We’re all looking for ways to make this year’s Thanksgiving turkey even more delicious than the last: from brining the meat to stuffing the skin with butter. However, one unexpected (and easy!) trick we’ve recently found calls for basting turkey with wine instead of the pan drippings. The reason: The sugars in the wine infuse the bird with a subtle sweetness, plus they help the skin caramelize and brown nicely. Because of this, basting turkey with wine as it roasts has earned our First for Women test kitchen’s seal of approval — and we have tips for ensuring it creates one of your most memorable birds yet! Here’s everything you need to know before using wine as a basting liquid for your favorite roasted turkey recipe.
Why basting is key when roasting a turkey
Basting involves repeatedly coating meat like turkey with liquid as it’s cooking. This ensures the meat stays juicy and the skin browns properly. Usually basting a turkey involves spreading the pan dripping across the skin using a turkey baster or pastry brush. But, there’s another liquid that can help the skin develop a shiny bronze glaze and provide even more flavor: wine!
The benefits of basting turkey with wine
Wine isn’t the first ingredient that comes to mind when roasting turkey, but it’s actually perfect for basting. When poured over turkey skin, the sugars in wine caramelize as it’s roasting. This gives the turkey a browned, almost shellac color — and adds subtle notes of fruit that complement any herbs or seasonings on the meat.
What is the best wine for basting turkey? “Use a good dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc,” First for Women Food Editor Charles Grayauskie recommends. Its citrusy and floral notes will blend well with the meat’s savory flavors. If you don’t have dry white wine on hand, sweeter wines such as rosé and moscato are fine to use and leave your turkey with a golden skin.
How often you should be basting turkey with wine
When using wine as a basting liquid, Charles suggests pouring half of a 750 milliliter bottle into a tall measuring cup. For extra butteriness, he mixes in about 2 Tbs. of unsalted melted butter and then bastes the turkey with the mixture every 30 to 45 minutes — following the cook time and oven temperature in the listed recipe. Allow the meat’s juices to collect in the pan during this process to then use for gravy. The end result is a turkey that’s succulent, juicy and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser!
Trick for an even more flavorful basted turkey
To infuse more flavor into the turkey, we actually like to skip the basting tool and use a bundle of herbs instead. Hearty herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage provide the meat with a peppery earthiness without wilting in the heat.
Simply lay a few sprigs of each herb closely together on a piece of kitchen twine. Next, gently but firmly tie the herbs together so they’re in a bundle. And voilà! The herb bundle is ready to use for basting and produces tasty results that’ll make you want to gobble up any extra turkey the next day. (For delicious and tender leftovers, click through to our guide on how to reheat turkey.)
Bonus: 3 wines for basting and sipping with the meal
If you plan on serving wine with the meal, consider buying one that can do double duty — enhance the turkey’s flavor and pair well with the rest of your Thanksgiving feast. Below, you can find three expert picks to look out for at your local store’s wine section:
1. For citrusy zing: Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc
This white wine (Buy from McGrailVineyards.com, $28) boasts citrus and herbaceous flavors that create a flavorful bird and provide a nice balance when enjoyed with hearty sides. “The added liquid keeps the turkey moist, while the gravy turns out delicious with a brighter acidity,” says Heather McGrail, president of McGrail Vineyards in California’s Livermore Valley wine region.
2. For added sweetness: 2022 Tempranillo Rosado
A sweet rosé pick that’s tasty alongside the herb and citrus flavors in your Thanksgiving spread is the 2022 Tempranillo Rosado (Buy from VinoShipper.com, $38). In fact, Brent Amos, winemaker and general manager for Las Positas Winery, likes to “make the gravy using the basting liquid and add a bit more of the wine to taste.”
3. For extra savory flavors: Alileo Young Grillo
The Young Grillo (Buy from AlileoWines.com, $39.99) not only infuses the bird with the white wine’s savory yet floral essence, Antonio Bertone, co-founder of Alileo, notes “the natural sugars and sediments from the wine should help with browning and crisping the skin.” Yum!
Keep reading for more tips on making and serving the tastiest Thanksgiving turkey:
Click through for more Thanksgiving tips, recipes and other stories.
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