Bourbon Maple Brined Roast Turkey

A whole roast turkey on a serving platter.

Want a perfectly moist roast turkey recipe for your Thanksgiving dinner? The secret is an easy turkey brine that tenderizes the meat and keeps it juicy — EVERY TIME. Brine the turkey the day before cooking so the bird has time to absorb the flavors before it goes into the oven. This Bourbon Maple Brined Roast Turkey is a winner every time. No sweat.

The Argument For Brined Roast Turkey

I’ve sampled turkeys with and without brining and hands down, the brined roast turkey ALWAYS wins. That’s because the process of brining, not only adds flavor, but it also adds moisture to the bird. The salt and sugar in the brine, plump the cells of the turkey through osmosis, making it tender, juicy and FLAVORFUL. It’s a step I refuse to skip. If you’re looking for a reliable way to make a perfect roast turkey, this is it.

A brine can be as simple as salt and water. Really, that’s all you need to plump up those cells and infuse flavor, however, if this is your Thanksgiving turkey, you may want to add a few other ingredients to make it more interesting. I think the Bourbon Maple combination with whole spices is perfection.

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Ingredients For Easy Turkey Brine

  • Water
  • Kosher Salt
  • Brown Sugar
  • Maple Syrup
  • Whole Peppercorns
  • Allspice Berries
  • Cloves
  • Bay Leaves
  • Cinnamon Stick
  • Bourbon
  • Ice

Tips For Making Bourbon Maple Brine

Making the brine is simple and only takes a few minutes to assemble. The only trick is to:

  • Make sure the brown sugar and salt have completely dissolved in the water.
  • Strain the brine to remove the whole spices – otherwise you’ll be picking peppercorns and cloves out of the bird.
  • Cool the brine to room temperature before adding the bird. The ice should do this for you, but test it to make sure (you don’t want to poach your bird).
  • Make sure you have a container big enough for the brine AND the turkey.

Best Brining Container For Moist Turkey Recipe

I invested in this 12 quart food storage container a few years back (found it at a restaurant supply store) and it has been a game changer for me. I’ve brined my own corned beef in it, brined several chickens at a time and if you’ve ever needed to soak country ham, this is the way to go.

I was pouring the turkey brine over the bird to soak.

You wouldn’t think that covering the turkey in brine would be a hard thing, right? Well, it’s not, but you may want to heed these tips before covering the bird with easy turkey brine.

Tips For Covering the Turkey with Brining Liquid

  1. Place the turkey in the receptacle BEFORE you start to pour in the brining liquid. When you fill the container with the brine and add the turkey, if the container isn’t large enough, the turkey will displace the brining liquid and you’ll have a BIG MESS on your hands.
  2. Depending on:
  • How Tall You Are
  • How Strong You Are

Pouring the brine over the turkey may be a challenge…

I’m a little over 5 feet tall (and fairly strong) despite that, this storage container resting on a standard height counter top hits  me just a few inches below my shoulder. Lifting a full stock pot to shoulder level and pouring the contents over the turkey is a bit cumbersome, if not downright foolhardy. If you’re vertically challenged, like me, place the storage container (and turkey) on a low table or even on the floor to fill it.

Brining the turkey in a large receptacle.

Another Housekeeping Note

Make sure you’ve cleared a large enough space in the fridge for the turkey to brine.  For me, that meant throwing out last week’s leftovers and rearranging the condiments to other shelves – it was a production.

Arranging the brined turkey over a bed of aromatic vegetables.

Preparing To Roast The Turkey

  1. Once you’re ready to cook the turkey, remove it from the brine and place it in a large roasting pan.
  2. Pat the turkey completely dry (both inside and out) with paper towels.
  3. Roughly chop the vegetables and scatter about half of them in the roasting pan.
  4. Loosely stuff the bird with the other half of the veg and herbs, leaving half an apple to rest in the neck cavity to fill the space. Fold the turkey neck over the apple.  Neutral veggies like onions and celery, carrots, apples adds moisture and aromas etc.  

Note:  I don’t actually serve these veggies, they are just there for the roasting process. 

Compound Butter For Brined Roast Turkey

For a golden, crispy skin, I like to coat the outside of the turkey with an herb compound butter. This is really simple to make, just combine the softened butter with the fresh herbs, kosher salt and black pepper and smear it all over the outside of the bird and between the skin and the flesh.

The roasted turkey in the roasting pan with vegetables.

Adjusting Your Oven Racks & Other Tips

  • Most of us automatically keep our oven racks right in the center of the oven.  That’s fine for most cooking, but the turkey is BIG.  Bigger than most things you’re probably roasting. Make sure to adjust your oven racks so that the turkey fits in it with about 3-5 inches of room between the bird and the heating element (if it’s too close, it will burn the top of the turkey before the meat is even done.)
  • Baste the turkey every hour with chicken broth over the legs and breast. (You can make your own broth if you want to know what to do with leftover rotisserie chicken).
  • If your oven cooks unevenly, you’ll want to rotate the pan 180° each hour to ensure even cooking.
  • If the breast meat starts to get too dark, place a piece of tin foil over it. That will allow the meat to continue to cook without burning the skin.
ChefAlarm thermometer

How Do I Know When The Brined Roast Turkey Is Done?

The turkey is done when the meat reaches 165°. To make sure I’ve got it right, I use a good oven thermometer with a probe and an alarm like this ChefAlarm from ThermoWorks.  <<< Click on this affiliate link for special deals.

The nice thing about this probe is that it stays in the turkey and TELLS YOU when it’s ready. No hovering, no wringing your hands together with worry… It TELLS YOU… I also have the Thermoworks Thermapen Mk4 which is a fantastic multipurpose instant read thermometer and I’d recommend either one for ensuring a perfectly cooked and perfectly moist turkey recipe.

Serving the roast turkey on a platter.

This Bourbon Maple Brined Roast Turkey is a thing of beauty. With a burnished, golden skin and tender, juicy flesh, it’s what you want in your Thanksgiving turkey.  In case you’re wondering, I don’t stuff my turkey. Instead, I make two casserole dishes of stuffing (one for each end of the table, that’s fair, right?) and plenty of gravy.

Carving the roast turkey to serve.

What To Serve With Bourbon Maple Brined Roast Turkey:

Carved turkey on a platter.

More Moist Turkey Recipes & Other Holiday Mains:

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A brined roast turkey on a serving platter.
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4.52 from 29 votes

Maple Bourbon Brined Roast Turkey

To get the moistest, most flavorful bird, you need to brine it!  This recipe makes it easy — just clear a shelf in your fridge — time will do the work for you!
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword brine, turkey
Dietary Restrictions Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, Paleo
Prep Time 1 day
Cook Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 1 day 3 hours 50 minutes
Servings 12


  • turkey brining bags or 12 quart pot or receptacle
  • large roasting pan
  • turkey baster


  • 12-14 pound turkey neck, giblets and liver removed

For The Brine

  • 4 quarts water divided
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • cups brown sugar
  • ¾ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 8 cups ice
  • ½ cup bourbon

Aromatics For The Turkey

  • 5 carrots rough chop
  • 2 large onions rough chop
  • 4 stalks celery – including leaves rough chop
  • 2 granny smith apples cut into halves
  • 6-7 sprigs thyme
  • 5-6 sage leaves
  • 6-7 sprigs parsley
  • 1-2 cups chicken broth for basting

For The Herb Compound Butter

  • 4 tablespoons butter softened
  • 5-6 large sage leaves chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper



  • Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large stock pot. Remove from heat and stir in the kosher salt, brown sugar, maple syrup, black peppercorns, cloves, allspice, cinnamon stick and bay leaves. Stir until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved and let it rest for 15-20 minutes. Place a sieve over a large bowl and strain the brine to remove the solids.
  • Add ice to the brine and stir until the ice melts. Add an additional 4-8 cups of cool water or until you have about 4 to 4½ quarts of liquid. Stir in the bourbon.


  • Remove the offal items (neck, giblets, heart and liver) from the turkey and save for gravy. Use a large food storage container, stock pot or brining bag to hold the turkey and the brine. Add the turkey to the container and pour the brine over the bird. Seal up the container and brine for 12-18 hours in the refrigerator, turning the turkey over at least once during the brining process.


  • In a small bowl, combine the butter, sage, thyme, salt and pepper together with a fork until smooth and creamy.
  • Set the oven rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°.


  • Remove turkey from brine and dry thoroughly with paper towels.
  • Place one half of the granny smith apple into the “neck” cavity of the turkey and cover with the excess flap of turkey neck skin. Loosely fill turkey cavity with about half of the carrots, celery, onion, and thyme, sage and parsley. Scatter the other half in the bottom of the roasting pan. Place the turkey in the pan, resting on the vegetables. You can also use a turkey rack in the pan if you have one, but resting it on the vegetables accomplishes the same thing.
  • Liberally coat the outside of the turkey with the compound butter.
  • Place turkey in the oven and roast for 1 hour. After one hour of cooking, baste the turkey with chicken broth every hour or so until the broth has been used, then use the drippings for basting the turkey. Roast the turkey for about 2 to 2½ more hours or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees. Remove the turkey from the oven and tent it with aluminum foil. Let the turkey rest for 20 minutes before carving.


To Defrost A Frozen Turkey: Place the packaged turkey onto a lipped sheet pan and place it in the refrigerator to thaw. This will take 2-3 days. Plan ahead!
For last minute thawing: (I don’t recommend letting it get to this point)  place the frozen turkey in a large stock pot and run cool water over it, changing the water several times.  It will take several hours to thaw, but you’ve got a better than average shot of actually eating the turkey on Thanksgiving day.


Calories: 579kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 77g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 261mg | Sodium: 9945mg | Potassium: 963mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 2095IU | Vitamin C: 6.2mg | Calcium: 99mg | Iron: 4mg

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  1. How long and what temp would this be in a toaster oven?

    1. I’ve never cooked a turkey in a toaster oven… I didn’t think that was even possible, unless you’re cutting the bird into pieces before cooking. I recommend using an regular oven for this, but if there’s anyone else that has experience with toaster oven turkey, I’m all ears.

  2. I have been searching recipes for Thanksgiving this year and found your recipe. My husband like anything cooked with wine so I want to use your recipe for my first turkey this year. Can I ask the butter you use here is salted or unsalted?

  3. Is 325° the roasting temp for a conventional oven as well? This will be my first time cooking the turkey! I don’t see a “roast” option haha. Thanks so much!

  4. I can’t wait to try this tomorrow. I plan on serving thanksgiving around 3pm so I’m thinking I should start the brining process around 5pm tomorrow.
    My question is- I have a convection oven. What do you recommend the temperature to be and cook time?
    Thank you!

    1. A convection oven cooks about 25% faster than a traditional oven. Keep the temperature at 325° and start basting at the 45 minute point. Total cooking time should reduce to 2 to 2 1/2 hours, depending on how big your turkey is. Be sure to use a good instant read thermometer to make sure it achieves the temperature.

  5. Thanks for your recipe! I will be making it this year. For the instructions on cooking the turkey do you cook the turkey in total 3-3.5 hours or do you cook the additional 2-2.5 hours after the basting has been done which could take a few hours? Sorry I’m a novice. Thanks in advance!

    1. Yes, the turkey cooks for 3-3 1/2 hours total. Don’t start basting the turkey until it’s been in the oven for an hour. Once the first hour is up, you can baste every 30-60 minutes until the meat is cooked.

  6. I have never brined a turkey, but yours looks amazing! I have brined chickens and turkey breast. I use an old 16 qt. Cooler that I only use for brining— it frees up the refrigerator space and I add enough ice so everything stays cold overnight. It’s the perfect solution for us! Happy Thanksgiving and thanks again for a great recipe and beautiful photos!

    1. Thanks so much Nancy! Getting a receptacle large enough to hold the turkey and the brine is the most challenging part! Sounds like you’ve got it covered!

  7. 5 stars
    I’ve never tried brining a turkey before….but yours looks GORGEOUS. Glad I found this recipe early so I can give it a go before the holiday. Thanks for the tips—including cleaning out a spot for this in the fridge. I love a good excuse to clean things out. So cathartic. It’s time for an update…I’ve been making the same boring turkey for 25 years.

  8. Trish Bozeman says:

    5 stars
    Lisa, can I come over for Thanksgiving? LOL! This is fabulous! Love the bourbon and the maple flavors in that brine. Brined turkeys are always the most moist, IMO. Perfect for the holidays!

  9. mimi rippee says:

    Well, I’ve never used bourbon in a brine before! I bet it adds some great fall-like flavors to the turkey, along with the other goodies. My SIL gave me a gadget called The Briner years ago and I absolutely love it, especially for turkeys. It has an internal lid that keeps the turkey submerged. Really smart.

  10. Jenni LeBaron says:

    5 stars
    You had me at maple bourbon! This roast turkey recipe looks like a tremendous upgrade to the classic Thanksgiving turkey and one that guests will be talking about long after. Can’t wait to try this recipe!

  11. 5 stars
    I love to brine poultry, it makes such a difference. I have never tried bourbon or maple. What a great combination! Thanks for the tips with the brining, makes a huge difference since I haven’t brined in awhile. Saving this!

  12. 5 stars
    Well if it has bourbon, that makes it delicious. I love cooking with bourbon. I have never brined a turkey, but this looks like something I need to try. Or I should say, give it to hubby for a project. All those flavours sound fantastic. What a holiday meal this makes.

  13. Kelly Anthony says:

    5 stars
    This brined roasted turkey looks perfectly golden on the outside and super moist on the inside.

  14. Alexandra says:

    5 stars
    I love a good brine when it comes to preparing poultry, and this one is no exception. A delicious preparation!

  15. Patty at Spoonabilities says:

    5 stars
    What a delicious way to prepare a turkey. I’ve never brined a turkey before and cannot wait to try this. Fantastic presentation!

  16. 5 stars
    Indeed, so much yes to brining. It simply is day and night difference between brining and no brining. And I love all the stuff you put into the brining liquid, plus that butter! I may just found the bird to cook for this year. 🙂

  17. 5 stars
    This honestly looks fantastic! I love the steps involved and how clear they are to follow. That turkey looks like it has had so much time and attention paid to it to really honour the bird. I bet it tastes amazing!!

    1. Thank you Adrianne. It’s actually easier than you might imagine.

  18. Cant wait to try this one!!

  19. Hi Lisa

    What’s the purpose of the ginger ale in this brine, never seen this before. Also, do you butter both sides of the bird or just the front.

    1. brines are essentially salt and sugar dissolved in water. The ginger ale acts as the sugar in this one.

  20. mary frances says:

    5 stars
    Hi Lisa,
    printed the recipe for the apple strata and will let you know how it turns out. Will make some changes and make it vegan but it sounds yummy.