Don't open the oven! No-Baste Cheesecloth Turkey is the easiest, tastiest way to ensure beautifully golden skin on your Thanksgiving turkey is draping it in deliciously flavored butter broth soaked cheesecloth.
Welcome to the easiest way to ensure a crispy, beautifully golden turkey, aka cheesecloth turkey.
You're ready. You've pinned the recipes. You've shopped the stores. You're up at the crack of dawn to get this bird in the oven. Now step into the modern era, put your feet up and pour a glass of wine. Basting a turkey has no spot on your agenda today because you are prepared.
Cheesecloth vs Basting - why it matters
Is that a mummy? Nope, it's a turkey.
You know when you go get a pedicure or a massage and they wrap you in those really warm, wet towels and it feels soooo good. Well, that's basically what we're doing to our bird but instead of water it's butter, herbs and citrus. (Thankfully the butter, herb and citrus trend hasn't caught on at the salons.)
Why does it matter though? It would make sense that if you want a juicy bird you pour juices over it while it cooks, right? Wrong.
It's all about skin. Skin is designed to protect. You know what's not going to penetrate skin? Pan drippings, or whatever basting liquid you've chosen. And I think we've all watched enough reality cooking shows to know that if something has crispy skin you don't go and pour sauce on top of it....at least if you don't want Gordon Ramsey yelling expletives at you.
What else, each time that oven door opens you're letting precious heat run out into the house where perhaps your relatives are already filling it up with enough hot air, instead of staying in the oven to help cook that bird.
So whats the solution?
It's the perfect thickness to soak up all the goodness (aka butter, herbs and other fun stuff) we're going to melt together in the pan and still allow the heat to penetrate through without affecting cooking times.
For this no-baste turkey we will have a teenie bit of citrus in with the aromatics like sage and rosemary because it has also been brined in an Orange Sage Turkey Brine. If you don't want to use orange you could substitute fennel for a more subtle sweet flavor. Or try this Apple Cider Brined Turkey, I really love that one. Whatever you put in your pan, you also want to add to the inside of the turkey plus a little carrot and celery.
The cheesecloth gets soaked in this aromatic butter mixture then draped over the turkey creating a cozy butter blanket. You can purchase this type of cheesecloth at the grocery store, especially during Thanksgiving time, or Amazon.
Lastly, I'd highly recommend getting an oven safe thermometer. That way you can stick it through the cheesecloth into the thickest part of the breast and read it right through the oven door.
Tips on Turkey Cooking Time
If your oven door is staying closed, you'll have a turkey done in no time. While most googling will yield recommendations of 15 minutes per pound, this turkey is typically done at 10 minutes per pound because the door remains closed and the high heat 30 minute start.
That being said, it's highly unlikely you won't have other stuff to put in the oven. So if you are planning on that oven to be opened and closed, give yourself a little extra time. You can always pull the turkey out to rest and tent with foil to keep warm if you finish early.
While it's resting, whip up some gravy using your beautiful drippings and this gravy guide. It takes about 15 minutes which is just the right amount of time to let your turkey rest before slicing.
You've put in all the prep, now it's time to relax and enjoy some family time, time with friends, or just bask in all your domestic glory. Cheers friends!
No-Baste Cheesecloth Turkey
- 14 to 18 pound turkey
- 1 orange (cut in quarters)
- 1 yellow onion (quartered)
- 1 medium carrot (cut in half)
- 1 celery rib (cut in half)
- 1 head garlic (halved through the equator)
- 4 sprigs rosemary
- 6 sage leaves
- 6 sprigs thyme
- 1 cup 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 1 ½ to 2 quarts water
- 2 square yards cheesecloth
Inside the bird
- Preheat oven to 450°F. Remove any gibblets from the cavity of the turkey. Inside the bird, stuff 2 orange quarters, 2 onion quarters, carrot, celery, the top half of the garlic, and half of all the herb.
- Tuck the wing tips under the turkey and place breast side up on the rack inside a roasting pan.
- In a large saucepan, add the remaining orange, onion, herbs, and butter. Melt over medium heat until the butter starts to bubble and the ingredients are fragrant. Remove from heat and let cool about 5 minutes.
- Once cooled enough to handle add the cheesecloth to the pan, making sure the entire cheesecloth is soaked with butter. Drape the cheesecloth over the entire turkey. Add the remaining herbs, orange, onion, chicken stock and water to the bottom of the pan. The amount of water you add will vary depending on the size of your turkey and your roasting pan. There should be at least 2 inches of liquid in the bottom of the pan.
- Roast the turkey at 450°F for 45 minutes. Reduce the oven to 350°F and bake for 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours - or about 10 to 12 minutes per pound. The internal temperature of your turkey should be a minimum of 161°F for the breast and 181°F in the thigh (the turkey will continue to cook as it rests.)
- Let rest for a minimum of 15 minutes before carving.
- When checking the temperature on your bird, take the whole bird out of the oven.
- If your thermometer is oven safe you can keep it in the bird throughout cooking so you don't have to keep stabbing your bird and letting precious juice out.
- The more you open and close the oven, the longer your turkey will take to cook. If you plan on cooking a lot of sides in the oven as well, give yourself a little extra time. If the turkey is done early, you can always pull it out and cover will foil to keep warm.
- Liquid in the roasting pan - you want enough liquid in the roasting pan to keep the oven steamy during cooking and to have some left over to make your gravy. The longer your turkey takes to cook, the more liquid you will need. If the liquid is almost gone before the turkey is done cooking, add more chicken stock or water so the drippings in the pan do not burn.
- Total servings will depend on the size of your turkey. A 14-pound turkey will serve 8 to 10 people and an 18-pound turkey will serve upwards of 14 to 16 guests.