You don’t need a plastic bag to cook a turkey

Every once in a while, there is advice that sounds good, but you just shouldn’t take it.

I ran into this situation on Thanksgiving when I decided to take the advice of others and use one of those plastic roaster bags in my straight-out-of-the-box roaster to help avoid cleaning up baked-in turkey juices.

It sounded like a great idea. We use similar bags all the time when cooking with a crock pot and they work like a dream. So, in an effort to avoid cleaning the contraption, I decided to use a roaster bag for the first time. We had picked up a couple for next to nothing about a week earlier and, like a fool, I assumed they worked just the same as my crock pot bags. You know, put them in the roaster, set the temperature, place the food in there, walk away and wait for that delicious smell of turkey to waft through the house.

But, because of my foolishness (or stupidity, depending on how you look at it), things didn’t go as planned.

Sarah and I rolled out of bed just after 6 a.m. (yes, I literally rolled), wiped the gunk out of our eyes, yawned quite a bit and began prepping our turkey. My wife likes to brine turkeys when we make them, which means marinating the bird overnight in cold, salty water with lemons and oranges that help give it a citrusy zest. It makes the bird, once it’s cooked, spectacular tasting.

As we took the turkey out of the brine and began prepping it, I turned on the roaster — complete with the bag inside — and set the temp to 350 degrees, just like the recipe from Emeril Lagasse said.

Two minutes later, I turn to the roaster, take the lid off and reveal strings of melted plastic and caked-on goo.

Naturally, I freak. Thanksgiving is ruined and so is my roaster. It’s my fault and these cheapo bags can go straight to you know where. I even burned two fi ngers in my haste.

I quickly unplugged the roaster and tried to assess the damage. It was done for the day, if not forever. The plastic had all but ruined parts of the pan.

So, what do we do? After a few calls to both of our moms — who have cooked turkeys way longer than we have — I decided to run to Walmart (thankfully open at 6:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving) to see if I could find anything to help cook this bird.

I figured I would probably have to buy a new roaster and, at this point, I sure as heck wasn’t going to use another liner. It turns out, Walmart had sold out of roasters at noon the previous day. But, they had plenty of tin-foil oven trays. So for less than $2, I bought two — just in case.

Meanwhile, Sarah was back at home and had cranked up the oven in an effort to expedite our turkey-cooking process so we could make it to my parents’ condo across town in time for Thanksgiving. When I got home, we quickly got the bird into the oven and finally relaxed, knowing we were going to have turkey after all.

Still, I was worked up by the fact that my roaster was ruined, I had burned two fingers and I almost left us without a turkey on Thanksgiving. I decided that I’m calling this roaster bag company and demanding an explanation. So, I picked up the box these cheap bags came in, looked up the number and saw — in the tiniest print of all on the bottom of the box, away from the other instructions — a short note explaining that bags shouldn’t be used in roasters turned up to 350 degrees or higher, because that could cause the bags to melt.

Now they tell me.


Author: Dustin Monke

Former newspaper editor. Now I market the best baked goods and donuts in America. But every once in a while, I write a cool story too.

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