The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Wine for Turkey: Elevate Your Thanksgiving Feast

If you’re looking to take your Thanksgiving turkey to new heights of flavor, cooking with wine is the way to go. Wine not only adds depth and richness to the meat, but it also helps keep it moist and juicy. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the art of using cooking wine for turkey, including the best types of wine to use, techniques for incorporating it, and two delectable recipes that are sure to impress your guests.

Understanding Cooking Wine for Turkey

Cooking wine, also known as culinary wine, is a wine specifically designed for use in cooking. Unlike regular wine, which can become bitter or develop an unpleasant flavor when cooked, cooking wine is formulated to withstand the high temperatures of the cooking process while imparting its flavors to the dish.

When it comes to cooking turkey with wine, there are a few key benefits:

  • Flavor Enhancement: Wine adds a depth of flavor that complements the natural taste of the turkey. The combination of the wine’s acidity, fruitiness, and tannins can elevate the overall taste profile of the dish.

  • Moisture Retention: Alcohol and other compounds in wine help to retain moisture within the meat, resulting in a juicier, more tender turkey.

  • Browning and Crisping: The sugars present in wine can contribute to the browning and crisping of the turkey skin, creating a beautiful golden-brown color and crispy texture.

  • Gravy Enhancement: The drippings from a wine-cooked turkey can be used to create a rich, flavorful gravy that perfectly complements the dish.

Choosing the Right Cooking Wine

Not all wines are created equal when it comes to cooking. Here are some tips for selecting the perfect cooking wine for your Thanksgiving turkey:

  • Dry White Wines: Dry white wines, such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, or Pinot Grigio, work well with poultry dishes like turkey. Their crisp acidity and light to medium body pair nicely with the delicate flavors of the meat.

  • Off-Dry Whites: If you prefer a slightly sweeter flavor profile, consider using an off-dry white wine like Riesling or Gewürztraminer. The subtle sweetness can add a nice counterbalance to the savory flavors of the turkey.

  • Avoid Overly Oaky Wines: Wines that have been heavily oaked (aged in oak barrels) can impart a strong, overpowering flavor that may overpower the delicate taste of the turkey.

  • Quality Matters: While you don’t need to splurge on an expensive bottle, it’s essential to use a decent quality cooking wine. Avoid using “cooking wines” labeled as such, as they often contain added salt and preservatives that can alter the flavor.

Incorporating Cooking Wine into Your Turkey Recipe

There are several ways to incorporate cooking wine into your turkey recipe, each offering unique flavor profiles and techniques. Here are a few popular methods:

1. Wine-Soaked Herbs and Citrus

One of the most common and flavorful ways to use cooking wine with turkey is to soak herbs and citrus fruits in the wine before stuffing them into the cavity of the bird. This infuses the turkey with the flavors of the wine, herbs, and citrus, creating a delightful aroma and taste.

2. Wine-Based Brine

Brining your turkey in a wine-based solution can help ensure a moist and flavorful result. Simply combine wine with water, salt, and other desired aromatics (like herbs, citrus, or spices) to create a flavorful brine. Soak the turkey in the brine for several hours or overnight before roasting.

3. Wine Basting

Basting your turkey with cooking wine during the roasting process can help create a beautifully caramelized and flavorful skin. Simply combine the wine with melted butter or other aromatics, and baste the turkey every 30 minutes or so while it’s roasting.

4. Wine-Infused Gravy

If you’re not using the drippings from a wine-cooked turkey, you can still infuse your gravy with the flavors of wine. Simply deglaze the roasting pan with a splash of wine before making your gravy, or add a touch of wine to the finished gravy for an extra depth of flavor.

Delectable Wine-Infused Turkey Recipes

Now that you understand the basics of cooking turkey with wine, it’s time to put that knowledge into practice with two mouthwatering recipes:

1. Herb Butter Roasted Turkey with White Wine and Citrus

This recipe from Spices in My DNA combines the best of both worlds: white wine, citrus, and a flavorful herb butter. The turkey cavity is stuffed with wine-soaked oranges and sage, while the skin is coated in a butter infused with rosemary, thyme, and sage. The result is a juicy, flavorful bird with notes of citrus and herbs that will have your guests raving.


  • 1 navel orange, cut into 1/8ths
  • 1 cup dry white wine (like Chardonnay)
  • 1 (10 lb.) turkey
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus extra for the cavity
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, plus extra for the cavity
  • Handful of fresh sage


  1. Soak the orange slices in the white wine for at least an hour before prepping the turkey.
  2. Prepare the herb butter by mixing together the softened butter, sage, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper.
  3. Stuff the turkey cavity with the wine-soaked oranges and a handful of fresh sage.
  4. Rub the herb butter all over the turkey, including under the skin.
  5. Roast the turkey according to the recipe instructions, basting periodically with the wine from the orange soaking liquid or the pan drippings.

2. Butter and White Wine Roasted Turkey with Gravy

This recipe from How Sweet Eats takes a slightly different approach, using cheesecloth soaked in a white wine and butter mixture to baste the turkey while it roasts. The result is a beautifully browned and crispy skin with a tender, juicy interior infused with the flavors of the wine.


  • 1 (15-pound) whole turkey
  • 2 cups dry white wine (like Chardonnay)
  • An assortment of fresh herbs (like sage, rosemary, and thyme)
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • Ingredients for the gravy (see recipe)


  1. Soak a 12-inch square of cheesecloth in the melted butter and white wine mixture for 10 minutes.
  2. Rub the turkey all over with the softened butter, and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cover the turkey breast with the wine and butter-soaked cheesecloth.
  4. Roast the turkey according to the recipe instructions, basting periodically with the remaining wine and butter mixture or the pan drippings.
  5. Remove the cheesecloth during the last hour of roasting to allow the skin to crisp up.
  6. Make the gravy using the pan drippings and additional white wine, following the recipe instructions.

No matter which recipe you choose, cooking your Thanksgiving turkey with wine is sure to elevate your feast to new heights of flavor and enjoyment. So why settle for ordinary when you can have extraordinary? Embrace the art of cooking with wine and treat your guests to a turkey they’ll never forget.

Roasted Turkey Cooked with Wine & Herbs Recipe

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