Moist and flavorful turkey covered in a rich pan dripping gravy is essential for the American Thanksgiving table. After years of cooking Thanksgiving turkeys with okay to mediocre and dry results, this recipe delivers a turkey worthy of a Rockwell painting. For years I cooked a turkey in the cellophane turkey bag, waiting for that button to pop up in the turkey, that turned out dry and disappointing. Then I turned to brining which added an additional time constraint and took up loads of space and resulted in salty and strangely textured turkey. After that I smoked turkey for a couple years that turned out delicious but lacked the Thanksgiving flavor. I heard a friend mention salt pork and moist turkey and I was intrigued and decided to give it a try. This method of roasting turkey changed everything – with minimal effort you are able to produce a show stopping, moist, golden brown turkey. Watch the temperatures carefully.
Roast Turkey with Cheesecloth
1 cheesecloth package, new
4 cups water
1 12 to 15 pound turkey
1 pound salt pork sliced into ¼” strips
5 celery sticks cut into chunks
7 carrot sticks cut into large pieces
2 onions cut into wedges
1 to 2 cups chicken broth
Preheat the oven to 350°F with the rack placed on the lowest position.
Remove all of the packages of giblets and neck from the cavities of the turkey.
Fold the cheesecloth into an 18 inch square, place in in a large bowl, and cover with the four cups of water.
Poke several holes in the breast and leg skin with a roasting fork careful not pierce the meat, lifting the skin as necessary.
Place turkey in a heavy duty roasting pan on a rack.
Add the celery, carrots, and onions to the cavity and bottom of the pan (these can be omitted if desired).
Cover the turkey with the strips of salt pork and cover with the wet cheese cloth (do not wring it out).
Add three cups of water to the roasting pan.
Cover the entire the roasting pan with heavy duty foil, making sure to seal it tight.
Roast until the breast reaches 140°F (2 ½ to 3 ½ hours).
Remove and discard the foil, cheesecloth, and salt.
Add the additional chicken broth to boost your pan drippings gravy.
Increase the oven temperature to 425°F and roast until the spot between the breast and thigh reaches 160°F (45 minutes to 1 hour).
When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven, place it on a carving board, and tent it with foil for 30 minutes to an hour to rest.