With Thanksgiving right around the corner, my Thanksgiving Roast Turkey with Maple Glaze had to make an appearance. This turkey has been a family favorite for the last few years and has the most delicious flavor. This turkey is brined so the meat stays moist and then roasted to perfection. It's finished off with a maple glaze so the skin is beautifully crispy and makes for amazing drippings.
There are a few steps that help make sure this Thanksgiving Roast Turkey turns out perfectly. While there are many ways to prepare and cook a turkey, my favorite way is to first brine it and then roast it. The method below is one that I have used for the last few years and is a favorite with our family. My husband even asks for me to make an "off season" turkey during the middle of the year, just so he can have this more than just during the holidays.
How Do You Keep a Turkey Moist?
The answer is, brine it! Brining a turkey means to soak the turkey in a salty liquid mixture for several hours. The turkey absorbs some of the liquid that it is submerged in and the salt helps break down the meat. The brining liquid should consist of salt and water at a minimum, but can be infused with other ingredients that help flavor the turkey. I infused my turkey brine with sugar and spices, fresh oranges and even ginger beer.
Why Do You Brine a Turkey?
Brining a turkey helps the turkey absorb extra moisture and also tenderizes the meat to ensure it stays extra juicy. This is also helpful in the event that you accidentally let the turkey cook too long! Brining a turkey can be a bit messy, but as long as you have a large container and space in your fridge, it's worth it. I use my large stock pot, which is big enough to fit both the turkey and the brine. A large plastic storage container or 5 gallon bucket would also do the trick.
How Long Should You Brine a Turkey?
Optimal time for brining a turkey is between 12 and 24 hours. Allowing it to brine for at least 12 hours will ensure that the turkey absorbs enough moisture and flavor. Brining for longer than 24 hours can result in a waterlogged turkey that can become overly salty. Here are the steps you need to take to brine your turkey:
- Put the turkey in the brine two nights prior to roasting to allow for 24 hours in the brining liquid.
- The night before roasting, remove the turkey from the brine and rinse it thoroughly. This helps to remove any extra salt that may be on the turkey so it doesn't end up salty.
- After brining, let the turkey dry out in the refrigerator over night for about 12 hours. This helps to retain the liquid you just infused and also helps to make the skin crispy when roasting.
- Now you're ready for the big day!
How to Make Thanksgiving Roast Turkey with Maple Glaze
When cooking a turkey, it's important to remember that cooking times should be used as a guide. Actual cooking times will vary based on different ovens and the actual weight of the bird. In order to make sure your turkey is cooked properly, a kitchen thermometer is a must.
- Place onion and celery underneath the turkey in the roasting pan, either below the roasting rack, or directly under the turkey if you do not have a roasting rack.
- Next, stuff the turkey with the halved onion, lemon, orange, apple, and half of the fresh herbs. Place the remaining fresh herbs underneath the roasting rack or around the outside of the turkey in the roasting pan.
- Roast your turkey for 45-60 minutes until the skin is golden brown and then cover your turkey with aluminum foil and roast for an additional 60-90 minutes. When the skin starts to pull away from the bones on the turkey legs and the temperature reads about 150° you are ready to move onto the next step. Temperature should be taken in the innermost part of the thigh and wings and thickest part of the breast.
- Remove foil and pour the maple glaze over the entire turkey, using a rubber basting brush to spread it all over the turkey skin evenly.
- Finish roasting the turkey, uncovered, for an additional 30 minutes. When the skin is dark golden brown and the temperature reads 165°, your turkey is done. Temperature should be taken in the innermost part of the thigh and wings and thickest part of the breast. Make sure the thermometer isn't touching any bones or the temperature reading will be inaccurate.
How Long Do You Cook a Turkey?
As stated before, cooking times can vary, so it's best to keep an eye on your turkey during the cooking process, especially towards the end. If the skin is browning to quickly, cover it with foil until the turkey comes to the proper temperature. After cooking, it's important to let the turkey rest for 30 minutes prior to carving. This will help ensure all of the juices absorb into the meat and not leak out when the turkey is carved.
In the event that you are making a slightly larger or smaller turkey, here are some approximate ranges that will help you adjust your cooking time:
- 4-6 pound turkey breast — 1 ½ to 2 ¼ hours
- 6-8 pound turkey breast — 2 ¼ to 3 ¼ hours
- 8-12 pound whole turkey — 2 ¾ to 3 hours
- 12-14 pound whole turkey — 3 to 3 ¾ hours
- 14-18 pound whole turkey — 3 ¾ to 4 ¼ hours
- 18-20 pound whole turkey — 4 ¼ to 4 ½ hours
- 20-24 pound whole turkey — 4 ½ to 5 hours
Thanksgiving Roast Turkey with Maple Glaze
- 14-16 pound whole turkey
- 2 medium yellow onions
- 8 ribs celery
- 1 medium lemon
- 1 medium orange
- 1 medium apple
- 1 bunch fresh sage
- 1 bunch fresh thyme
- 1 bunch fresh rosemary
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 cup pure maple syrup
Five to Six Days Before Roasting
- Allow turkey to thaw in the refrigerator for 5 to 6 days prior to roasting. See note below for thawing times.
Two Nights Before Roasting
- Find a clean container that is large enough to hold the whole turkey plus approximately 2 gallons of liquid. This can be a large stock pot or plastic storage bin. Make sure this container will also fit in the fridge while the turkey is being brined.
- In a large pot (this can be the stock pot you will be brining the turkey in) combine apple cider, brown sugar, salt, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, vegetable stock or broth and ginger beer.
- Squeeze as much juice from orange halves into the pot and then add squeezed orange halves.
- Bring mixture to a boil over medium high heat and boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until both the sugar and the salt are completely dissolved. Let cool completely.
- If brining the turkey in the same stock pot, add 2 quarts of ice water to the brine mixture and mix together. Slowly add the turkey to the pot and then top with remaining ice water, between 2-4 quarts, depending on the size of the pot. Make sure to leave a few inches of room from the top so it doesn't slosh out when moving the pot to the fridge. If brining the turkey in a separate container, pour brine and 2 quarts of ice water into the container and mix together. Slowly add the turkey to the container and then top with remaining ice water, between 2-4 quarts, depending on the size of the container. Make sure to leave a few inches of room from the top so it doesn't slosh out when moving the container to the fridge.
- Move pot or container to the fridge and allow to brine for a minimum of 16 hours or maximum of 24 hours. This is best done two nights before roasting to allow time for the next step.
The Night Before Roasting
- Once turkey has brined for 24 hours, remove it slowly from the brine and place in kitchen sink. Rinse the turkey thoroughly inside and out to remove any extra brine and pat dry with paper towels. Place turkey on a sheet pan or roasting pan in the fridge for at least 12 hours. This is best done the night before roasting to allow the full time for the turkey to dry out.
Day of Roasting
- Remove turkey from the fridge and preheat oven to 350°. While the oven in preheating, slice one of the onions and place underneath the turkey with celery ribs in the roasting pan. If you do not have a roasting rack, the turkey can sit directly on the celery and onions. If you have a roasting rack, the celery and onions can sit below the rack.
- Cut the other onion in half, along with the lemon, orange and apple. Stuff the inside of the turkey with the halved onion, lemon, orange and apple. Divide fresh herbs in half and stuff half of the herbs inside of the turkey and place the other half underneath the roasting rack. If no roasting rack is being used, the remaining fresh herbs can be place in the roasting pan around the outside of the turkey.
- Tuck wing tips in so they don't burn while cooking and roast the turkey in the preheated oven for 45-60 minutes until skin is golden brown.
- While turkey is roasting, make your maple glaze. To make glaze, combine butter and syrup in a small saucepan over medium low heat until butter is completely melted. Stir and let cool while the turkey finishes roasting.
- Once skin is nicely browned, cover the turkey in aluminum foil and continue to roast for 60-90 minutes until the skin starts to pull away from the bones on the legs and the temperature in the thigh reads approximately 150° when checked with a kitchen thermometer.
- Remove foil from the turkey and pour maple glaze over the entire turkey. A rubber pastry brush can be used to spread glaze over all parts of the turkey.
- Continue to roast turkey in the oven, uncovered for approximately 30-45 minutes, until the temperature of the turkey reaches 165° on a kitchen thermometer when inserted into the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. (please see note below regarding cooking times)
- Once turkey is cooked to the proper temperature, remove from the oven and allow to rest for 30 minutes prior to carving. Juices can be reserved for use in making gravy.
I hope you enjoy this recipe for my Thanksgiving Roast Turkey with Maple Glaze. If you have any further questions about cooking a turkey, please don't be afraid to drop a comment below or send me an email directly.
Need some tasty appetizers to snack on while you waiting for turkey? Check out some of my favorites below:
- Roasted Grapes and Olives
- Fried Goat Cheese Bites with Arrabbiata Dip
- How to Assemble the Perfect Charcuterie Board
- Pepperoncini Dip with Bagel Chips
- Manchego Stuffed Bacon Wrapped Dates