Roast Turkey in a Brown Paper Bag – Anita’s Table Talk

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How to roast turkey in a brown paper bag

When I was single and living in Dallas, I invited a group of friends to Thanksgiving dinner. The task of roasting a turkey sounded easy enough. Buy a turkey, put it in a roasting pan and put it in the oven until it’s ready. Right? But as the day approached, I realized there was more to it than just putting the turkey in a large pan and turning on the oven. Actually, I panicked full-blown over! Roast a turkey? I have no idea how to roast a turkey. Absent-minded!

My boss at the time suggested that I talk to his wife because she always made a “perfect” turkey. Luckily for me, she was kind enough to share what she called her “embarrassingly simple” recipe, and I’ve been using it ever since. She roasted her turkey in a brown paper bag. It’s a southern thing, she said, really.

Turkey roasted in a brown paper bag 101

Here are the basics of my original notes, circa 1985, written as the young rookie I was. I remember writing all this while talking to her. My thoughts on how to roast turkey in a brown paper bag were recorded afterwards, I guess.

While at the grocery store, don’t get a turkey that is too big or it won’t fit in the bag. (Get a 10-12 pounds.)

Step 1

Start with a large brown grocery bag from the market (ask for a clean one) and grease it. Rub every pore with Wesson oil or else it could burn (any vegetable oil works but not olive). MASSAGE the oil into the paper bag/sack. (And I mean MASSAGE).

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Step 2

Now remove all the giblets? (Entrails) of the turkey. Add “Holy Trinity” (??) to the cavity (Holy Trinity = a little onion, celery and carrot).

Roast turkey in a bag

Step 3

Massage REAL mayonnaise on the bird. You don’t need to spend $$$ (on mayonnaise). You need the fatty type for the oil (whole real mayonnaise only). Sprinkle poultry seasoning generously. (It’s easy to find at any grocery store.) And some S&P.

Turkey roasted in a stapled bag

Step 4

Put the bird in the bag, sewing up. Fold the bag and close it.



Roast to ready, 10-15 minutes per pound (larger turkey takes longer).

Step 6

Enjoy your dinner!

So now you know how to roast a turkey in a brown paper bag.

Roast turkey

Any questions


What about those plastic bags? I’ve heard of many Thanksgiving cooks swearing by the Reynolds kitchen bag, but that seems to steam the turkey instead of roasting it (the paper bag actually breathes some air, changing the results). Reynolds’ method works well, but I like the taste of the paper bag version better.

Will the bag catch fire? No, the oil prevents that from happening, but it may smoke slightly towards the end of roasting, so turn on the vent or open a window through a crack. Remember to only use vegetable oil and NOT olive oil.

Aren’t there chemicals in the paper bag that are dangerous to your health? Maybe, but I’ve been roasting turkey this way for over 30 years, and I’m still here. And besides, there are probably chemicals in that Reynolds kitchen bag or even aluminum foil, too. We won’t even talk about hot dogs. Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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And now for a clearer and more detailed version of your roast turkey recipe in a brown paper bag.

Other Thanksgiving favorites

Lazy Turkey Pot Pie

Blueberries Bourbon Sauce

Leftover Turkey Shepherd’s Cake

Pumpkin Roll

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