Simple Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey {Oven Bag Method}

This simple roasted turkey (and delectable gravy) is the perfect Thanksgiving turkey recipe if you are cooking turkey for the first time…or the 20th time!

Simple Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey

I have Thanksgiving menu planning on the brain! Do you?

Are you hosting this year?

Going to someone else’s house?

Only bringing pie?

Bagging the whole traditional dinner and eating pizza instead?

Last year was an atypical Thanksgiving for us.

We got ditched by everyone and anyone who loves us, and so we made stroganoff, homemade spaetzle, and went to watch Moana at the movie theatre in the afternoon.

It was a strange and awesome Thanksgiving Day.

This year, I’m hosting my sister  AND brother (and their respective families) at our house, and so we are going with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in order to please the masses and avoid mutiny.

Easy Homemade French Bread

Later this week, I’ll be sharing my exact Thanksgiving menu plan for the big day!

I’ll be including every little thing I’ll be making (with some hints at a few new recipes coming at you in the next couple weeks).

But today, I wanted to throw another turkey recipe at you.

To be honest, I was not planning on sharing a new Thanksgiving turkey recipe this year.

I already have three pretty stellar turkey recipes in the archives (and one more that I don’t publicly acknowledge anymore because of reader’s angst and distress over the roasting method).

And you really don’t need a million turkey recipes, right?

You gotta find one you love and stick with it.

Easy Homemade French Bread

Unless you are me and you have Quick Onset Recipe Boredom (QORB).

Even though I have several other terrific turkey recipes, I couldn’t resist making a simple roasted turkey recipe this year that had a slightly different cooking method.

The Bag.

Yeah, yeah, I know turkey bags have been around for years. Generations?

My mom always used a turkey bag to roast our Thanksgiving turkey, and I guess because of that, I always thought it was an antiquated, old-fashioned method (sorry mom and all the other millions of turkey bag users).

But I decided this year to seek out an amazing and simple roasted turkey recipe using an oven bag.

And this one is stellar. SO simple. SO perfect for beginning turkey roasters and experts alike. And SO delicious.

Easy Homemade French Bread

And let’s just have a moment of silence for the gravy.

It is seriously the most luxurious, tastiest turkey gravy ever.

I copied the gravy-making method from my favorite pot roast recipe, and you can hate me…or thank me later when you start drinking it straight from the gravy boat.

It’s that good.

This simple roasted turkey is honestly the best solution when you want a no-fuss, easy Thanksgiving turkey that is juicy and packed with flavor.

Turns out, the oven bag really does help seal in moisture to ensure a juicy, tender turkey.

Easy Homemade French Bread

I’ve included some notes below the recipe about brining the turkey vs non-brining (spoiler alert: you can get away with not brining the turkey, in my opinion) and also my thoughts about what kind of turkey to buy.

A few additional mentions:

-the roasting pan: I’ve had the roasting pan pictured in this post (below) for years. Probably a decade. I don’t love it. The nonstick finish scratches so easily and causes the drippings to burn. I have my eye on this Calphalon version or this less expensive Cook’s roasting pan.

-oven bags: I use Reynold’s oven bags (readily available at most grocery stores); there are lots of other brands on the market, too

-gravy boat: I have this one and love it – it has a 24-ounce capacity which is larger than many other gravy boats

-instant-read thermometer: a really key tool for making sure the turkey is perfectly done but not overcooked

Easy Homemade French Bread

And I know, I know, that turkey wing is shooting up in quite the shocking manner, because I was a slacker and didn’t do the whole wing-tuck before tossing the turkey in the bag.

Guess what? Turkey still tasted amazing even with the poky wing look going on.

Now, it’s your turn! 

I’d love to know what’s going on your Thanksgiving menu (if you are celebrating the holiday)!

And keep an eye out for the post later one detailing all my Thanksgiving favorites that are making an appearance this year!

Easy Homemade French Bread

One Year Ago: Smoky Lentil and Potato Soup {Pressure Cooker or Stovetop}
Two Years Ago: Amazing Crustless Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes
Three Years Ago: Chocolate Caramel Pecan Pie
Four Years Ago: Creamy Confetti Corn with Bacon
Five Years Ago: Cheesy Chicken Quesadilla Pie

Simple Thanksgiving Turkey {Roasted in a Bag}

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Ingredients:

Turkey:

  • 18-20 pound turkey (see note), neck reserved, giblets discarded
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 6 large carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped (or about 20 baby carrots)
  • 3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Coarse, kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 turkey-sized oven bag (such as the Reynolds brand)

Gravy:

  • 3-4 cups chicken broth (to add to the accumulated turkey juices)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. For the turkey, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, adjusting an oven rack to the lowest position.
  2. In a roasting pan, add the turkey neck, onion, carrots, celery, broth, rosemary sprig, and bay leaves. Set the V-rack in the pan.
  3. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Optional: tuck the turkey wings behind the back and tie legs together with kitchen twine (I sometimes do this, and sometimes don’t – that’s the lazy in me coming out). Melt the butter and brush it all over the outside of the turkey. Season the outside and inside of the turkey with salt and pepper.
  4. Toss the 1 tablespoon flour inside the oven bag; hold the bag closed and shake to distribute the flour evenly. Slide and shimmy (that’s right, shimmy) the bag over the turkey and secure the bag closed with the included bag tie. Place the turkey on the V-rack and cut four 1-inch slits in the top of the bag to allow steam to escape.
  5. Roast the turkey until an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees F for the breast meat and 175 degrees for thigh meat, about 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours.
  6. Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Using a knife or scissors, slit the bag underneath to allow accumulated liquid to release into the roasting pan (be careful of any steam escaping).
  7. Cut the bag around the outside of the turkey, removing the top of the bag completely. Carefully holding the tied end of the bag, pull the bottom remaining part of the bag out from underneath the turkey, lifting up the turkey slightly if needed.
  8. Transfer the V-rack with the turkey to a rimmed baking sheet, tent the turkey with foil and let rest for 45 minutes to an hour.
  9. For the gravy, using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Discard the turkey neck and strain the remaining liquid/vegetables in the roasting pan through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl. Use a spoon to press on the vegetables so the maximum amount of liquid is strained into the bowl. Discard the cooked (and let’s be honest: mushy) vegetables. Let the liquid sit for 5-10 minutes to allow the fat to rise to the top. Skim the fat from the top of the juices.
  10. Add additional chicken broth to the accumulated juices to equal about 6 cups.
  11. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour, and stir or whisk, for 1-2 minutes until the flour is golden and sizzling.
  12. Gradually add the reserved turkey juices/broth while vigorously whisking (to avoid lumps). Cook until the gravy is thickened and coats the back of a spoon, 5-7 minutes. Add additional broth, if needed, for thinner gravy. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  13. Carve the turkey and transfer to a serving platter. Serve with gravy alongside (and of course all the other tasty side dishes!)

Notes:

Let’s talk turkeys for a minute. Brining a turkey adds a lot of flavor and tenderness to the turkey (like, for instance, in this recipe). So ideally, a pre-brined turkey would be perfect for this recipe. However, I’ve made this recipe without pre-brining first, and the turkey is still very, very delicious and juicy. So basically, I’ll leave brining up to you. Trader Joe’s sells a pre-brined turkey (and I’m sure other places do, as well, so you can also look for something like that). Over the years as I’ve roasted many a Thanksgiving turkey, I’ve used everything from everyday Butterball and Jennie-O turkeys to more organic and/or Amish or fresh turkeys. I’m not going to get on a soapbox about the brand of turkey you use. This particular recipe is a pretty basic recipe that will serve you well for any number of types/brands of turkeys, but if you do have access to a natural, fresh turkey, I’d say go for it. 

I really believe the reason turkeys can be dry after roasting isn’t because of the cooking method, necessarily, but because the turkey gets overcooked. Investing in a simple instant-read thermometer can solve this problem easily. Keep an eye on temperature, let the turkey rest after it comes out of the oven, and you’ll be well on your way to juicy turkey heaven.

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Recipe Source: adapted from a recipe in Cook’s Country Oct/Nov 2017 (changed up the gravy to mirror this best-ever pot roast gravy , altered the ingredients a bit)

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