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Turkey Brine And Butter Cheesecloth Method

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How to Achieve a Golden & Moist Holiday Roast Turkey

As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, nothing sets the holiday table quite like a perfectly roasted turkey. Our turkey brine and butter cheesecloth method creates a picturesque turkey. Imagine a kitchen filled with the comforting aroma of a turkey roasting in the oven, infused with the rich scents of butter and wine. Our steps below detailing the turkey brine and butter cheesecloth method ensure that your turkey emerges from the oven not only incredibly moist, but also golden and absolutely delicious.

How to Brine a Turkey

The Importance of Brining

Brining is a crucial step in achieving a tender, flavorful, and moist turkey. It’s a magic wand for your holiday bird, as it not only seasons the meat but also keeps it from drying during roasting. The brining process involves immersing a turkey in a saltwater solution. Osmosis allows the meat to absorb flavors and remain incredibly juicy throughout the cooking process.

Preparing and Brining Your Turkey

Before you start the brining process, it’s important to ensure your turkey is properly defrosted. A general rule of thumb is to allow about 24 hours of defrosting time for every 4-5 pounds of turkey.

Step-by-Step Guide to Turkey Brine

  1. Select Your Brine: There are countless brine variations to choose from, ranging from plain to more elaborate flavor combinations. Some popular additions include sugar, herbs, citrus zest, garlic, and various spices. Pick a brine that suits your taste, and consider experimenting with different flavors. We’ve adapted Alton Brown’s brine for our recipe below.
  2. Thaw Your Turkey: Ensure your turkey is fully thawed and remove any giblets from the cavity.
  3. Prepare the Brine: In a medium sauce pot combine a few cups of vegetable broth/water, salt and brown sugar. Heat and mix until the salt is completely dissolved. Cool the mixture to at least room temperature. The general rule is about 1 cup of salt per gallon of total brining water. Don’t add all the water for the brine or it will take forever to cool. Add just enough to dissolve the solids.
  4. Combine Water and Aromatics: In a large brine bag or container, combine the salt water solution, the rest of the liquid, and any other desired brine ingredients. You can also add ice to cool down the solution further.
  5. Submerge the Turkey: Place the thawed turkey into the food-safe brining bag or a large container. Ensure it’s completely submerged in the brine. You might need to weigh the turkey down with a plate or something similar to keep it fully immersed.
  6. Refrigerate: Cover the turkey and place it in the refrigerator for the recommended brining time. A good ratio is to brine for 1 hour per pound of turkey. So, if you have a 12-pound turkey, aim for around a 12-hour brining period. 8-16 hours is a good range.
  7. Rinse and Pat Dry: After brining, remove the turkey from the brine, rinse it thoroughly, and pat it dry with paper towels. Let the bird come to room temperature.

The Flavorful Benefits of Brining

Besides the classic salt and water, you can experiment with a range of additional ingredients to infuse unique tastes. For example, try adding fresh herbs along with crushed garlic cloves and citrus zest to your brine. Other options include apple cider, brown sugar, or even a touch of bourbon for a distinctive twist. These flavorful combinations will give your turkey a whole new level of deliciousness.

Prepare Your Roasting Pan

We love to line the bottom of our roasting pan in thick chunks of root vegetables. This gives the bird a place to sit without the need for a rack. And the vegetables absorb all the drippings and become an instant side dish for serving. Some of the vegetables we like to use are: carrots, onions, celery, turnip, parsnip, rutabaga and sweet potato. Beets work as well, but they will tint their surroundings pink.

Since brine keeps the turkey’s moisture in, don’t expect to have much liquid in the bottom of your pan. Therefore, it’s a good idea to coat your vegetables in some oil and maybe add a dash of wine to the bottom of your pan so that the vegetables do not burn.

brined turkey rinsed and dried on top of cut root vegetables in roasting pan, ready for butter and chardonnay soaked cheesecloth

Cheesecloth Butter & Chardonnay Method

Now, for the secret ingredient that sets our turkey brine and butter cheesecloth method apart – cheesecloth soaked in rich butter and luscious Chardonnay. We started using this method year’s ago after reading it in a Martha Stewart recipe for the perfect roast turkey. This basting liquid infuses your bird with a heavenly combination of flavors. And it also ensures it emerges from the oven with a golden, crispy skin and tender, juicy meat.

Enhancing Flavor and Moisture

The cheesecloth technique isn’t just about showmanship; it’s about achieving both moisture and flavor. The butter adds a luxurious, nutty richness to the turkey’s skin, while the Chardonnay imparts a subtle tangy essence that beautifully complements the poultry. Cheesecloth also serves as a shield, preventing the skin from becoming overly browned or the meat dried-out.

Step-by-Step Guide For Butter & Wine Cheesecloth Draping Method

  1. Prepare the Cheesecloth: Take a piece of cheesecloth and fold it into quarters, large enough to cover your turkey breast and most of the turkey. Melt a generous amount of butter (about 2-3 sticks, depending on the size of your turkey). To the butter add a half or whole bottle of Chardonnay. Make sure the wine is something you wouldn’t mind drinking but don’t break the bank on it. Soak the cheesecloth in this mixture.
  2. Cover the Turkey: Once your turkey has been brined and rinsed, tuck its’ wings under, and place the cheesecloth over it, ensuring the entire breast is covered. The sides should be halfway covered, and some of the legs as well.
  3. Roasting Time: When it’s time to roast the turkey, carefully lift the cheesecloth-covered turkey and place it in your roasting pan, legs first. The fabric will work its charm during the cooking process, keeping your turkey moist and imparting those amazing flavors.
  4. Baste as You Go: Throughout the roasting time, periodically baste your turkey with the leftover butter and chardonnay mixture. This ensures that your bird remains well-hydrated and beautifully bronzed. If you have leftover chardonnay butter, drizzle some on your dressing or add it to your gravy.

Final Touches with Roasting

Another few things will ensure a nice color and roast for your bird. Roasting at a high temperature for the first 30 minutes will help crisp and seal the skin. Turning the temp down after the initial 30 minutes will ensure even cooking of the meat. Additionally, removing the cheesecloth the last hour or so of cooking will also help the skin finish turning golden and crispy. Finally, resting the bird for at least 30 minutes will ensure the moisture stays in the bird and will not leak out when you make the first cut. Resting also gives you time to cook and reheat side dishes.

Serving & Enjoying Your Brined & Butter Roasted Turkey

Hooray, you’ve successfully executed the turkey brine and butter cheesecloth method! Now it is time to carve and enjoy your bird with your loved ones. Epicurious has a nice tutorial on how to carve a turkey if you need assistance figuring out how to carve a bird.

To help you out with more than just your turkey, we’ve come up with some ideas on what to serve with it.

Some Side Dish Ideas

  1. Dressing: A classic choice, our cornbread dressing with herbs, onions, and celery perfectly complements the rich flavors of the turkey.
  2. Cranberry Preserves or Pickles: The tartness of cranberry balances the richness of the turkey and adds a delightful contrast.
  3. Roasted Vegetables: An assortment of roasted root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, and sweet potatoes provides a sweet and savory side and if you roasted them with the bird you don’t need an extra pan for them.
  4. Gratin: Our turnip gratin makes a spectacular holiday side; it is creamy and cheesy and a beautiful golden brown on top.
  5. Green Beans: Green bean bundles can add a sweet, savory sophisticated touch to your meal.
  6. Gravy: A rich and flavorful gravy made from the turkey pan drippings (if you have any) is essential for drizzling over the meat and side dishes. If your pan was fairly dry because all the moisture stayed in the turkey from the brine, make some broth from the turkey’s neck and use that with some of the leftover butter and chardonnay and emulsify with some butter and flour roux.
  7. Whipped Sweet Potatoes: Sweet potatoes or yams, prepared by whipping the soft cooked potatoes in a food processor with cream and a touch of vanilla. This side compliments the turkey and dressing by adding some sweetness and brightness. And they are a beautiful color as well!
  8. Salad: A french carrot salad would brighten up any heaviness of a turkey dinner. It is quick and simple to make and can be made ahead.

Wine Pairings for Brined & Butter Roast Turkey

  1. Chardonnay: A buttery lighter non oaky Chardonnay can complement the richness of the turkey and the butter used in the recipe.
  2. Viognier: Known for its aromatic qualities, good balance of acidity and balanced mouthfeel, it can beautifully complement the flavors of turkey.
  3. Pinot Noir: This red wine offers a lighter and fruitier profile, making it versatile enough to pair with white or dark meat.
  4. Sauvignon Blanc: Its crisp acidity and citrus notes can cut through the richness of the turkey.
  5. Riesling: A slightly sweet Riesling can balance the savory flavors and provide a refreshing contrast.
  6. Zinfandel: If you prefer a red wine, Zinfandel’s fruit-forward characteristics make it a good match.

Beer Pairings for Brined & Butter Roast Turkey

  1. Wheat Beer: A light and crisp wheat beer, like a Hefeweizen, complements the turkey’s flavors without overpowering them. The subtle fruity and citrus notes can enhance the overall dining experience.
  2. Belgian Dubbel: A Belgian Dubbel’s malty sweetness and caramel notes work well with the turkey’s richness. The complexity of a Dubbel can be a delightful addition to the meal.
  3. Amber Ale: An amber ale’s balance of malt and hops can match the turkey’s roasted flavors. It’s a versatile choice that appeals to a broad range of beer preferences.
  4. Brown Ale: The nutty and toasty characteristics of a brown ale pair nicely with roasted poultry. It adds depth to the meal.
  5. Pumpkin Ale: For a seasonal and festive touch, a pumpkin ale can complement the fall flavors in your meal. Its subtle spiciness harmonizes with the turkey’s seasoning.
  6. Cider: If you’d like a non-beer option, a dry or semi-dry cider can be a refreshing choice to serve alongside your turkey. Its apple notes can be a delightful match.

Oh, and if you are looking for a cocktail for to enjoy while mingling, try our seasonal muddled apple cider cocktail. It’s a fun interactive drink to make and delicious to boot.

Happy Roasting!

A beautifully roasted turkey often takes center stage during a holiday meal. With our expert tips, brining, and a unique cheesecloth technique, your holiday centerpiece is guaranteed to shine with a golden, moist, and irresistibly delicious turkey.

Let us know if you try the combination of brining and using cheesecloth. We’d love to hear your results from trying our turkey brine and butter cheesecloth method.

photo of crispy golden brown roast turkey that used the brine and butter cheesecloth methods on top of a large serving platter

Brined & Roasted Turkey with Chardonnay Butter

Create a succulent, golden roast turkey using a combination of brine and butter soaked cheesecloth methods. An amazing golden delectable skin is created from Chardonnay butter. And the brine keeps the turkey meat flavorful and moist as it roasts. A bed of root vegetables acts as the turkey's roasting rack, infusing the meat with aromatic flavor, while the drippings turn the veggies into a delicious side dish.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main
Cuisine: American
Diet: Gluten Free
Keyword: holiday, poultry
Prep Time: 16 hours
Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Resting Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 19 hours
Servings: 16
Author: juiceofsevenlemons


  • 14-16 pound whole turkey

For the Brine:

  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tablespoon juniper berries
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons candied ginger chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4-5 cloves garlic smashed
  • 1 gallon vegetable broth, packaged, not low-sodium or sodium-free
  • 1 gallon iced water

For the Roasting Pan:

  • 4 cups root vegetables carrots, onions, celery, garlic head halved, turnip, parsnip, rutabaga, sweet potato; (beets will add pink tint) – cut into thick chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • black peppercorns freshly ground
  • woody herbs thyme, sage, rosemary for use as aromatics

For the Butter-Chardonnay Mixture:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter melted
  • 375 ml Chardonnay


Brining the Turkey:

  • In a large pot, combine kosher salt, brown sugar, and spices, and 1/4 gallon of vegetable broth. Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve.
  • Let the salt mixture cool slightly then add the rest of the vegetable broth to bring temperature down further and then let cool until room temperature.
  • Place the turkey in a large brining bag or a food-safe container.
  • Add the brine into the large brine bag or container and top with the gallon of ice water.
  • Add the turkey to the brine solution, making sure it's fully submerged. Seal the bag or container and refrigerate for 8-16 hours.
  • After brining, remove the turkey from the brine and rinse it under cold water. Pat it dry with paper towels and let the bird come to room temperature.

Preparing the Butter-Chardonnay & Roasting Pan:

  • Preheat your oven to 500°F (260°C).
  • In a saucepan on low, mix unsalted butter and Chardonnay.
  • Place the thick chunks of root vegetables in the bottom of the roasting pan. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and coat with a bit of oil. These will serve as a natural rack for the turkey.
  • Loosely stuff the turkey with your choice of aromatics (onions, apples, lemons, herbs) for added flavor, tuck the wing tips under the bird and place it on top of the root vegetables.

Roasting the Turkey:

  • Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone.
  • Dip the cheesecloth into the butter-Chardonnay mixture and drape it over the turkey – over the breast and about halfway down the sides of the turkey; it can cover some of the leg area.
  • Place the the turkey into the oven, legs side first for 20 minutes.
  • After 20 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 350°F (175°C).
  • Baste the turkey with the remaining butter-Chardonnay mixture every 20-30 minutes. A 14- to 16-pound turkey should take an additional 90 minutes to 2 hours, but the temperature of the meat is more important than the time it takes to get there, so pay attention to the probe.
  • About one hour before the turkey should be done, remove the cheesecloth, baste and turn the breast side to the back.
  • Continue roasting until the meat thermometer reads 165°F (74°C) when inserted into the thigh.
  • Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest at least 30 minutes before carving.


  • Using root vegetables like carrots, onions, celery, turnip, parsnip, rutabaga, and sweet potatoes as a base not only elevates the turkey but also creates a delectable side dish.
  • Make sure to rinse the turkey thoroughly after brining to remove excess salt.
  • The butter-Chardonnay mixture adds richness and keeps the turkey moist. Basting every 30 minutes ensures a golden, flavorful skin.
  • Insert the meat thermometer into the thigh without touching the bone to monitor the turkey’s doneness.
  • Removing the cheesecloth and turning the turkey breast side to the back during the last hour allows the skin to crisp up beautifully.
  • Let the turkey rest before carving to retain its juiciness.

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