Roasting a Turkey the Right Way: Beautiful, Moist, and Delicious!

Roasting a turkey is something that many people do poorly. The turkey gets cooked and everyone is polite and does not criticize . . . but it is dry. How often have you placed a slice of turkey breast on your plate and, without even tasting it, you covered it in gravy? You simply expect it to be dry and in need of some help to make it palatable.

This myTake will show you how to cook a turkey that is done but moist, tasty, and looks so beautiful that you will want to take a picture of it. There are a few tips and pointers in this myTake that will make a tremendous difference the next time you roast a turkey.

What you will need:

Turkey (duh!)

Cheesecloth

Butter

Extra Light Olive Oil (do NOT substitute extra virgin olive oil! Don’t!)

Turkey Baster

Turkey Lacing Pins

Twine

Meat Thermometer

Of course, the turkey needs to be thawed completely the day before you cook it. Don’t guess about the turkey being thawed by the feel of the exterior. Open the package just enough so that you can feel the interior of the chest cavity. After it is thawed, put it in the refrigerator overnight but take it out of the refrigerator as early as possible on roasting day. The closer your turkey is to room temperature when you begin cooking, the more evenly the turkey will roast.

Preheat the oven to 325º F. Wash the turkey and dry it with paper towels. At this point, many people would stuff the turkey. Don’t do that. There is a health concern that something as bulky as a turkey will not cook all the way through. The more mass there is to the turkey, the longer it will take to cook. Also, the turkey will cook more evenly if it is not stuffed. Cook that stuffing in a separate baking dish; no one will know the difference.

The next step is to truss the turkey. That means pulling the bird together and closing the openings on both ends. You can find many videos online that will show you how to truss a turkey. I do it my way because it’s the only way that I know and it works.

First, tuck the wings under the turkey.

Roasting a turkey the right way:  beautiful, moist, and delicious!

On the neck end, two pins will hold the skin flap in place, covering the opening to the chest cavity.

Roasting a Turkey the Right Way: Beautiful, Moist, and Delicious!

On the back end, I use three or four pins inserted at the edge of the opening on one side and then pushed through a corresponding position on the other side. You can then use the twine and lace the pins as you would lace the studs on boots. Then, tighten the twine until the opening is closed, and tie a knot in the twine to keep it in place. Finally, tie the two drumsticks together.

Place the turkey in a shallow roasting pan. A deep pan will prevent the turkey from browning on the sides and those parts will take much longer to roast. Yes, this really does make a difference! I discovered this “the hard way” this year when I did not have a shallow roasting pan available.

Roasting a Turkey the Right Way: Beautiful, Moist, and Delicious!

Now the magic begins. Melt one stick of butter in a microwave-safe measuring cup, then add an equal amount of extra light olive oil. Cut a piece of cheesecloth large enough to cover the entire turkey. Dip it in the oil/butter mix, wring out the excess, and place over the turkey. Tuck the excess under the edges of the turkey. NO part of the skin should be uncovered.

Roasting a Turkey the Right Way: Beautiful, Moist, and Delicious!

Now, use the baster to baste the top and sides of the turkey. Place the turkey in the preheated oven and set the timer for 15 minutes. When the timer alarms, briefly remove the turkey, baste again, and immediately return to the oven. Baste every 15 minutes for the first three hours.

Refer to the instructions with the turkey and determine the estimated roasting time. Using that time as a guide, remove the cheesecloth about 30 minutes before the turkey is “supposed” to be done. However, do not rely on that time to remove the turkey from the oven. Check both breast and thigh with a meat thermometer. The breast is done at 165 and the thigh is done at 180º F. This is what the completed turkey will look like:

Roasting a Turkey the Right Way: Beautiful, Moist, and Delicious!

This is a turkey that I roasted 2-3 years ago using this same method (with a shallow pan.)

Rely on the thermometer to tell you when the turkey is done. Most people overcook a turkey and that accounts for it being very dry. Let the roasted turkey stand for about 30 minutes before carving.

Here is why this method works.

1. The cheesecloth, trussing, and browning of the skin combine to seal in juices.

2. Using a thermometer helps to avoid overcooking the turkey.

3. The fat in the butter is what turns the reddish brown color. The extra light olive oil prevents the butter from burning. If you use extra virgin olive oil, it will impart an unwanted taste and it burns at lower temperatures.

4. Finally, the cheesecloth holds the basting juices on the turkey instead of them immediately running off and back into the pan.

If you follow this recipe, you should have success on your first attempt. Good luck!


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Most Helpful Girl

  • Great tips! My dad has some very similar methods. His basting methods are different as he generally buys Butterball turkeys (so no need for the extra butter as it's already under the skin). He treats the turkey like a patient in his OR though, and even uses surgical sutures to truss it and close up the cavities. It's hilarious to watch and a pain in the ass to undo before carving 😂

    When all else fails, call the Butterball Turkey hotline! Seriously, it's real. The number is right on the label.

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Most Helpful Guy

  • Good tips. Too bad this came out after Thanksgiving.

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    • Christmas will be here soon and a turkey is an appropriate meal for that day. I did not think about putting this is a myTake until another user encouraged me to do so.

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What Girls Said 6

  • Just tell the turkey how fat it is. It will get roasted.

    Jk. Never had turkey before.

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  • This is great info. While I’ve never cooked a whole turkey, I’ve eaten enough dry one ones to be somewhat intimidated by the process.
    I’ve also read brining overnight helps to keep it moist. What are your thoughts on that?

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  • Now I'm hungry

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    • Then there's your screen name. Lol

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    • I'm discussing this with my mom. We're wondering how the turkey ever gets done if you're opening the oven every 15 minutes and letting the heat out. Also, isn't that a LOT of added butter? And I see your photos and they look good, but I'm surprised the cloth doesn't stick to the turkey after all that time and leave an impression. It looks amazing, though!

      We use a foil tent and some water in the bottom of a shallow pan to keep it moist, with the turkey on a rack in the shallow pan.

      Roasting breast-down is another option. It doesn't look as pretty, but my sister tried it and it works really well, as all those lovely juices run down into the breast. If I'm doing just a turkey breast and not a whole bird, I will do it upside-down.

    • On rare occasion, the cheesecloth will stick in one little spot but dampening with the basting juices will loosen it up.

      It is much butter but almost all of the butter end up in the bottom of the roaster.

  • very helpful and informative

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    • that deep pan turkey has tanlines

    • And the thighs were not cooked when the breast was done so I had to cook it longer. The shallow roasting pan really makes a difference.

  • Nope just smoke it or fry it.

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  • Yummy

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What Guys Said 7

  • As soon as I don't live where it's 40°c on Christmas day, I will try this.
    Looks fucking delicious.

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  • That's quite a recipe. But how do you bake stuff in an oven like birds and potatoes when they stick to the metal plates? It's a big pain in the ass to scrub it all off afterwards in the sink for half an hour long. It's kind of the reason why i don't bake so much.

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    • The turkey rests on a rack in the bottom of the roasting pan so it never actually touches the pan itself. The butter/oil keeps the pan drippings from sticking to the pan. The cleanup really is not difficult.

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    • Oh, i see.
      Fortunately i have something like this at home but made from silicon. I just lay a sheet of baking aluminum on the metal plate and then the rack on top of it.
      So i take it you want to get the baking effect by placing this rack on a frying pan? Is that correct? Or have i missed something here?

    • No, there is no frying involved at all. It is cooked entirely with roasting.

  • I really thought it was sum turkey removal unit
    @Schrodingerscat

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  • That looks delicious

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  • I prefer a rump roast with the juices seeping out

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  • I follow Alton Brown’s method. It works perfectly.

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