Turkey Timing
December 31, 2013 8:42 AM   Subscribe

I have a 5.13 kg (11.322 lbs) turkey I am cooking tomorrow IN A TURKEY BAG. I would like advice on cooking times from people who cook their turkey IN A BAG. According to this recipe, the total cooking time is 2 hours, and that is freaking my shit out.

That is also the cooking time given on the back [PDF] of the Reynolds Turkey Bag box, which is geared for cooking at 350. However, I am using a different brand of bag, the "Magic Turkey Bag" and it suggests 3.5 hours at 325. I realise bagged turkey takes less time to cook, but there is still a substantial difference in suggested cooking time: 2 hours vs 3.5 hours.

So what should I be doing here, oh bag cookers of MeFi? I don't want a dry bird but neither do I want to poison my guests...

(Other people: I am sure your turkey is awesome, but I do not want advice on how I should really brine / spatchcock / BBQ / deepfry this bird. I am 100% commited to the turkey bag method for this meal, sorry!)
posted by DarlingBri to Food & Drink (11 answers total)
You need a meat thermometer and should not depend on the timing in the instructions. Plan for the longer cooking time. If it is done early, just take it out and let it sit a while before you carve it (which you should do anyway). If you let it sit a half hour, it will still be nice and hot. I've used bags but I always depend on a meat thermometer.
posted by Doohickie at 8:54 AM on December 31, 2013 [8 favorites]

I've never heard of the "Magic Turkey Bag" - sounds like an adventure. If you don't want that adventure though, the Reynolds Turkey Bags times are accurate, so I'd go buy one of those and save the Magic Turkey Bag for a day when you have time for an adventure.
posted by Brent Parker at 8:55 AM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

My parents used the Reynold's brand turkey bag this Thanksgiving, and it took about 90 minutes longer than the directions on the box. Just a point of reference.
posted by shortyJBot at 8:59 AM on December 31, 2013

If you read farther down your linked recipe, she gives a time range for each weight class of turkey that is the same as the Reynolds times.
posted by Brent Parker at 9:00 AM on December 31, 2013

There can be a huge difference of timing if the bird is chilled, room temp, a little icey inside.

A thermometer is your only true guide. For a smaller bird like yours, 2 hours seems reasonable, but I'd budget 3 hours, and plan on it resting for 30-45 minutes before you want to serve it.
posted by fontophilic at 9:25 AM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Meat thermometer!!

YES - 325 @ 3.5hrs vs 350 @ 2/2.5 hrs sounds about right IMHE.


Every meat/bird/whatevs has a different moisture level and density from each other, even animals from the same ranch harvested at the same time will have slight variations that will vary their cooking times.

Meat thermometer!

FWIW, I would proceed 325 for 3.5 with confidence. But verify at 2hrs 45 min that things were on track (I know opening the bag is a NoNo mid-cooking. My alternative would be to remove bird at about 3 hrs or so and be ready to blast my bird at 450 for 20min if the thermometer said so - but I fly risk style.

325 for 3.5 sounds about spot on.

You could also inject some of the cookng liquid after removal from the bag. Cheating? Nah! I like to think of it as Re-Juicification (TM))

I think you'll be fine. Get a cheap thermometer and put your fears away.

Enjoy & Happy New Year!
posted by jbenben at 9:31 AM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

At 350, I could see two hours and a bit of change for a bird that size, though it could easily go a bit longer. But a meat thermometer is the only way to be sure. I'm a big believer in getting a corded thermometer, setting it to beep at 165, and giving very little thought to time.
posted by wotsac at 9:32 AM on December 31, 2013

Use the directions on the box. I have always done this and it has always worked out perfectly. I also check with a meat thermometer.
posted by sanka at 10:09 AM on December 31, 2013

I always cook the turkey in a turkey bag (20+ years). I don't think the brand should make a difference, but I have always used the Reynolds bags. Check the cooking time range for the weight of the turkey and whether you stuff it or not. I cook bigger turkeys (usually 20 pounds or so) and stuff them and they've always turned out great. I always cook it at 350 and usually cook them closer to the longer time range recommended by Reynolds because I over-stuff the turkey. I'm still amazed at how quickly they cook. With a smaller unstuffed turkey, I'd be less likely to let it go too much past the mid-range of the recommended time range.

Once in a while I get worried that I'm under-cooking it and check with a meat thermometer, but its always been done when it said it would be. You don't need to open the bag to check the temperature. Just push the thermometer through the bag.

Even if you cook it a bit longer, the meat should not dry out. The amount of moisture captured in the bag is plenty to keep the turkey from drying out. I've never had a dry turkey cooked this way. Usually the meat is falling off the wing bones and leg when I take it out of the bag. Make sure you're planning to make a gravy with all the yummy drippings.

One other thing I do is rub the turkey in a peanut oil - paprika mix. Mix a tablespoon or so of paprika in a 1/4 cup of peanut oil (I actually never measure it, it should be a nice red color when you have enough paprika). Rub it all over the turkey (after you stuff it if you are using stuffing). Then slide it into the bag. The oil and paprika cause the turkey to brown and make the skin more crispy. Otherwise the oven bag method leaves the skin a pale color and it doesn't look roasted. Here's a picture of a bird that just came out of the bag.

Once the turkey is up to temperature or time, take it out and let it sit. I usually take it out of the bag immediately and let it sit while I make gravy. It can sit for quite a while, which takes some of the worry out of having it ready at the same time as everything else. I always plan for it to come out of the oven 30 minutes or so before we eat, but it will stay warm and moist for quite a while after it comes out of the oven.

Good Luck!
posted by rsclark at 10:38 AM on December 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Having enjoyed many of rsclark's turkeys first-hand, he's on point on all suggestions.
posted by ms_rasclark at 4:13 PM on December 31, 2013

I don't own a meat thermometer, but I am experienced in telling whether a bird or roast is done, so I'm not really concerned about that. And, honestly, even if I were concerned, there is jack I can do about it -- I am in Ireland, and will not be able to procure either a meat thermometer or a Reynolds brand bag tomorrow, so I'm going with what I've got!

Thanks to all of you, I'm going to go with the lower temperature and longer cooking time, per the directions on this brand of bag, but I'll test it from an hour earlier because I think it's lying to me :) I'm going to rub down with paprika and olive oil, too -- thanks for that, rsclark!

Thank you!
posted by DarlingBri at 5:51 PM on December 31, 2013

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