Cheesecloth Turkey

Cheesecloth turkey is covered in herb butter and roasted to perfection. A butter-soaked cheesecloth covers the turkey and keeps it moist and flavorful—no brine required! It’s the perfect way to cook a juicy, golden brown turkey for your Thanksgiving table.

A carved turkey on a platter decorated with cranberries and herbs.

Cheesecloth Turkey

Cheesecloth turkey is covered in herb butter and roasted to perfection. A butter-soaked cheesecloth covers the turkey and keeps it moist and flavorful—no brine required! It’s the perfect way to cook a juicy, golden brown turkey for your Thanksgiving table. 

A carved turkey on a platter decorated with cranberries and herbs.

Why KJ Loves

Cheesecloth Turkey

Cheesecloth Turkey

A turkey that’s covered in a butter-soaked cheesecloth and roasted until golden brown? Sounds like my kind of turkey! I love how effortless this method was for roasting a turkey – all while producing a juicy, flavorful, golden brown turkey for your Thanksgiving table. No turkey blues over here!

Melted butter in a saucepan with fresh herbs and garlic.

Cheesecloth Turkey Ingredients

Turkey

This cheesecloth turkey recipe is best for a 12-15 pound turkey. See “Turkey Tips” below for more on how to prepare your turkey. A 12-15 pound turkey will generally feed between 10-12 people.  

Garlic & Onion

Quarter the onion and chop the garlic. Or, use pre-minced garlic to save time.

Fresh herbs

Rosemary and thyme are mixed into the butter and smeared on the turkey. I highly recommend fresh herbs for this recipe to let the flavors shine. If you are using dried herbs instead, use 2 teaspoons of each. 

Butter

You can use salted or unsalted. I personally like the salted butter!

Seasoning

Salt and pepper. Sometimes simple is best! 

Chicken Stock

Chicken stock gets poured into the bottom of the roasting pan to keep the turkey moist. You’ll use it to baste the turkey during the cooking process.

A turkey in a roasting pan coated in an herb butter.

Cheesecloth Turkey Equipment:

Cheesecloth

Cheesecloth comes in large sheets, so you will need to cut it down to a rectangular shape that covers your entire turkey.

Roasting pan with a wire rack

This roasting pan is a great size for a 12-15 pound turkey and comes with a wire rack. A good roasting pan is a solid investment. It’s not just for turkey—you can use it for everyday cooking. Try it out with a chicken or pot roast!

Meat thermometer

Turkey is cooked through when it reaches 180°F in the thigh and 170°F in the breast. I typically insert my thermometer into the deepest part of the leg/thigh and breast to see where I’m at.

Baster

A baster is an essential tool for a good turkey recipe.

A turkey in a roasting pan covered in a butter-soaked cheesecloth before being roasted.

Steps To Make Cheesecloth Turkey

1

Prepare.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

Spray the wire rack of the roasting pan with cooking spray and place the turkey in the center of the rack in the pan. Pat the turkey dry with a paper towel, and evenly season the turkey with salt and pepper. 

2

Butter up.

Make the herb butter by melting a stick of butter in a saucepan and adding rosemary, thyme, and garlic. Evenly spread the herb butter over the whole turkey. 

Use the same saucepan to melt the remaining butter. Completely submerge the cheesecloth into the melted butter. Gently lay the butter-soaked cheesecloth over the turkey so that it covers it completely, tucking in the edges. 

Arrange the onion around the bottom of the roasting pan and pour in the chicken stock. If the turkey hangs over the pan a bit, you can put a cookie sheet underneath to catch drips. 

3

Roast and baste.

Roast the cheesecloth turkey for about 3 hours, basting the turkey with the drippings from the bottom of the pan every 30 minutes to keep the cheesecloth from drying out and burning. 

Remove the turkey from the oven, peel off the cheesecloth, baste and put back into the oven to get the skin golden brown and to finish cooking the turkey (about another hour). Baste the turkey a couple of times during this final hour. 

The turkey is cooked through when a thermometer reads 180°F in the thigh and 170°F in the breast. Make sure to check the thickest part of the turkey and ensure it is at least 165°F.

4

Carve and serve!

Allow the turkey to rest for 10-15 minutes before carving and serving. Use the drippings on the bottom of the pan to make gravy. Enjoy!

A turkey that has been roasting with a cheesecloth draped over the top that has turned golden brown.

Turkey Tips

Defrosting

Make sure to properly defrost your turkey! This part requires a little extra planning. 

According to the USDA, it’s safest to thaw your turkey in the refrigerator. Allow 24 hours for every 4-5 lbs of turkey. Once your turkey is thawed, you’ll want to use it within two days. 

So if you want to serve a 12-pound cheesecloth turkey on Thursday at lunch, you’ll need to put it in the fridge to thaw the weekend before Thanksgiving. (It’s like a grade-school story problem IRL)

Timing

The day you plan to serve your cheesecloth turkey, make sure to give yourself lots of breathing room and extra time! 

You can always have your turkey done early and keep it warm. It’s better than having a bunch of starving guests!

A turkey that has been roasting with a cheesecloth draped over the top that has turned golden brown.

Cheesecloth Turkey FAQs

What does cheesecloth do for turkey?

The cheesecloth keeps your turkey moist. Plus, it helps keep your bird from browning too early on in the process.

Can cheesecloth go in the oven?

Cheesecloth is safe to put in the oven. You’ll want to regularly baste your turkey to make sure the cheesecloth stays moist and doesn’t burn.

What do you soak cheesecloth in?

For this recipe, we’ll soak the cheesecloth in melted butter. But you can also soak cheesecloth in other liquids like wine.

An overhead photo of a golden brown, roasted turkey in a roasting pan.

Good Gravy

Don’t dump the droppings from the bottom of the pan! The drippings from the juicy turkey are packed with flavor and will help you achieve a rich, delicious gravy

Making homemade gravy is surprisingly easy. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  1. Melt some butter in a skillet and whisk in some flour until golden roux forms.
  2. Whisk in the turkey drippings and chicken stock.
  3. Simmer and allow to thicken, whisking occasionally. 
  4. Skim off the fat and impurities that rise to the top from the turkey drippings. Use a ladle to help you skim it right off the top. 
  5. Serve and enjoy!

Check out my Easy Turkey Gravy recipe to get the details.

A close-up photo of the top of a roasted turkey.

Carve it up.

Use a sharp knife and a good cutting board that doesn’t move around. Allow the turkey to rest for about 10-15 minutes before cutting in!

A roasted turkey placed on a Thanksgiving table in a roasting pan.

Serve it up!

Choose your favorite large serving platter to share your cheesecloth turkey with your family and friends. 

You can place the whole turkey on the serving platter or arrange the carved turkey on the platter to serve.  

I love to garnish my cheesecloth turkey with fresh sage and cranberries for a simple, festive look!

A carved turkey on a serving platter decorated with fresh cranberries and sage.

Recipe Video:

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A carved turkey on a platter decorated with cranberries and herbs.

Cheesecloth Turkey


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  • Author: KJ & Company - Kate Poskochil
  • Total Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes
  • Yield: 8-10 servings 1x

Description

Cheesecloth turkey is covered in herb butter and roasted to perfection. A butter-soaked cheesecloth covers the turkey and keeps it moist and flavorful—no brine required! It’s the perfect way to cook a juicy, golden brown turkey for your Thanksgiving table. 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 14 lb turkey, properly defrosted
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) butter
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 32 oz chicken stock
  • 24x15in Cheesecloth 
  • 1 large onion, quartered

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray the wire rack of the roasting pan with cooking spray and place the turkey in the center of the rack in the pan. Pat it completely dry with a paper towel. 
  2. Evenly season the turkey with the salt and pepper. Melt one of the sticks of butter in a saucepan and combine with the rosemary, thyme and garlic. Evenly spread over the whole turkey. 
  3. Use the same saucepan to melt the remaining stick of butter. Completely submerge the cheesecloth into the melted butter so that it soaks up all of it. Gently lay the butter-soaked cheesecloth over the turkey so that it covers it completely, tucking in the edges. 
  4. Arrange the onion around the bottom of the roasting pan and pour in the chicken stock. 
  5. Roast the turkey for about 3 hours, basting the turkey with the drippings from the bottom of the pan every 30 minutes to keep the cheesecloth from drying out and burning. 
  6. Remove the turkey from the oven, peel off the cheesecloth, baste and put pack into the oven to get the skin golden brown and to finish cooking the turkey through, about another hour. Baste the turkey a couple times during this time. The turkey is cooked through when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 165 degrees. 
  7. Allow the turkey to rest for 10-15 minutes before carving and serving. Use the drippings on the bottom of the pan to make a gravy. Enjoy!

Notes

  • This recipe will work for a 12-15 pound turkey. Make sure your turkey is properly defrosted before roasting.
  • Cheesecloth comes in large sheets, so you will need to cut it down to fit the size of your turkey. Essentially, you need a rectangle shape large enough to cover your entire turkey. 
  • Nutritional information for this recipe is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 4 hours
  • Category: Thanksgiving Recipes
  • Method: Roasting

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1
  • Calories: 536
  • Sugar: 0.9g
  • Fat: 38.7g
  • Carbohydrates: 2.6g
  • Fiber: 0.8g
  • Protein: 42.7g
  • Cholesterol: 179mg
A close-up photo of a carved turkey on a platter.

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1 Comment

  1. Mark

    This turned out amazing! Using the cheesecloth, for the first time, helped in keeping the turkey moist and juicy. The smell in my kitchen is absolute bliss. Thank you for this recipe!

    Reply

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