Butter-Basted Turkey 

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The butteriest Thanksgiving turkey ever.

Butter-Basted Turkey
Photo:

JAMES RANSOM; FOOD STYLING: RUTH BLACKBURN; PROP STYLING: CHRISTINE KEELY

Active Time:
45 mins
Total Time:
3 hrs 45 mins
Servings:
10

Forget the turkey baster. We have a better way to roast a juicy turkey this Thanksgiving.

Cheesecloth is our secret weapon. We soak the porous fabric in a melted butter and white wine mixture, then drape it on top of the turkey. It not only adds flavor, but helps prevent the turkey from overbrowning.

We suggest removing the cheesecloth 30 minutes before the turkey is done, so the skin has a chance to brown and crisp up right before serving. You’ll also want to moisten the cheesecloth every 30 minutes with more of the butter mixture, and in doing so, unlike traditional basting, you’re helping the cheesecloth insulate the breast meat and slow down the cooking process.

Since the turkey breast typically cooks much faster than the dark meat, this helps avoid overcooking it by the time the legs and thighs are cooked through. If you’ve tried what seems like everything else to ensure your turkey comes out perfectly cooked for the big meal, we think this mostly hands-off hack will become your new go-to, year after year. 

Ingredients

  • 1 (14- to 16-lb.) fresh or thawed, frozen whole turkey 

  • 2 ½ Tbsp. kosher salt 

  • 1 Tbsp. black pepper 

  • 1 large yellow onion, quartered 

  • 6 rosemary sprigs 

  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed

  • 3 fresh or dried bay leaves 

  • 1 ½ cups unsalted butter 

  • 2 cups dry white wine 

  • Cheesecloth

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F with oven rack in lower third of oven; place a roasting rack in a large roasting pan. Remove giblets and neck from turkey to reserve for Overnight Giblet Gravy; store giblets and neck in a ziplock plastic freezer bag in refrigerator for up to 3 days. Trim any excess fat and skin around neck and cavity, and reserve for another use or discard. Pat turkey dry with paper towels, including inside of cavity. Starting at neck end, loosen and lift skin from breast by inserting fingers and gently pushing between skin and meat. (Do not detach skin completely.) Season turkey on all sides with salt and pepper, including inside of cavity and underneath skin on breasts. Place onion, rosemary sprigs, garlic cloves, and bay leaves in cavity. Tie ends of legs together with kitchen twine, and tuck wing tips behind back. Place turkey on rack in prepared roasting pan, breast side up, and set aside at room temperature while preparing basting mixture.

  2. Add butter and white wine to a medium saucepan, and cook over medium, stirring occasionally, until butter has melted and mixture is warm, 5 to 7 minutes; remove saucepan from heat. Fold a 9x20-inch piece of cheesecloth in half twice so it is 4 layers thick. Submerge in butter mixture, allowing cheesecloth to absorb mixture. Remove cheesecloth, and unfold until it is 2 layers thick. Place soaked cheesecloth on top of turkey to cover it entirely, and gently smooth out cheesecloth so it is in direct contact with turkey skin. Cover remaining butter mixture in saucepan to keep warm.

  3. Bake turkey in preheated oven until cheesecloth appears dry, about 30 minutes. Carefully baste cheesecloth with some of the reserved butter mixture. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F, and bake 2 hours, basting cheesecloth and any exposed areas of turkey with some of the reserved mixture every 30 minutes. (If all the mixture is used, baste with any juices that have accumulated in roasting pan.) Gently remove and discard cheesecloth, being careful not to tear the skin. Baste turkey, and bake until skin is deeply golden brown and a thermometer inserted into thickest portion of the breast registers 160°F, about 30 minutes.

  4. Remove turkey from oven, and let rest at room temperature 30 minutes. (Internal temperature will continue to rise as turkey rests, reaching a minimum of 165°F.) Carve and serve.

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