A recipe for maple-bourbon glazed turkey that makes a wonderfully flavorful, eye-catching centerpiece for your Thanksgiving feast.
Updated: November 2023
Maple-Bourbon Glazed Turkey and a Classic Thanksgiving Spread
When it comes to Thanksgiving recipes, I’m pretty dedicated to the classics. My table will always feature stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. I also love having a beautifully bronzed roast turkey as the centerpiece. Generally, the turkey flavors we go for range from “buttery” to “goes well with gravy.” But this year, I wanted a little more from my bird. I wanted big flavors, but ones that would complement rather than overwhelm the side dishes. Once I’d stumbled on the right flavor profile, it was so perfect, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before.
Maple-Bourbon Glaze: Smoke, Umami, and Sweetness
This recipe for maple-bourbon glazed turkey has a wonderful depth. The bourbon absorbs into the skin and meat, suffusing each bite with its smoky complexity. At the same time, maple syrup gives the skin a gorgeous deep brown hue and just a little bit of sticky sweetness. The other elements in the glaze – fresh squeezed orange juice, soy sauce, and paprika – round out the flavors with balancing hints of brightness and umami.
Giblet Gravy: Rich and Delicious with a Hint of Bourbon
Making a proper giblet gravy from giblets and pan drippings is much easier than you might think. Just make sure you have flavorful turkey or chicken stock and plenty of butter on hand. The base for the gravy can be made ahead of time, while the drippings should be incorporated at the very last second. If you’ll be pressed for time day-of (pretty sure we all will be!) make the giblet gravy base ahead of time, then warm the gravy and add drippings at the last minute.
Pan drippings can be very salty, so try not to add any additional salt. If you’re making your own stock, keep it bland. if using store-bought, make sure to get a low-sodium variety.
Cooking a Turkey
Some notes on cooking a turkey: The key to a great turkey is to treat it just like a (very large) chicken. That is, roast the turkey in a hot oven to let the skin crisp, and then lower the heat, and roast until a thermometer inserted between the breast and thigh reads 165 degrees F. While the turkey cooks, brush with the glaze every 30 minutes, and tent with foil if the skin gets too dark.
Roasting a whole turkey with a maple-bourbon glaze makes for a bird with more depth than a traditional turkey. In addition to its gorgeous golden brown skin, this maple-bourbon glazed turkey has notes of smoky bourbon and caramel in every bite. Made with pan drippings, the giblet gravy is rich and delicious, with hints of bourbon and maple.
For best results, the brine should be started two days ahead of time so the bird has time to brine and then air dry for 24 hours in the fridge.
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 completely thawed 15 - 20 pound turkey
- 2 cups white wine, or chicken or turkey broth
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 1 cup bourbon
- 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 shallot, minced
- turkey heart and liver, minced
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 cups turkey or chicken stock
- pan drippings
- white wine, to taste
Remove giblets and neck from the turkey cavity, and set aside.
At least 12, but preferably 24 hours ahead of time, dry brine the turkey. Combine 3 tablespoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper, and rub it all over the turkey, inside and out. Set turkey in roasting pan and in the fridge 12 - 24 hours.
When ready to roast the turkey, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Se the turkey on a rimmed baking sheet and wash and dry the roasting pan and rack (the overnight drippings will be very salty, so best to start with a clean slate.)
Truss turkey by tying feet together and tying wings down with butcher's twine. (More on trussing here.)
Place turkey breast side up in roasting pan, add 2 cups white wine or broth to the bottom of the pan, and slide into oven. Cook 1 hour (1 1/2 hours for a larger bird).
While bird roasts, combine glaze ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring often, until mixture reduces by two-thirds. Once reduced, keep glaze warm over very low heat.
After 1 hour, brush maple-bourbon glaze all over the turkey. Brush on more after 30 minutes.
At the 2 hour mark, lower heat to 325 degrees F. Brush glaze over turkey every 30 minutes. Place a loose foil tent over any parts that are darkening too quickly.
After 3 hours total cook time, check the temperature by inserting an instant-read thermometer deeply into the space between the leg and the bottom of the breast. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F, 3 1/2 - 5 hours total (the larger the bird, the longer the cook time).
Once up to temperature, pull turkey from oven and rest 30 minutes. Carefully remove to a cutting board, grasping turkey from below so as not to disturb the glaze on the breast and legs.
Meanwhile, make gravy. While turkey roasts, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté shallots in butter until tender, about 5 minutes. Add liver and heart, and cook 5 minutes more. Stir in flour. Turn heat to low and add broth, a splash at a time, allowing gravy to re-thicken between additions. When the turkey moves to the roasting pan, carefully tip pan and carefully funnel pan juices into a tall jar. After a few minutes, the fat will settle on the top. Pour that off (as best you can), and gradually add 1 cup pan drippings to the gravy. Taste, and add salt, pepper, or a splash of white wine as needed. Gravy will thicken as it cools.
To carve turkey, first remove trussing twine. Remove drumsticks and thighs by slicing through the skin that joins the thigh to the breast and cutting downward until you reach the joint. Push down on thigh to expose joint and then cut through it. Separate drumstick from thigh cutting at joint. Cut thigh meat away from bone and slice into serving portions.
Next, remove wings by slicing through the joint, and then set them aside. To carve breast, cut slices from the sides roughly parallel to the center of the breast. Place meat on a warmed platter and serve immediately.