Applewood Smoked Turkey with Cider Bourbon Gravy.
I want to faceplant into this plate so hard.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Applewood Smoked Turkey Breast with Cider Bourbon Gravy
- 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.
Did you make this recipe?
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And this picture makes me uncomfortable but I don’t even care.
153 Comments on “Applewood Smoked Turkey with Cider Bourbon Gravy.”
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We made this tonight and it was absolutely amazing! The brine, the rub, the gravy, killed it. I loved the chipotle/brown sugar rub flavor combo. The bourbon in the smoker was genius too. I’m drooling thinking about it. Whatever you do, don’t skip the gravy. It was the cherry on the cake. Seriously, everyone was blown away on how tasty the turkey was. This is a definite keeper. Thanks so much for sharing!!!!!!!!!!!!
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With the salmonella scare this year, do you think this recipe would work with a pork roast? Would you still brine the same?
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Made this yesterday with a 16 lbs turkey at 225 for 8 hours. Turned out perfectly! Everyone loved it and we received lots of compliments.
Did you double e everything? We are going to make this with a large turkey as well!
Yes. Used a brining bag and let it sit over night and smoked it.
I modified this recipe, only because I don’t have a smoker and also already had a giant 16 pound whole turkey. All I did was double the brine ingredients, and double the butter and rub ingredients. Then prepared as directed, placed in a roaster, covered the breasts with foil, and roasted for 3 hours at 325° in my oven. I basted every hour with the liquid in the roasting pan. After 3 hours I raised the heat to 400°, removed the foil, and baked an additional hour to crisp the skin. It was freaking phenomenal!! Everyone said it was the best turkey they’d ever had, so flavorful and moist. So if you don’t have a smoker, do this anyway! You won’t regret it. This recipe is genius.
Aside from a few grammatical errors in the recipe, over all a good recipe. Much like you, I don’t follow recipes, I make it up as I go. My changes were to cut the breasts off and save the legs for oven roasting. The rest of the bird was saved for later. Turkey stock here I come. I also removed all the skin, soaked in the brine for 7 hours, patted dry and then dry rub and in the fridge for about an hour, uncovered, I don’t like to dry out my Turkey too much before throwing on the smoker. Smoked in my offset smoker for 6 hours at 225-250. Put it over the direct heat for about 5 minutes per side to get that extra dark outside and then let it rest wrapped in foil for 30 minutes and another 15 minutes unwrapped. Amazing!
Ironically your Turkey rub is similar to my dry rub recipe I use for pork and chicken, major difference I used ground whole habanero rather than chili powder and add in about 1.5 tablespoons of white sugar as well to help off set the heat from the habanero.
I have never smoked a turkey before but after reading your recipe I am going to give it a try. I was always afraid of it not tasting right or being to dry. I will give it a go and let you know how it turns out as your looks delicious.
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The best brine ever!
I’ve used this recipe 3 years in a row, and it’s always everyone’s favorite turkey! I’ll be making it again this year!
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Delicious. Thank you for providing detail instructions. Easy to read and follow. Husband found this recipe, I ordered a pastured turkey from our vendor. Used the full recipe for a 4.5 lb turkey breast. Was concerned the amount of bourbon thinking it will make the bird “boozy”, it didn’t. Very moist. Thank you for creating and sharing.
OMG This recipe is amazing. I used an air chilled chicken because I couldn’t get a turkey breast. I guess because of covid still. I spatchcocked it and halved everything. Did the brine and smoked it 2.25 hrs.
I highly recommend making the gravy. I was very doubtful that I would like it at all much less put it on mashed potatoes. I was pleasantly surprised at how good it all was.
These all sound wonderful but a few of my guests & family do not drink alcohol. Bourbon and/or wine are in all the brines and cooking. I’m disappointed.
We have made this turkey breast recipe for at least the last 4 years. So so good. People come to our Friendsgiving just for THIS turkey. Seriously. No one leaves without leftovers (I’ve even made 2 turkey breasts just so people would have “to go turkey”). We have made variations (less bourbon in the brine, add apple cider for some of the bourbon, etc) but it really is at its best following the instructions to a t. Also, I always make stock with the bones once it been picked over—it makes great stock—its smoky wonderfulness makes the best gravy. Just be sure to not have too much of the rub on the parts you simmer, otherwise it will be too salty.
Thanks…this one is a winner!!
How would you make the gravy ahead of time (so obviously I won’t have a Turkey neck)? Thank you so much!