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This cheesecloth turkey is the best way to get a tender turkey with crispy, golden skin. The cheesecloth continuously bastes the bird with the butter herb mixture while it roasts!

cheesecloth turkey breast and legs with herbs and butter
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I spent hours researching the best methods to roast a turkey and found the cheesecloth method from Martha Stewart, Food and Wine, and Halfbaked Harvest to be the very best. Soak the cheesecloth in butter so it covers the bird and continually bastes it as it cooks. This is the best Thanksgiving turkey!

I tested this recipe several times to ensure perfection. I’m sharing step by step photos, a video and instructions so you get a perfect turkey no matter what! If you follow these steps I promise your family will be in awe of your roast turkey!

The crispy skin is golden brown and the inside is perfectly juicy and tender. Happy Thanksgiving! PS check out our Thanksgiving recipes for all the sides and desserts.

Ingredient Notes

  • Turkey: we like to get a young living turkey at the best quality we can. This year we received a free 14 lb turkey with our Butcher Box! Keep reading to learn what size turkey you need. You can buy a turkey already brined, or you can brine your own turkey. You could also use a dry brine!
  • Butter: grab and unsalted butter or you can use a vegan butter. We tested this recipe with Miyokos plant-based butter and it worked really well.
  • Fresh herbs: a mix of fresh sage, rosemary and thyme.
  • Onion, garlic, celery and lemon: for stuffing the inside of the bird.
  • Salt: I like to use a kosher salt for the most flavor.

Buy the Right Sized Turkey

A good rule of thumb is to purchase 1lb of turkey per person attending. If you want to have ample leftovers, go for 1 1/2 lbs of turkey per person. So a gathering of 10 people would require a 15 lb turkey to ensure everyone has enough and then some to take home.

Cooking for a large crowd? Opt for 2 medium to small birds to cut down on cook times.

ingredients for a cheesecloth turkey recipe measured out on a table

Equipment Needed

  • Roasting pan: a roasting pan with a rack is best, but no worries if you don’t have one! Read the recipe notes for another option.
  • Cheesecloth: You can get this for $5 from Amazon so don’t worry that it’s anything fancy!
  • Baster: using a baster because the cheesecloth continually does this. But I like to add a little extra turkeydrippings on top a few times throughout the cooking process.

Cheesecloth Turkey: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of cheese cloth on turkey?

The cheesecloth naturally bastes the turkey throughout the cooking process. The butter slowly releases from the cloth and coats the turkey as it cooks, which is why basting is encouraged, but not necessary.
The cheesecloth also protects the skin and also gives the skin it’s golden brown color. It’s totally safe to put in the oven!

What do you put in a turkey cavity?

I don’t recommend stuffing your turkey with a traditional stuffing recipe. Let’s stick to making that on its own (like this incredible gluten-free stuffing). It’s safer to eat and allows you to put flavor-enhancing ingredients inside of the turkey.

Some of my favorites aromatics to put into the large cavity include onion, celery, lemon, garlic, fresh herbs and carrots.

Should I use cheese cloth on my turkey?

You should absolutely use cheesecloth on your turkey if you want a flavorful, juicy bird. It helps keep it from getting too dark and constantly bastes it with butter while it cooks.

What can I use instead of cheesecloth for turkey?

Cheesecloth is cotton, so other types of cotton will work as well. If you’re in a pinch and don’t have any on hand, try a cotton napkin or dish towel, a flour sac towel, or a scrap of fabric.

roasted turkey with fresh herbs in a roasting pan

How to Make a Cheesecloth Turkey

Prep the bird

  1. Allow the turkey to come to room temperature then pat it dry and remove the neck and giblets. 
  2. Fill the neck cavity with onion, celery, lemon, garlic and fresh herbs.
two images showing how to rest and stuff a turkey with fresh vegetables

Butter the turkey

  1. Make the herb butter: mix together all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Separate the skin from the flesh by gently using your fingers to pull it apart and stick your hand between the turkey breast and the skin, as well as the turkey thighs and skin. Place half of the butter mixture between the skin and flesh and press down to spread it evenly. Rub turkey with remaining butter all over the skin.
  2. Prep the cheesecloth: melt the remaining butter then dip the cheesecloth in the melted butter until full submerged. Double the cheesecloth and drape it over the turkey.
4 images showing how to make compound butter and soaking it in a cheesecloth to cover a turkey

Roast in the oven

  1. Roast the turkey at 350 degrees f for the appropriate amount of time (see below) depending on how large your turkey is. Basting the turkey every hour is a great option, but not necessary. The turkey is done when an instant-read thermometer is inserted in the center of the breast meat and the thickest part of the thigh reads 165°F.
  2. Remove it from the oven and cover it with foil. Let the turkey rest for 20-30 minutes before carving.
a roasted turkey in the oven covered with cheesecloth and another image of it with crispy golden skin

Cook Times Based on Turkey Size

The amount your turkey cooks in the oven is based on how large the bird is. Here are the cook times based on size. Be sure to adjust yours based on your bird size. Start checking for doneness 30 minutes before the initial cook time.

  • 10 to 12 pounds: 2 1/2 to 3 hours total
  • 12 to 14 pounds: 2 3/4 to 3 1/4 hours total
  • 14 to 16 pounds: 3 to 3 3/4 hours total
  • 16 to 18 pounds: 3 1/4 to 4 hours total
  • 18 to 20 pounds: 3 1/2 to 4 1/4 hours total
  • 20+ pounds: 3 3/4 to 4 1/2 hours total

Expert Tips

  1. Bring the bird to room temp for 1-2 hours before you’re ready to start cooking ensure even cooking.
  2. Dry the turkey completely: patting the bird down thoroughly using paper towels is the best way to achieve a crispy brown skin. The quicker the skin dries out, the more time is has to crisp in the oven.
  3. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. 
  4. Make sure to rest your cooked turkey for at least 30 minutes after cooking to keep all of the juices in.
  5. Avoid opening the oven door for long periods. Do your best to only open it to rotate and baste the turkey. Carefully remove the turkey and close the oven door when you test for doneness.
cheesecloth turkey carved on a serving platter with stuffing, squash and sweet potatoes

Leftover Turkey Recipes

Turkey Side Dishes

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5 from 5 votes

Cheesecloth Turkey with Herb Butter

Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 4 hours
Total: 1 day 4 hours 30 minutes
How to make a cheescloth turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. Butter it up and add some herbs to make an extra juicy bird.

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Servings: 12 servings


For the turkey:

  • 18-20 lb turkey or the right size turkey for your family (see recipe notes for cook times)
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion cut in half
  • 2 stalks celery roughly chopped
  • 6 cloves whole garlic
  • 1/2 lemon

For the herb butter:

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage plus more for stuffing the bird
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme plus more for stuffing the bird
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary plus more for stuffing the bird
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 teaspoons salt


  • *See notes for brining the turkey the day before. When you're ready to roast, remove the turkey from the fridge and allow it to come to room temp 1-2 hours before cooking. this helps the turkey cook more evenly. Before cooking, pat the turkey dry thoroughly with paper towels and make sure to remove the neck and giblets from the inside of the bird.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and adjust the oven rack to the lower third position. Set aside a large roasting pan with a roasting rack. See recipe notes if you don’t have a roasting rack.
  • Place turkey on the roasting rack then fill the cavity with the onion, celery, garlic, lemon and extra sprigs of herbs and set aside.
  • Add the softened butter, herbs, salt and garlic to a medium, microwave safe, bowl and stir well with a fork.
  • Use your fingers to gently lift the skin of the turkey to separate it from the body of the bird. Slide your hand in and do your best to separate as much of the skin on the breasts as you can. Take the remaining butter mixture and place it in the microwave in 30 second increments to melt it fully.
  • Cut a large piece of cheese cloth into a 3 1/2 ft by 1 1/2 ft. Place the cheesecloth in the melted butter and push it down to submerge it fully and coat each inch of it in butter. Turn it until it soaks up all of the remaining butter. Fold the large piece of cheesecloth in half width wise to create a double layer of cheesecloth. Drape it over the prepared bird to cover it fully.
  • Roast in the preheated oven for 3 1/2 hours to 4 1/2 hours. Adjust roasting time based on the size of your bird. See notes for roasting times per pound. Rotate the pan and baste the turkey with the drippings if desired every hour. The cheesecloth will be very dark, this is what you want.
  • Begin testing for doneness about 30 minutes before the total roasting time is complete, at about 3 hours. Insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey, usually the thigh, making sure it’s not touching any bone. It should register 165°F. If it’s not done, place it back in the oven for another 15 minutes and repeat the process until it reaches 165°F.
  • When it’s done, transfer turkey from the oven then carefully discard cheesecloth and transfer the turkey to a large serving platter or cutting board for carving. Tent it with follow and allow it to rest for 30 minutes before carving. This is the perfect time to make the gravy with the pan drippings!
Last step! If you make this, please leave a review letting us know how it was!


Brining: check your turkey packaging to ensure it hasn’t already been brined. If it hasn’t, follow these steps to dry brine your turkey the day before.
If you don’t have a roasting rack: Create a natural roasting rack for your turkey by layering carrots, onions and celery on the bottom of the roasting pan. Lifting the turkey off of the base of the pan helps to increase hot air circulation around the whole bird so that it will get crispy all over. And the vegetables add great flavor to the gravy.
What size turkey do you need? 
  • 1lb of turkey per person attending. Go for 1 1/2 lbs of turkey per person to ensure you have leftovers. A gathering of 10 people would require a 15 lb turkey.
Cooking times based on size:
  • 10 to 12 pounds: 2 1/2 to 3 hours total
  • 12 to 14 pounds: 2 3/4 to 3 1/4 hours total
  • 14 to 16 pounds: 3 to 3 3/4 hours total
  • 16 to 18 pounds: 3 1/4 to 4 hours total
  • 18 to 20 pounds: 3 1/2 to 4 1/4 hours total
  • 20+ pounds: 3 3/4 to 4 1/2 hours total



  • Roasting pan
  • Cheesecloth


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 388kcal | Carbohydrates: 0.9g | Protein: 58.5g | Fat: 15g | Cholesterol: 221mg | Sodium: 571mg | Fiber: 0.2g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Chrissy says:

    Do you also cover the turkey with foil while its cooking?? My roasting pan does not have a lid

  2. Bailey says:

    5 stars
    I’m newly married and hosted Christmas Eve dinner for both sides of the family this past year – I’ve never cooked a whole bird in my life so I was really nervous. However, I made this to the exact direction and it turned out BEAUTIFUL! Like couldn’t believe I actually made it and everyone raved about it.. Highly recommend, and if I can do it, anyone can!

    1. Molly Thompson says:

      This is the best compliment!! So glad you enjoyed it!!