Believe it or not, using brown paper bags for cooking is a little-known trick that chefs swear by. It’s a great way to steam food in its own juices, protect pastry from excess heat, and seal in all that good flavor!
Paper bag cooking is also known as “en papillote” – a French method that involves wrapping ingredients like asparagus, chicken, or a delicate piece of fish in parchment paper and steaming it in the oven… but you can achieve the same amazing results with a humble brown paper bag.
You can cook the juiciest whole chicken or turkey in a paper bag, steam vegetables and delicate fish, or even bake a perfectly golden apple pie.
What’s more, cooking in paper bags makes cleanup so easy you won’t want to use any other cooking method ever again. Here are three recipes you simply must try.
1. Easy Popcorn
Craving some popcorn with your movie but you don’t have a stove? No problem!
Pour a quarter cup of dried popcorn kernels into a medium-sized paper bag. Add a teaspoon of oil and half a teaspoon of salt. Seal the bag by folding it closed. Now, place it in the microwave for two minutes.
When you hear the popping sounds slow down (around two seconds apart), turn the microwave off. Shake the bag to distribute the seasoning. Open and enjoy – be careful though, the steam coming out the bag will be hot!
You can customize the spices on your popcorn to your taste or you can try this easy spice mix from a garlic sriracha popcorn recipe.
2. Unbelievably Juicy Chicken
You can cook a whole chicken in a paper bag – and the best part? You won’t have to worry about cleaning the grease off the inside of the oven when it’s done. Because the paper bag steams the chicken in its own juices, it will come out beautifully moist every time.
While you preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, clean a whole chicken and pat it dry with paper towels.
Rub a splash of vegetable oil (or olive oil if you prefer) onto the chicken, then rub a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of pepper and any other seasonings you want to use onto the skin (paprika, garlic powder, and cumin work very well – or you can add a bit of chili powder if you like more of a kick).
Grease up the inside of your paper bag with a tablespoon of oil, place the chicken inside and seal the bag shut by rolling the opening closed. Put the bag onto a baking sheet in the oven and bake for one and a half hours. When done, remove the baking sheet and use a pair of scissors to open the bag. Delicious!
Note: the timing may vary if you have a large chicken – pierce the thickest part of the thigh with a knife and make sure that the juice that runs out is clear. If not – bake for another 15 minutes.
3. Perfect Apple Pie
Yes, you can also bake an apple pie in a brown paper bag! What’s great about this method is that the top will cook more evenly, resulting in a beautiful golden crust.
A common issue when cooking fruit pies is that the fruit filling needs to become fork-tender and thicken up – but the problem comes in when the filling takes longer to cook than the pie crust, which can come out over-baked and tough.
Bakers swear by this trick because when you bake an apple pie in a paper bag, it protects the crust from burning… no matter how long it takes for the filling to thicken. It’s so simple!
Begin by preparing your favorite double-crust apple pie like you normally would – or you can follow a recipe online. Once the pie is ready to bake in the oven, simply slide it into a paper bag that’s been laid down onto its side. Fold the bag closed (you can use paperclips or staples to secure it properly). The bag should encase the pie loosely without touching the top or sides.
Place a baking sheet in the oven and lay the bag with the pie inside on top – taking care not to squash the crust. Bake the pie at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour, and then remove it from the oven.
Cut a round hole in the top of the paper bag with a pair of scissors to reveal the top of the pie – be careful not to burn yourself on the hot steam.
Now, increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and return the pie to the baking sheet to brown the crust. Continue to bake the pie for around eight minutes or until the top is a lovely golden brown.