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.
Can I use this recipe in a convection oven?
Hi Barbara - I'm not terribly sure what the time conversion would be or how the air would affect the cheesecloth in a convection oven. I'd imagine it would still work fine, you may need to resoak the cheesecloth halfway through.
Janell Ziegler says
Would this recipe work in an electric roaster?
Hi Janell - I'm not entirely sure..if you're talking about an electric rotisserie roaster then I don't think so, plus because of the constant rotation and even heat I don't think you would need it.
Can I still tent it with foil to seal it all in?
The cheesecloth will do that!
Would I need to tent my turkey with foil if I use the cheese cloth? Will it change anything with the turkey if I did tent it?
Nope! The cheesecloth will serve the same function as the tented foil.
Thank you. You may have answered this question already, but will I have to re wet the cloth to keep it moist? Using the juices that fall into the pot?
No you don't have to. Just soak the cheesecloth with the buttery herb broth you make in the beginning and let that sit on top of the turkey during the cooking process.
Can I still make a foil tent over it after wrapped with cheesecloth?
Can you stuff the Turkey with Bread Stuffing
Hi Nicki! Personally, I don't recommend stuffing a turkey with the stuffing. Because the bird is stuffed it will take longer to cook, leaving the meat more opportunity to dry out. Also, if the cavity of the turkey isnt cooked to 165°F, there's some risk the stuffing could carry bacteria still. I would recommend putting some garlic, lemon, onion, carrot, celery and fresh herbs inside the turkey instead!
Amish Patel says
Question for you... I cant get the timing right and im doing the cheesecloth for the first time. Ive got a 24 LB bird. A) so 11 Minutes per Pound is 264 minutes. Do I do 450F for 45 minutes then 350F for 264 minutes or for 219 minutes (264 - 45 @ 450F)? Thanks in advance..
Amish Patel says
And B) butter under the skin since I’m doing it unbrined?
I included this in my other response, happy cooking!
Hi Amish! For this recipe, the total time INCLUDES the high roasting time so subtract the 45 minutes from your total time. Keep in mind, how much stuff is in your oven and how frequently the door is opening will affect the overall cooking time. If you can keep the door closed as much as possible your turkey will cook closer to 10 minutes per pound. If you're not brining it, I'd recommend removing it from the packaging tonight, generously season it with salt and wrap it with plastic wrap then store it in the fridge over night. About an hour or two before roasting it tomorrow take it out, remove the wrap and let it sit at room temp before starting the no baste cheesecloth cooking. If you do rub the turkey with butter you can just go over the skin as long as you massage it really good (it feels a little awkward but it's worth the effort lol!)
I hope this helps! Happy Thanksgiving!
Can the cheesecloth be used on a turkey cooked in a roasting oven?
Absolutely! Just make sure the cheesecloth is well soaked with the broth in the recipe before you put it on.
I thought the cheesecloth was to be soaked in the fragrant, melted butter blend. Am I supposed to baste the cloth with the water-broth solution?
No, you are not supposed to baste the cloth with the water broth. The water and broth in the pan is just to add extra moisture during cooking
That was a lot of liquid in the roasting pan but the turkey roasted beautiully.
I have almost half the pan full of liquid and it's scaring me. Will it evaporate?
Because of the long roasting a lot of the liquid will evaporate!
I love how evenly browned this turkey is. I always end up with spots that are a little darker than others, but this one looks straight out of a magazine!
What a fantastic compliment, thank you so much!