World Famous Three Hour Turkey!!!


3-hour turkey

by Roberta Buckley on Monday, November 23, 2009 at 8:45am

This method of cooking the turkey is from the San Francisco Fire Department in the 1960’s. I’ve never cooked a turkey any other way, and I’ve Never had it fail. Moist and Sweet, easy to carve, with plenty of juice for gravy.

Knowing that your turkey will be done to perfection in Three Hours takes all the guess-work out of planning your meal. Want to eat at 4pm? put your bird in the oven at 12:30p (the extra 1/2-hour allows time for the turkey to Rest for 20 minutes before carving).

(although the instructions appear to be lengthy, the method itself is very simple. I just wanted to make it as clear as possible. 😀 )


15 – 22 lb turkey

Turkey truss-ers (I don’t know what to call them – those sharp pointy skewers) and kitchen string

Large paper grocery bag

Crisco Shortening

Lawry’s Garlic Salt (or any “california style” garlic salt will do)


Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Preparing the Turkey:

About one hour before before you plan to put the bird in the oven:

o remove giblets from cavities (*if using a frozen turkey, see note below).

o rinse turkey, inside and out, under cold running water removing fatty deposits from the cavities, and any pin feathers.

o Using old bath towels, thoroughly dry turkey inside and out.

o If you stuff your bird, do so now and truss. (note: No matter what your stuffing recipe instructs, you don’t need to add liquid to your dressing. Leave it dry or you might have mush. Trust me.)

o If you do not stuff your bird, place whole onions, apples, and/or other veggies in cavities, and truss.

o Generously spread shortening on entire outside of bird (skin must be dry or shortening will not stick).

o Generously sprinkle garlic salt over bird.

o okay… this part takes two people (**see my method below): Stand paper grocery bag in roasting pan and put bird into bag and, folding over the end of bag once or twice, staple shut.

o Lay bagged bird breast-side-up in pan making sure that the paper bag doesn’t hang over the edges of the pan.

o Press bag closely against turkey. Using more shortening, grease outside of bag. Any spot left ungreased (especially those not touching turkey) will burn and you will lose some of your juices.

o Place turkey into preheated 500 degree oven and set timer for One Hour. It is Very Important that you do Not open the oven door for the next Three hours. Guard oven carefully against nosy guests – Duct Tape it shut if you have to. (lol)

o After One Hour, lower oven setting to 400 degrees, and re-set timer for One Hour.

o One Hour later, lower oven setting to 300 degrees, and re-set timer for One Hour.

Ding Ding Ding… Remove bird from oven; wait a bit, and then gently tear paper bag from top of turkey. Invite everyone into kitchen to ooh and ahh… take a bow.

o After 20 minutes of rest, move turkey to carving board, and do what you do.

*Frozen Turkey must be thoroughly defrosted. No ice inside, no frozen leg joints. This method will fail otherwise.

**Bring a kitchen chair to the counter and place your roasting pan on it. Stand the large grocery bag in pan. Have your helper (men are so handy) lift the turkey and slide it into the bag. It’s easiest to staple the bag shut at this point. Lay bagged turkey breast-side-up into pan.

I would love to hear from you if you try this method. It makes cooking the turkey Fun!


  1. I can’t thank you enough Roberta for this most awesome turkey recipe! I had learned it from a friend in college in Colorado in the early ’90s but it escaped me for years until I had a family and the task of cooking the big bird fell upon me again in 2013. Thankfully with a Google search I was able to find this article and since then I have used it twice a year, both Thanksgiving and Christmas, and every time it has been a huge hit, many have said that it’s the best turkey they’ve ever eaten! I have tweaked it a bit over the years to include a 36 hr salt water brine in a brining bag within a 5 gallon ace hardware bucket (with lid) that fits in my fridge. Then I put a citrus herb wet rub under and over the skin, and then inject the bird with a butter based injection sauce before letting it sit in the fridge for 12 hrs before doing the paper bag cook. I’ve even done this method at 10,000 feet at a condo in Montana and it still came out perfect! …just don’t forget your stapler or you’ll be knocking on neighbors doors! I also prefer to tent the bird with foil after it comes out of the bag for up to an hour, so we can use the oven for to cook other things. It also makes the bird easier to carve and it’s still very warm and juicy. I will never cook a turkey another way…perfection can’t be beat, thank you so much!

Comments are closed.