Cooking in an Oven Bag: What You Need to Know

Cooking turkey in an oven bag can result in moist meat and perfectly browned skin. Here's what you need to know to use one successfully.

The purpose of an oven bag is to trap heat and steam to accelerate cooking and the rendering of fat. But what about browning? Can the Maillard reaction—the chemical reaction that creates flavor when foods are browned—occur in the relatively moist environment of an oven bag? It sure can; our turkeys came out with beautifully browned skin. Here are a few additional tips to add to your, ahem, bag of tricks.

MIND THE TEMPERATURE: Because the bag traps heat and steam, the heat energy in the bag will be greater than the heat energy of the dry air in the oven. The higher heat energy in the bag contributes nice browning. Never use plastic oven bags in an oven set to a temperature above 400 degrees.

ADD FLOUR TO THE BAG: Bag manufacturers claim that adding flour helps prevent the bag from bursting. While the slits cut into the bag likely do most of that work, the flour does absorb some moisture and thus reduces the pressure in the bag a bit.

SEAL THE BAG WELL: Reynolds Oven Bags—the product seen most in markets—come with zip ties to seal the bag. Use them, as a poorly sealed bag will not trap heat and steam as effectively as a tightly sealed bag.

PUT THE BAGGED TURKEY ON A V-RACK: Turkey skin will not turn crispy if it cooks in its own juices. Elevating the bagged turkey on a V-rack allows the juices exuded by the turkey to accumulate away from the bird in pockets that form along the bottom of the bag.

Big Bags Are a Must: Oven bags are available in many sizes. Be sure to buy bags sized for large turkeys.

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