This recipe for Maple Brined Turkey builds layer after layer of flavor through dry-brining, buttering and roasting to make for a spectacular, richly delicious and wholesome Thanksgiving dinner.
While I'm always partial to the slow-roasted turkey recipe that's been passed down on my husband's side of the family for generations, with each new cook tweaking it ever so slightly, this Maple Brined Turkey brings a new vibrant option to the dinner table.
Making a Maple Brined Turkey
Making the Maple Dry Brine
If anything, making this maple brined turkey will teach you the pleasure of patience and the virtue of delayed gratification; that is, it begins with a three-day maple and citrus dry brine that infuses the meat with deep flavor and seasons it, too. Now, it's not complicated recipe and you don't need to know any special techniques, but you do need patience. And you'll be rewarded by a roasted turkey that is at once succulent and tender and deeply, resonantly flavorful.
After dry-brining the turkey for two days, you'll allow the turkey to rest in your fridge uncovered so that its skin begins to dry out a bit. This technique helps to build a pellicle, which makes for a nicer skin that positively grabs hold of flavor as it roasts.
Preparing the Citrus Herb Butter
You'll also prepare a citrus- and herb-infused butter that you slip between the skin and meat of the bird's breast. Not only does this infuse the turkey breast with rich flavor from citrus zest and fresh herbs like thyme and sage, the fat in the butter helps to keep the bird's breast moist while it roasts.
Stuffing the Turkey Keeps it Moist
Stuffing the turkey with oranges, lemons and onions also helps to keep the bird's meat moist as it cooks, and helps to prevent it from overcooking and becoming too tough.
How to Choose the Right Maple for Your Turkey
Maple brings a rich and complex sweetness to both sweet and savory dishes, and it pairs particularly nicely with turkey as well as other fall flavors like root vegetables and autumn fruit. And in this recipe for Maple Brined Turkey, it stands up to the bright flavors of oranges, lemons and fresh garden herbs.
In choosing the right maple, you want to first ensure you're using real maple syrup. And the only ingredient on your bottle should be maple syrup. Real maple tastes natural rich and subtly complex, owing to its many minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients all of which help to contribute not only to its dark color but also its flavor.
Grade A dark maple syrup, which is a slightly thick syrup about the consistency of honey, has a dark caramel like color and a robust flavor. It's this syrup that stands up well to roasted turkey. Its deep, toffee-like notes marry beautifully with the savoriness of slow-roasted poultry where a lighter maple syrup can get lost.
Maple Brined Turkey with Citrus and Herbs
For the Dry Brine
For the Herb Butter
For the Roasting Pan
- 1 12-14 pound Turkey
- 2 yellow onions (quartered)
- 1 orange (halved)
- 2 lemons (halved)
- 1 cup fresh sage (loosely packed)
- 3 sprigs rosemary
- 5 sprigs thyme
Three Days in Advance
- Mix all the ingredients for the dry brine together in a small mixing bowl.
- Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey, and pat it with a kitchen towel to remove any excess moisture. Set it on a rimmed baking tray that is small enough to fit in your refrigerator.
- Rub the turkey, inside and out, with the dry brine, and then cover it with plastic wrap and set it in your fridge.
One Day in Advance
- Remove the plastic wrap from your brining turkey, and allow it to sit uncovered in your refrigerator so that it can dry and begin to develop a pellicle.
On the Day of Roasting
- Heat the oven to 375 F.
- Prepare the Citrus Herb butter by spooning all the ingredients into a mixing bowl, and mashing with a spoon until the herbs, salt, itrus zest, and maple syrup are uniformly distributed through the butter.
- Loosen the turkey skin around the breast by slipping a knife between the skin and the flesh at the birds cavity. Spread the the butter between the skin and meat, and use any remaining butter to coat the outside of the bird along its breast and thighs.
- Arrange the bird in a roasting pan, and stuff its cavity with onions, oranges, lemons, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Arrange any remaining lemons, oranges or herbs around the bird.
- Place the bird in the oven. Turn down the heat to 325F and roast it until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 F, about 3 ½ hours.
- When the bird reaches an internal temperature of 165 F, remove it from the oven and let it rest for 30 minutes before carving.
Where to Find Real Maple Syrup and Maple Sugar
Don't get fooled by cheap, maple-flavored pancake syrups which are filled with preservatives, artificial flavors and corn syrup; rather, you need the real thing when you sit down to make this Maple Brined Turkey. Coomb's Family Farms has been producing real maple syrup for 7 generations in New England.
You an find their organic and sustainably produced maple syrup in most natural food markets and health food stores, but you can also order it online here.
What to Serve with Maple Brined Turkey
If you'll make this Maple Brined Turkey the center of your Thanksgiving or holiday meal, you'll want to round out the meal with some other classics, too.
Maple-Glazed Root Vegetables are a great way to make use of Autumn's plentiful parsnips, carrots and celeriac.
Autumn Fruit Salad is a bright blend of pomegranate, pears, persimmon and apples dressed with a vibrant sweet-tart vinaigrette made with kombucha tea, maple syrup and fresh ginger.
Mandarin Cranberry Relish is a tart blend of fresh cranberries and mandarin oranges. If you plan ahead, you can even ferment it for a few days to make a probiotic-rich sidedish for your Thanksgiving table.
Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes need only a handful of ingredients and only about six minutes, so it comes together in a cinch.
Cranberry-Glazed Carrots are a gorgeous addition to the dinner table, as the tartness of cranberry balances with the rooted sweetness of fresh carrots.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pistachios and Golden Raisins are easy to make and a great way to take advantage of one of the season's best vegetables: Brussels Sprouts