No Thanks
Keep In Touch With

Sign up and we'll send inspiration straight to you.

Martha Stewart takes your privacy seriously. To learn more, please read our Privacy Policy.

Perfect Roast Turkey

If your roasting pan only fits sideways in the oven, turn the pan every hour so the turkey cooks and browns evenly. For step-by-step photos, see our Roast Turkey and Gravy feature.

  • Servings: 14
Perfect Roast Turkey

Source: Martha Stewart Living, November 1995


  • One 20- to 21-pound fresh whole turkey, giblets and neck removed from cavity and reserved
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • One 750-ml bottle dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • Classic Stuffing
  • 1 cup dry red or white wine, for gravy (optional)
  • Giblet Stock


  1. Rinse turkey with cool water, and dry with paper towels. Let stand for 2 hours at room temperature.

  2. Place rack on lowest level in oven. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Combine melted butter and white wine in a bowl. Fold a large piece of cheesecloth into quarters and cut it into a 17-inch, 4-layer square. Immerse cheesecloth in the butter and wine; let soak.

  3. Place turkey, breast side up, on a roasting rack in a heavy metal roasting pan. If the turkey comes with a pop-up timer, remove it; an instant-read thermometer is a much more accurate indication of doneness. Fold wing tips under turkey. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper inside turkey. Fill large cavity and neck cavity loosely with as much stuffing as they hold comfortably; do not pack tightly. (Cook remaining stuffing in a buttered baking dish for 45 minutes at 375 degrees.) Tie legs together loosely with kitchen string (a bow will be easy to untie later). Fold neck flap under, and secure with toothpicks. Rub turkey with the softened butter, and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and pepper.

  4. Lift cheesecloth out of liquid, and squeeze it slightly, leaving it very damp. Spread it evenly over the breast and about halfway down the sides of the turkey; it can cover some of the leg area. Place turkey, legs first, in oven. Cook for 30 minutes. Using a pastry brush, baste cheesecloth and exposed parts of turkey with butter and wine. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to cook for 2 1/2 more hours, basting every 30 minutes and watching pan juices; if the pan gets too full, spoon out juices, reserving them for gravy.

  5. After this third hour of cooking, carefully remove and discard cheesecloth. Turn roasting pan so that the breast is facing the back of the oven. Baste turkey with pan juices. If there are not enough juices, continue to use butter and wine. The skin gets fragile as it browns, so baste carefully. Cook 1 more hour, basting after 30 minutes.

  6. After this fourth hour of cooking, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. Do not poke into a bone. The temperature should reach 180 degrees (stuffing should be between 140 degrees and 160 degrees) and the turkey should be golden brown. The breast does not need to be checked for temperature. If legs are not yet fully cooked, baste turkey, return to oven, and cook another 20 to 30 minutes.

  7. When fully cooked, transfer turkey to a serving platter, and let rest for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the gravy. Pour all the pan juices into a glass measuring cup. Let stand until grease rises to the surface, about 10 minutes, then skim it off. Meanwhile, place roasting pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup dry red or white wine, or water, to the pan. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the pan until liquid boils and all the crisp bits are unstuck from pan. Add giblet stock to pan. Stir well, and bring back to a boil. Cook until liquid has reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add the defatted pan juices, and cook over medium-high heat 10 minutes more. You will have about 2 1/2 cups of gravy. Season to taste, strain into a warm gravy boat, and serve with turkey.

Reviews (46)

  • Nealesmom614 28 Nov, 2014

    This is the best Thanksgiving turkey recipe ever! My family accused me of purchasing the turkey from the store, because it looked "just like the picture"!

  • levisnp 27 Nov, 2014

    The best approach to Turkey cooking thus far. Have used this recipe the past few years, and it is the best. Alton Brown's brine +garlic, thyme, peppercorns and fennel, followed by this recipe have worked for large and small birds alike. This year, a twenty pound moist and perfect bird.

  • Chestnut007 27 Nov, 2014

    I have been making this turkey for years! It works well even with the free turkey you get from the supermarket. (A fresh is better) It is foolproof, and looks like it belongs on the cover of a magazine. Do not change a thing. Your guests will gasp when it is placed on the table.

  • Caseymccoupon 25 Nov, 2014

    I'm with Lizzie514 - I've been using this recipe for years, and started brining about five years ago (also using Alton Browns brine recipe). Really fool proof recipe, and the Turkey comes out perfect EVERY year.

    Brining tip: if you don't have room in your fridge, and live in a colder climate, brine it in one of those huge construction site water coolers or a cooler - add lots of ice to replace some of the brine water, and leave outside over night (check weather forecast!!).

  • AngelFireMama 27 Nov, 2014

    Agreed! I do this every year and have started using Alton Brown's brine since a few years ago. I live in the mountains of New Mexico, and since the bears are hibernating, I just leave the bucket outside overnight. I LOVE this recipe!!

  • Camiam1959 25 Nov, 2014

    The PERFECT Turkey! Don't even hesitate about using this recipe. Always perfect...moist, tender and golden! Don't stress out when the cheesecloth browns up or smokes...all is well. We have been using this recipe for years now...and probably will never even try another recipe...ever. Simply Perfect! :)

  • ShannonCarnevale 24 Nov, 2014

    This came out perfectly when I made it last year but I had to substitute so many things I didn't feel right reviewing. THIS YEAR, I made it exactly like the recipe but for a twelve pound bird. I had to alter the times for the size turkey I was using but it was flawless. The turkey cooked evenly, browned beautifully, and had crisp skin with moist meat. The flavor was fabulous! One star left out because I feel it wastes at least 1/2 of the wine. Use two cups, you'll have plenty of liquid.

  • HappyMommyOf2 23 Nov, 2014

    Ok so this would be my second time doing the turkey using my moms recipe but what I'm not sure of is what kind of white wine would I use? Is their a specific white wine? Not sure what kind meaning what brand of white wine did my mom use. Will somebody tell me please.

  • LizzyCS7 25 Nov, 2014

    You need a dry wine so a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio is best. I would go with a middle of the road wine. You don't want the cheapest one but it doesn't need to be expensive either.

  • lizzie514 19 Nov, 2014

    I can't even remember how long I have been making my turkey this way. I am sure since it was first published in Martha Stewart Living.... It is always perfect! The only thing I have changed throughout the years is I now brine my turkey the night before (recipe from Alton Brown Good Eats Roast Turkey - circa 2009, I think!!) OH MY GOODNESS!! Martha's roasting and Alton's brine.....It is not just a GOOD THING, it is a GREAT THING!

  • lizzie514 19 Nov, 2014

    oops... the episode was Romancing the Bird and it was Season 1 in 1999 NOT 2009... sorry!

  • Rick S777 27 Nov, 2013

    I have used this recipe since I cut it out of a magazine many years ago. The wine adds so much to the gravy, the skin is super crisp and the meat is fully cooked and juicy. If you're trying it for the first time be aware that the cheese cloth will smoke a bit during the 425 degree phase but I have never had a problem with that occuring, just a little unnerving the first time. Small ovens may present a problem with the head first/tail last configuration but it just fits in my 30" wall oven.

  • Carl Same 25 Nov, 2013

    I have followed this recipe for over 10 years and I have never been disappointed. The golden color surely impresses and the meat is moist and flavorful. I wholeheartedly recommend this tried and true method. I'd like to think Martha herself developed this recipe but I am skeptical knowing she had a staff of hundreds.

  • fanrjoy 21 Nov, 2013

    This is the only turkey I've made since it appeared in the magazine and on TV as Turkey 101 years ago. However, this year I have Muslims coming for Thanksgiving and can't use the wine in the cheesecloth. Please, anyone, provide suggestions for a substitute!

  • amylee1115 20 Oct, 2013

    I make this turkey every year! It continues to get RAVE reviews and I am always asked for the recipe. And, it's foolproof! Comes out perfect every single time. Sooooo yummy! My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

  • nicolemary11 6 Jun, 2013

    shoppingandproductreviewsarticles Fantastic ! i will try this recipe . This is very different dish , i have no ideas in Turkey recipe before that,but now i get some ideas in this topic. Now i am waiting your upcoming recipe.

  • drjane 2 Dec, 2012

    This is outstanding. I have used this recipe for the past five years and this yea was the best ever. I always use a dry white wine and it works great -- wonderful flavor that does not interfere with the turkey.

    Question -- is there an alternate to using wine? I will be preparing this for the holidays and I have a guest who cannot have any alcohol, even if cooked. I am thinking of using diluted cider, melted butter and some turkey broth. Suggestions? Ideas?

  • Shannon Ashley 19 Nov, 2012

    I used Apothic Red Wine with this roast turkey recipe and the results were delicious. Everyone in the family thought it was the best, most moist turkey ever.

  • racromwell 6 Dec, 2010

    I love this recipe, too! When I first tried it, I had my entire family over for Christmas. So everything had to be extra special. When I took the turkey out of the oven, the color was evenly golden brown. Just like the picture. Then when everyone tasted it, you should have seen their faces. It was so moist and delicious wth the flavors of wine and butter. They said they never tasted anything like it. It was amazing! So now I make this recipe every year.

  • susuca 26 Nov, 2010

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this wonderful recipe! My turkey was moist and very flavorful. It pleased our eyes and our stomach. You made me look good with my family and friends.

  • Sayrah256 19 Nov, 2010

    I am so in love with this recipe! I make it every year, and the flavor of the gravy and the turkey is so great because of the wine and butter. YUM! Can't wait to make it again this year!

  • seasideliz 10 Oct, 2010

    I have used this recipe for many years now and always love how it turns out. I used red wine this year and only had a 12 lb turkey (adjusted the cooking time obviously) and it was perfect. Great recipe Martha!

  • vogueblonde 29 Dec, 2008

    I have become a turkey snob after using this recipe to cook my turkeys several years ago and totally disagree with the comments about this turkey not being worth the time! The method may seem a little unconventional, but it's so worth it! I also recommend brining the turkey for 24hrs prior to cooking. This combination makes for the most moist and delicious turkey ever!

  • crainny 5 Dec, 2008

    I understand the philosophy is NOT cutting corners, and I love that approach. I love cooking from scratch and taking my time in the kitchen to make sure everything is perfect. But this time, I can definitely tell that the amount of time and effort put into this turkey was not worth it. The turkey indeed was moist and good in flavor, but the difference was not significant enough to justify the effort.

  • SusanAmelia 28 Nov, 2008

    I just used this recipe for the first time, and it definitely makes the prettiest turkey ever! The cheesecloth does singe a little though, so beware if you have a sensitive smoke detector. Also, I filled the body cavity with an apple, an onion, rosemary and garlic instead of stuffing. My mom claims it was the tastiest Thanksgiving turkey she's ever had. Maybe she was just trying to be nice, but I have to say it really was pretty darn good.

  • Anskyann 24 Nov, 2008

    This is truly THE perfect turkey recipe. My family compliments my turkey year after year. The cheesecloth brownd the turkey so beautifully that everyone wants to take a picture of the turkey before it is carved.

  • mmjs 23 Nov, 2008

    I'd like to cook this turkey using a convection oven - can i still stuff the turkey and use the cheesecloth?

  • chefrue 8 Nov, 2008

    As you will see I am not of the female gender,I have cooked our family turkey every year.And I have recieved complimemt after compliment from guests,on how tender,juicey,and golden brown my turkey is. Little do they now,so far its my secret to keep.Thank you, Martha..And see guys can cook too.

  • ls18 8 Nov, 2008

    I have used this recipe for years, and it comes out perfect every time.

  • tmclark176 25 Oct, 2008

    This is absolutely the BEST turkey recipe ever!! I guarantee if you try it once, you'll never use any other way of cooking a turkey again. Also, makes the best gravy you'll ever taste!

  • julief1969 19 Feb, 2008

    I have used this recipe (slightly altered) for years. People often look at me strangely when I say I need cheese cloth for my turkey! Instead of butter and wine, I use butter and chicken broth and cook at 325 for 15min/lb and baste every 30 min until done. I also put pats of butter under the skin before it goes in the oven and leave the cheese cloth on until done. This recipe has NEVER failed and my turkey's ALWAYS come out juicy and yummy every time! Thank you Martha!

  • domesticgoddess30 20 Jan, 2008

    Christmas 2007 marks the third anniversary of cooking Perfect Roast Turkey at my house. It is always an exciting event with excellent results. Fabulous!!

  • Kathryn_Massey 6 Jan, 2008

    I've been making my turkey this way since I first saw the recipe in a MSL magazine. This is a no-fail way to cooking a great tasting turkey! The color of the skin, the moistness of the meat, the flavor of the gravy is all affected by this technique! Try it! You'll never cook a turkey any other way! My family brags about "mom's turkey"!

  • cmrleary 21 Dec, 2007

    I have been making turkey this way for years....My family won't let me do it any other way. Also it makes the best gravy with the drippings that are flavored with turkey and wine. How can you go wrong basting a turkey with a bottle of wine!

  • EVER12 30 Nov, 2007

    This was my 1st Thanksgiving dinner at my house this year and I wanted it to be special. This recipe was GREAT! Everyone loved this turkey and had a great time. Thanks Martha! Can't wait to cook some more of your tasty treats!

  • mmsrjs 25 Nov, 2007

    lost count of how many years and times we have served this bird. It is ever so good, however this Christmas we are going to try another recipe found on Martha. Can't wait.

  • HousewifeJLo85 22 Nov, 2007

    This is going the be the third year i make thanksgiving dinner and the third year i use the recipe. I was lucky enough to watch Martha making it on her show and the rest is history! Not one complaint and that's unusal in my family!! Thanks Martha!

  • CHRISTINEHOKE 20 Nov, 2007

    This is going to be my 5th year using this recipe. I will never use any other recipe! This is so easy and boy the taste is fabulous! It has beautiful color and very moist meat. The wine makes a delicious gravy. This truly is a wonderful turkey recipe.

  • Aviatrix 20 Nov, 2007

    I have used this recipe for 3 Thanksgivings. I have gotten rave reviews every year. I like to add a slight variation; rosemary. I place sprigs of rosemary ontop and under the turkey. As the turkey is basted, the scent of rosemary fills the kitchen!

  • DemoDawn 20 Nov, 2007

    This is absolutely the best turkey ever! I have made it for several years now, and everybody says it's the best turkey they have ever had. It turns out a beautiful golden brown, perfectly crispy and juicy not dry. I loosen the skin around the breast and rub herbed butter all over the breast before draping the turkey with the soaked cheesecloth.

  • buddercup 20 Nov, 2007

    I made this last year for my first Thanksgiving and now am the official Thanksgiving host!! Everyone loved it, even mom. The skin was crisp and meat quite moist. I had just bought a convection oven and kept going back and fourth with the convection option and regular bake mode. It started to burn the cheescloth so we removed it at the very end and it was perfect!

  • j9pett 16 Nov, 2007

    This is the third year I'll use this recipe with a few additions. I layer under my bird and fill cavity with onions carrots and celery, this adds more flavor and juices. I never stuff my bird. I also use a turkey rub all over the skin under the cheesecloth. My family's full of picky eaters and everyone loves my turkey. Thanks!

  • karendrybola 16 Nov, 2007

    I have been using this recipe now for about 6 years, and everyone loves it. You inspire me to keep trying out new recipes. Thank You Martha!!!

  • jlocerda 15 Nov, 2007

    I have been using this receipe for about 10years... i still get great reviews and I'm know for my famous Turkey... Thank you Martha!!!

  • LanaDee77 14 Nov, 2007

    I always use this method and I get rave reviews! Sometimes instead of white wine I use dry sherry and it turns out oh so yummy!!! I usually have to add chicken broth when I use sherry because there aren't enough pan juices.

  • chris4homes 12 Nov, 2007

    This has become my new traditional turkey recipe. My holiday guests always love it. The turkey is always perfectly golden on the outside and juicy on the inside. I'm not much of a cook and this recipe makes me look good on the toughest cooking day of the year. Some suggestions however. I never have enough and my drippings tend to burn since I have to put the turkey so low in the oven to get it to fit. So, add some chicken broth to the wine and butter and plan on using 4 sticks rather than 3.

Related Topics