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Elizabeth Heiskell's Pillowcase Turkey with Million-Dollar Gravy

Pillowcase Turkey with Million-Dollar Gravy
Williams Sonoma


  • 1 12- to 15-pound turkey
  • 1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 slices smoked bacon
  • 2 cups red wine, plus more as needed
  • cups chicken broth, plus more as needed
  • 6 whole peppercorns
  • 10 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
Million-Dollar Gravy
  • 2 cups liquid from turkey roasting pan, divided
  • Red wine, if needed
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chef notes

This is my grandmother's recipe. She couldn't stand that the turkey would get so brown before it was done, so she would wrap it in a pillowcase. Nowadays, you can just grab cheesecloth at any supermarket so you can save your pillowcases for sleeping. Covering the turkey during cooking keeps the skin from being overdone and seals in the maximum amount of moisture to keep your bird juicy and delicious.


For the turkey:


Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 500°F.


Rinse the turkey and remove the giblets and neck. Stuff the cavity with the onion, celery and lemon. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Spread 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of the butter evenly over the skin and liberally season the entire bird with salt and pepper.


Unfold a large piece of cheesecloth, then fold in half to create a double layer. Cut into a square large enough to wrap the entire turkey. Place a V-shaped rack in a large roasting pan. Drape the double layer of cheesecloth over the rack and lay 4 of the bacon slices on the cloth. Place the turkey, breast side down, on top of the bacon, lay the remaining 4 bacon slices on top of the turkey and fold the cheesecloth up over the turkey so it is fully covered. Completely saturate the cheesecloth and turkey with the wine and 1 cup of the broth. Scatter the peppercorns, parsley, thyme and bay leaves in the bottom of the pan. Roast the turkey for 20 minutes.


Meanwhile, in a sauté pan over medium heat, combine the remaining 2 sticks butter and 1/2 cup broth with 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Heat, stirring, until the butter melts. After the turkey has roasted for 20 minutes, liberally baste it with some of the butter mixture, making sure the cheesecloth is completely saturated.


Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F and continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast, away from the bone, registers 165°F and into the thigh registers 175°F, 2½-3 hours more. Baste the turkey every hour with the pan juices, making sure the cheesecloth remains saturated. If the pan dries out, pour in equal parts wine and broth.


Remove the turkey from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 400°F.


Remove the cheesecloth from the turkey and flip the turkey over so it is breast side up. Brush the breast with the remaining melted butter and continue roasting until the skin is crisp and browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer the turkey to a carving board and let rest at least 20 minutes before carving.

For the gravy:

Strain the juices in the roasting pan into a large glass measuring cup. If necessary, add enough wine to total at least 2 cups liquid. Pour the liquid back into the pan, place over medium heat and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits on the pan bottom.

In a small bowl, stir together the butter and flour to make a paste. Whisk the mixture into the pan and bring to a simmer, continuing to whisk until thickened, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve:

Carve the turkey and serve with gravy on the side.