastic bag. The whole idea of the paper bag is to "roast" the turkey rather than steam it. Roger

Subject: Paper Bag Turkey Cooking Suggestion
I have personally cooked all my turkeys in a paper bag since I was 14 years old - 41 years ago! I've never had a failure! I always remember to put the seam-side of the bag to the bottom of the pan. Unveiling the cooked bird is simply grasping the bag on alternate corners and pulling up and rocking the bird out of the bag onto the serving platter. I oil the bag and use a deep pan, as I tightly stuff raw well-seasoned chopped onion, celery, and (peeled, cored & chopped) apple into the cavities of the turkey to flavor the turkey while cooking and create a tremendous amount of rich delicious broth for gravy, dressing, casseroles and soup (I cook the dressing outside the bird, as my family likes LOTS of dressing.) Paul

Top of How to Cook a Turkey


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