I want to faceplant into this plate so hard.

this applewood smoked turkey is prepped with a maple bourbon brine and served with a cider bourbon gravy! I howsweeteats.com

So here’s the deal. I smoked a turkey breast for time intensive reasons and in hopes of not wasting any food. I HATE wasting food. This was not an issue considering we took down this turkey in a matter of days – just the two of us.

You can absolutely smoke a whole turkey this way, and I have link some instructions in the recipe below. Since every turkey is going to be a different size and every smoker may be different, it’s difficult to get an exact recipe for what I did – BUT! I’m telling you exactly what I did for my little 7-pound turkey breast and Masterbuilt smoker.

this applewood smoked turkey is prepped with a maple bourbon brine and served with a cider bourbon gravy! I howsweeteats.com

My parents bought Eddie a smoker for his birthday this year and he has been a smoking fool. We’ve smoked pretty much every meat we can get our hands on and ultimately declared about four or five weeks in a row, “this is the best chicken I’ve ever had!” and “this is the best pork I’ve ever had!”… respectively.

And now I can pretty much say that this is the best turkey I’ve ever had.

this applewood smoked turkey is prepped with a maple bourbon brine and served with a cider bourbon gravy! I howsweeteats.com

I’m still on board with my thoughts from earlier this week – as delicious as it is, it’s definitely a detour from my traditional, classic Thanksgiving table.

But on the other hand, it is freaking awesome. With the leftovers, we made salads and quesadillas and sandwiches and of course – you know I made you some leftover dishes like usual. I’ll always hook you up!

this applewood smoked turkey is prepped with a maple bourbon brine and served with a cider bourbon gravy! I howsweeteats.com

Let me give you the rundown: the turkey is prepped in a maple bourbon brine. YES. It’s not required but, um…. hello? Why not. It’s then smoked with applewood chips and bourbon and a pretty classic brown sugar spice rub that I just threw together on a whim. I measure it for you but I’ll probably never measure it again. Make it your own! Finally, it’s drizzled with an apple cider bourbon gravy which I watched my husband eat with a spoon. Yes. That is huge.

Also, as a note, if you’re not a huge bourbon person, the gravy does not have a heavy bourbon taste. Eddie hates the taste of bourbon (one too many college nights) and he loved this, but he usually enjoys bourbon glazes and marinades. Just a tip.

So yes… adventures in smoky turkey. It’s so good.

this applewood smoked turkey is prepped with a maple bourbon brine and served with a cider bourbon gravy! I howsweeteats.com


Applewood Smoked Turkey Breast with Cider Bourbon Gravy

Yield: serves about 4 to 6

Total Time: overnight to brine + dry, about 4 hours to smoke


1 cup kosher salt
1 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup whole black peppercorns
4 cups cold bourbon
1 1/2 gallons cold water
1 (7-pound) turkey breast

3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika (I used bourbon smoked paprika - so good)
1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
soaked applewood chips for smoking (our smoker calls for about 2 cups)
1/2 cup bourbon
1 cup water

cider bourbon gravy
the reserved turkey neck
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 shallots, diced
1 small apple, diced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup bourbon
2/3 cup apple cider
2 cups COLD low-sodium chicken stock
3 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour


Before beginning, make sure your bourbon, water and chicken stock are COLD.
To make the brine, combine the the salt syrup, sugar, peppercorns, bourbon and water in a large bucket. Remove any pieces from the turkey, like giblets or the neck, reserving to the neck for the gravy. Make sure to refrigerate it a resealable bag. Once the turkey is cleaned up, it in the liquid and refrigerate it for 8 to 12 hours.

Remove the turkey from the brine and pat it completely dry with paper towels. Place it on a baking sheet and refrigerate it for an hour or two so it dries thoroughly.

Preheat your smoker to 300-325 degrees F, adding your wood chips to the burner.

In a bowl, combine the sugar, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, onion powder and cumin, mixing well to combine. Gently lift the skin of the turkey and rub the melted butter all over the meat. Use it all up! I use both my hands and a spoon to drizzle it down in spaces that I can't reach. Take the spice rub and rub it all over the meat as well, underneath the skin. Rub the rest of it all over the outside of the skin, covering the turkey.

Combine the water and bourbon in a glass and pour it into the water pan of the smoker. Place the turkey in the smoker (I like to do it breast side down so the juices run down into it) and shut the door. Our smoker recommends smoking poultry for 20 to 30 minutes per pound, so I smoked this turkey for about 3 1/2 hours. Read the suggestions on your smoker and according to your turkey size, adjust the cook time. If desired, you can baste your turkey with melted butter while smoking, but I find that opening up the door to my smoked releases a good amount of heat, thus lowering the temperature. Once the turkey is finished, be sure to let it rest for about 20 minutes before slicing.

About 30 minutes before the turkey is finished, begin the gravy. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and the apple with the salt and pepper, stirring to coat. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the shallots and apple are soft. Add in the garlic and the turkey neck and brown it on all sides, cooking for about 5 minutes per side. Increase the heat to medium-high and pour in the bourbon. Stir continuously, scraping any brown bits from the pan and cook until almost all of the bourbon evaporates - you just want a thin layer of it left in the pan. Add in the cider and bring it to a simmer.

Pour the cold broth into a shaker bottle or jar. Add the flour on top, place the lid on the shaker and shake continuously for at least 30 seconds until the flour is incorporated. Remove the neck from the pan and begin to whisk the cider continuously. Slowly pour in the stock and flour while whisking and continue to stir for at least 10 to 15 minutes while the gravy thickens. Don't stop stirring!

Carve your turkey as desired and serve it with the gravy. I find that this gravy reheats well also - simply add it to a saucepan over low heat with a drop of water or stock and heat it, stirring occasionally, until it liquifies again.

[brine, turkey & gravy adapted from chow. If you'd like to smoke a whole turkey or do it on your charcoal grill, click through to follow those directions!]

this applewood smoked turkey is prepped with a maple bourbon brine and served with a cider bourbon gravy! I howsweeteats.com

And this picture makes me uncomfortable but I don’t even care.

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96 Responses to “Applewood Smoked Turkey with Cider Bourbon Gravy.”

  1. #
    Steve — November 22, 2015 @ 11:59 am

    Recipe looks wonderful, no smoker though. How would you change the recipe to make it in the oven?


  2. #
    Erin — November 26, 2015 @ 2:07 pm

    This looked and smelled wonderful but sadly my turkey was still raw after 6 hours (followed the directions and those of my smoker) and the gravy was really bitter. My husband feels like he ruined Thanksgiving because of this. :( Well, there are plenty of sides to eat and I had a packet of Turkey Gravy in the pantry.


  3. #
    Meredyth makris — November 27, 2015 @ 4:51 pm

    Made this for thanksgiving. It was nothing short of spectacular and everyone was blown away. Two of my guests Contacted me Today to see if they could have some of the leftovers–it’s that good.

    We did ours in our electric smoker and brined using apple cider instead of the bourbon listed on the recipe. We used the bourbon in the water tray in the smoker and in the gravy—very tasty. Thank you from sparing me from a boring roasted turkey breast!


  4. #
    Tracy — November 28, 2015 @ 9:10 am

    This was the first time I have ever brined a turkey before smoking it. I used a 14 pound turkey & used your recipes for the brine, the rub and the gravy. (I doubled the rub) It took about 4 hours to cook & was super moist & tender. Everything was awesome. My husband & I declared this was our best bird & gravy ever. We are also thoroughly enjoying grazing on the leftovers.



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