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Back in the day when I used to read the daily newspaper, I loved the Food Section because they always had such interesting recipes. I haven’t read a physical newspaper in years, but I still have a binder that contains all those wonderful newspaper clippings of recipes. Some of them are decades old. One such recipe is Thanksgiving Turkey in a Sack.

Sounds weird, I know. But I have cooked the Thanksgiving turkey this way a number of times, and if you are looking for a totally hands-off method, this one is for you.

You start with several brown paper grocery sacks, which may be getting harder to find. They used to ask me “paper or plastic?” at the grocery store when bagging my groceries, but I haven’t been asked that in a long time. But I do see paper bags under the counters. I’ve also seen them at Aldi. So you may have to ask for them.

Thanksgiving Turkey in a Sack

Veteran brown baggers swear by the Sack Method and claim that some kind of miracle happens in the sack because by the time the turkey is done cooking, it is always moist and tender. That has been my experience as well. (I can think of only one guy who might not be a fan of this method…) 🙂

Thanksgiving Turkey in a Sack

With this cooking method, the turkey is actually being steamed in a uniform manner.

The one caveat with this method is that once you have tied up your bird and closed the sack, you must NEVER PEEK, not even once, as it will interrupt the cooking cycle.

So once you have your brown grocery bags on hand, here’s what you do:

  • Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
  • Use a double strength or double bagged grocery sack.
  • Oil the inside of the sack lightly and completely with cooking oil.
  • Rub or brush your entire thawed turkey with shortening, butter, or oil, taking care to brush inside the wings very thoroughly with the oil or butter.
  • Use your favorite spices to season the turkey to your taste.
  • I have never stuffed my Thanksgiving turkeys, but many cooks have cooked a stuffed turkey using this method and report that it is successful, so if you’re stuffing yours, do so now.
  • Slide the turkey into the prepared sack. Twist it tightly shut and tie it with strong kitchen string. You can also staple the sack shut.
  • Do not put the turkey in a roaster pan. Instead, place it on a rack placed in your biggest broiler pan.

Thanksgiving Turkey in a Sack
Now you need to do some math to calculate the cooking time.

Using the exact weight of your turkey, figure your total baking time this way:

  • For turkeys weighing 12 pounds and under, use a baking time of 20 to 22 minutes per pound.
  • For turkeys weighing 13 pounds and up, calculate a cooking time of 16 to 18 minutes per pound.

So a 12 pound turkey would cook for approximately 240 minutes, or 4 hours. A 13 pound turkey would cook for approximately 3 3/4 hours. A 15 pound turkey would cook for at least 4 hours, and a 20 pound turkey would cook for approximately 5 1/2 hours. So leave yourself plenty of time for the turkey to fully cook prior to your scheduled meal time.

Before you put your turkey into the oven and close the door, check to make sure that you have not punctured the sack. If you have, start the process over and resack your bird.

Again, once you put the turkey in the oven, you absolutely cannot open the sack at any time during the cooking process. I know we’re all used to basting and peeking and sticking meat thermometers in to check for doneness, but we can’t do that with this method.

The paper sack will not burn in an oven heated to 325 degrees. Make sure you have your oven rack low enough so that the sack does not come into contact with any heating coils at the top of your oven.

When the agonizing wait is over, 🙂 lift your turkey, rack and all, and place the entire thing in a roaster pan. Poke a few holes near the bottom of the sack and let the juices run out into the roaster pan.

Thanksgiving Turkey in a SackWhen the turkey has cooled a bit, CAREFULLY (so as not to burn yourself) tear the rest of the sack away and put the turkey on a platter or your carving board if you are carving prior to bringing it to the table.

Lift the rack out of the roasting pan. The drippings will be ready in the roasting pan if you want to use them to make gravy. Let your turkey cool for approximately 20 minutes before carving.

And that’s all you have to do! Imagine the time you’ll have on your hands to tend to other Thanksgiving duties, of which there are many. 🙂 Like making THESE for dessert!

I’ve made our Thanksgiving turkey using this method many times, and it always comes out moist and tender. It is a little messy on the front and back end of the process, but worth it. Don’t be afraid. Just remember not to peek!

Thanksgiving dinner is in the bag! 🙂 Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

You’ve got this! Let me know in the comment section if you’ve tried this method, or plan to. Or if you have your own favorite way to cook your Thanksgiving turkey, please share!

If you haven’t had a chance to visit my new Printables Shop yet, I’d love for you to stop by. I have some placecards I’d like to give you for your Thanksgiving table!

Just follow the link to the shop and choose the set of placecards you like, add them to your cart, and enter promo code THANKSGIVING to get them for free! Then just print them out on card stock and use them for your Thanksgiving meal seating arrangements.

Thanksgiving Turkey in a Sack

And I’d love for you to follow me on Pinterest!


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