Perfect Roast Turkey (Super Moist!)

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So, it’s that time of year! Not entirely sure how the last 12 months rolled by so quickly (anyone?), but here we are! It’s turkey time again.

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We’ve done a handful of turkey recipes for The Hungry Mouse, but I’ve never posted our straight up, traditional roast turkey. So, here it is!

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This is a fabulous, old-school roasted turkey recipe. It’s moist and juicy and fragrant with butter and herbs, and has a great, crispy skin.

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How do you roast your turkey?

Let’s get this out of the way: I usually don’t brine my bird. And I never stuff it.

I know. Sacrilege. Hear me out.

If you want to brine your bird, I’ve included a recipe and instructions below. Lots of people swear by it for producing a juicier bird. That’s definitely true.

But I’ve found when you cover your turkey in cheesecloth, as I explain in this post, it stays plenty moist.

So I’m happy to skip the extra step (not to mention, not take up half the fridge with a brine bucket).

To brine or not to brine: It’s up to you!

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For stuffing, I always make it in a separate pan.

With the stuffing inside the bird, there are too many opportunities for overcooked bird, undercooked stuffing, and a healthy serving of food poisoning all around.

I’d rather skip it. No one ever complains.

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I like to surround our turkey with roasted fingerling potatoes.

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This year, I threw in some carrots and mushrooms because I found some that looked great.

It makes a lovely, rustic presentation and doubles as a side dish.

I’ll post my recipe for that in the next day or two! It’s so easy!

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So, this roast turkey is more method than actual recipe.

Roasting a turkey covered in cheesecloth

No joke. It sounds bananas, but this is my secret for producing a super moist turkey with a glorious, mahogany skin.

Basically, you roast your turkey draped in butter-drenched, wine-infused cheesecloth for the first two hours.

It’s like it’s wearing a buttery, protective sweater that helps keep it moist.

The cheesecloth locks all that glorious fat onto the skin, instead of letting it slide down into the pan every time you baste. (Helpful, right?)

This:

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Turns into this:

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Have a good zombie turkey joke? Leave a comment below. We do live in Salem, Massachusetts, after all. 😉

Read on and trust me. I know it sounds ridiculous. I was skeptical the first time I tried this, but it really, really works.

How to roast a whole turkey

Note: These times are for a 12-14 lb. unstuffed bird.

You’re going to drape your turkey in butter-soaked cheesecloth and roast it for 30 minutes at 425.

Then lower the heat to 350 and roast it for 90 minutes.

Remove the cheesecloth and roast for an additional 1-2 hours, basting with herb-infused butter, depending on the size, until it’s done.

Here’s the breakdown of the basic recipe:

  1. 425-degrees F for 30 minutes with butter-soaked cheesecloth
  2. Knock the heat down to 350-degrees F.
  3. Baste with wine-infused butter, roast for 30 minutes.
  4. Baste with wine-infused butter, roast for 30 minutes.
  5. Baste with wine-infused butter, roast for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove the cheesecloth and discard.
  7. Baste with herb butter, roast uncovered for 30 minutes. Start checking the temperature.
  8. Baste with herb butter, roast uncovered for 30 minutes.
  9. Baste with herb butter, roast uncovered until done (internal temperature of 160-degrees F).
  10. Remove from the oven and tent loosely with foil for 10 minutes.
  11. Carve, serve, enjoy!

Read on for step-by-step instructions with photos of how to do it.

How to thaw a frozen turkey

I always try to get a fresh bird. But sometimes, that isn’t always possible.

Thawing a frozen turkey is an endeavor that will take a few days depending on the size of your bird.

Leave your turkey in its wrapper, breast-side up on a baking sheet, in the fridge. Allow about 1 day of thawing per 4 pounds of turkey.

How to brine a turkey

I don’t generally do this, but if you wanted to, here’s how to brine your bird. Brining the meat helps keep it juicy and tender.

Turkey Brine Recipe
6 quarts water
2 cups coarse salt
1 cup sugar
3 small onions, peeled and chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon whole black peppercorns
small bunch thyme
1/4 cup parsley
2 large sprigs rosemary

Boil 2 quarts of water with the rest of the ingredients in a large pot for 10 minutes, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar.

Transfer to a large pot or food-safe bucket. Add the rest of the water.

Cool completely. (And I mean completely. Otherwise, you’re giving bacteria on your raw turkey a perfect environment to thrive…more food poisoning.)

Put your turkey into the brine. You want him to be completely submerged.

Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. Remove from the brine and pat dry.

Let sit for 2 hours at room temperature before using the roasting directions below.

Traditional turkey not your thing?

We get it. Check out our other turkey recipes:

Spicy Roast Turkey Breast with Honey Butter Glaze

This is a whole, boneless breast. Great for smaller crowds, or anytime of the year for lunch. It makes amazing sandwiches.

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The Angry Chef’s Whiskey Glazed Roasted Turkey Breast

This is a bone-in, whole turkey breast. So if a whole bird is too much for you, or you only want white meat, give this one a whirl.

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Cinnamon, Bacon & Apple Roasted Turkey (Spatchcocked!)

This is a house favorite. It gets Thanksgiving turkey on the table in no time, thanks to spatchcocking, a technique where you remove the backbone and flatten the bird out for fast roasting.

Apple Cinnamon Spatchcocked Turkey

Alright! Let’s get this show on the road!

Perfect Roast Whole Turkey (Super Moist!)

Bird
1 fresh whole turkey, 12-14 lbs
3 springs fresh rosemary
1 large onion, peeled and cut into quarters
1 large carrot, cut into rounds
2 ribs of celery, cut into chunks
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
water

For the cheesecloth
1 cup butter (that’s 2 sticks in the US)
3 cups dry white wine
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 package cheesecloth

Herbed butter for basting
1 cup butter (that’s 2 sticks in the US)
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup fresh green herbs, chopped (sage, rosemary, parsley)

Feeds roughly 6-8, depending on what else you’re serving

Prepare the cheesecloth

Put 2 sticks of butter in a large bowl.

Microwave on high for 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until completely melted. You can totally do this in a pot on the stove, too, if you like.

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Whisk in 3 cups of dry white wine, and a little kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

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Unfold your cheesecloth completely. Discard any loose threads. Re-fold it into a rectangle that’s large enough to cover most of your turkey.

Take the cheesecloth and soak it in the butter and wine mixture.

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This is messy. Hold it under until it’s soaked and swish it around.

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Let it sit there while you deal with your turkey.

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Prepare the roasting pan

Preheat your oven to 425-degrees F. Grab your roasting pan.

Set a few sprigs of fresh rosemary in the bottom. Put a roasting rack on top.

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(My rosemary had a few flowers on it, LOVE it!)

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Prep the Thanksgiving turkey

Grab your turkey. Unwrap him (see my notes above about thawing a frozen bird).

Remove any innards and reserve for later (gravy, soup, etc.). Rinse him and pat him dry.

Then, set him on the roasting rack.

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Fold his little wings under so the tips don’t burn. (For a detailed explanation of how to do this, with tons of pictures, check out my Roast Chicken recipe here.)

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Stuff his cavity with the onion, carrot, and celery. If it all doesn’t fit, don’t sweat it. Just pack it loosely. You want the air to be able to get in there. This is pure flavor.

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Truss up his legs with kitchen twine. Some people get fussy about trussing techniques. I just tie the legs together firmly, however I can get them to stick. Do what you like here!

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Swaddle your turkey in cheesecloth

This is the fun (and MESSY) part! Grab your cheesecloth. Squeeze it out so that most of the liquid leaves it.

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Reserve the rest of the mixture for basting. Drape the cheesecloth over the turkey so that it’s mostly covered.

If your mixture separated somewhat like mine did, just grab some of the solid butter floating in the wine and smear it on top of the cheesecloth.

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Put about 1/2 inch of water in the bottom of the roasting pan.

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Roast at 425 degrees for 30 minutes

Slide the pan into your 425-degree F preheated oven. Roast for 30 minutes.

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Keep a good eye on him to make sure your cheesecloth browns but doesn’t scorch. (Everyone’s oven is a little different.)

Lower the heat to 350 and roast for 90 minutes

After 30 minutes, knock the heat down to 350-degrees F. Baste the turkey with the reserved wine and butter mixture.

Baste it right on top of the cheesecloth, drenching it even more.

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Here’s what my guy looked like after 30 minutes:

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And here’s basting him:

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Slide him back into the oven and roast for 30 minutes at 350-degrees F. (He’s been in the oven 1 hour so far.)

Baste him well. Roast for another 30 minutes at 350-degrees F. (He’s been in the oven 1 1/2 hours now.)

Baste him well. Roast for another 30 minutes at 350-degrees F. (This brings it to 2 hours in the oven.)

Remove the cheesecloth from the turkey

At this point, your bird has been in the oven for 2 hours (30 minutes at 425, then 90 minutes at 350, basting every half hour).

Remove him from the oven. The cheesecloth will be a little browned. That’s just fine.

Remove it and toss it. It’s done its work.

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Your turkey is going to look pretty….MEH. That’s just fine. Trust me. He’s going to get nice and brown now.

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Make the herbed butter

Whip up the herbed butter for basting the turkey during the second half of roasting. Melt the butter together with the salt, pepper, and chopped green herbs.

Cook on low heat for a few minutes, then remove from the stove.

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Finish roasting for 1-2 hours at 350

Brush or baste your turkey liberally with the herbed butter. Then slide him back into the oven.

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Roast at 350-degrees F for 1-2 hours, basting every 30 minutes with herbed butter, until done.

When is my roast turkey done?

Good question.

Your turkey is done when the skin is nicely browned and crisp, and registers 160-degrees F on a meat thermometer inserted into the fattest part of the thigh.

(Make sure you don’t hit a bone when you take your reading, it will make the reading skew high.)


Here’s what our finished bird looked like:

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If you have any help in the kitchen, they’re most likely losing their minds from all the fantastic smells.

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Tent your turkey with foil for 10-15 minutes to let the juices settle back in.

How to serve a roast turkey

Transfer your bird to a serving platter. Surround with roasted veggies or other garnishes. Here, we used roasted fingerling potatoes.

Recipe coming in a day or two for those.

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Serve and enjoy!

Bring your turkey to the table and impress your guests!

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From all of us at The Hungry Mouse, we wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving holiday!

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How did you make your Thanksgiving turkey?

Leave a comment below, let us know!

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Serves 6-8

Perfect Roast Turkey (Super Moist!)

This recipe produces a glorious, juicy traditional roast turkey. The trick? You're going to drape your turkey in butter-soaked cheesecloth. Roast it for 30 minutes at 425. Then lower the heat to 350 and roast it for 90 minutes. Remove the cheesecloth and roast for an additional 1-2 hours, basting with herb-infused butter, depending on the size, until it's done.

Save RecipeSave Recipe

Ingredients

Bird
1 fresh whole turkey, 12-14 lbs
3 springs fresh rosemary
1 large onion, peeled and cut into quarters
1 large carrot, cut into rounds
2 ribs of celery, cut into chunks
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
water
For the cheesecloth
1 cup butter (that's 2 sticks in the US)
3 cups dry white wine
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 package cheesecloth
Herbed butter for basting
1 cup butter (that's 2 sticks in the US)
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup fresh green herbs, chopped (sage, rosemary, parsley)

Instructions

  1. Note: These times are for a 12-14 lb. unstuffed bird. Here's the breakdown of the basic recipe:
  2. 425-degrees F for 30 minutes with butter-soaked cheesecloth
  3. Knock the heat down to 350-degrees F.
  4. Baste with wine-infused butter, roast for 30 minutes.
  5. Baste with wine-infused butter, roast for 30 minutes.
  6. Baste with wine-infused butter, roast for 30 minutes.
  7. Remove the cheesecloth and discard.
  8. Baste with herb butter, roast uncovered for 30 minutes. Start checking the temperature.
  9. Baste with herb butter, roast uncovered for 30 minutes.
  10. Baste with herb butter, roast uncovered until done (internal temperature of 160-degrees F).
  11. Remove from the oven and tent loosely with foil for 10 minutes.
  12. Carve, serve, enjoy!
  13. Read my full post for step-by-step instructions with photos of how to do it.
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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie serves as an Associate Creative Director at PARTNERS+simons, a boutique ad agency in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.

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