2020 has brought a lot of change for us all, but there’s one thing that we’ll always make time for: Thanksgiving. On the final Thursday in November, we take a moment to sit, eat, and be thankful for all the things we’re fortunate to have. Amongst that long list is usually the food staring right at us on the dining table. Traditionally, turkey has been the main dish of choice for many Thanksgiving meals around the country for decades. But if you’re getting tired of the same old recipe year in and year out, this is certainly the year to put a spin on things.
The ultimate turkey recipe is just a few steps away and we’ve got all the secrets on how to make it. Follow along as we give you an in depth look at how to make this truly tasty Maple-Brined Turkey with Bacon Gravy!
Why Brining is Important and How to Make It
Simply put, brining means to soak or preserve a food in salty water. The difference between brines and marinades is that brining acts as overcooking insurance, adding juiciness to meat with water and keeping it anchored there with salt. When cooking such a large dish, like turkey, the brining process is vital to ensuring you don’t get cuts of dry turkey when you sit down for dinner on Thanksgiving. Preparing the brine should be done well in advance of the big day, with this recipe calling for prep to take place about 14 hours before grilling.
To make your brine, here are the ingredients you’ll need:
- 1 quart of warm water
- 1-1/2 cups of dark maple syrup
- 1 cup of white sugar
- 3/4 cup of kosher salt
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon of dried rosemary
- 1 tablespoon of dried sage
- 1 tablespoon of dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon of cracked black peppercorns
After spreading out all your ingredients, it’s time to combine them into one mixture. Start by placing each of the ingredients individually into a large mixing bowl, making sure you don’t forget the secret ingredient of dark maple syrup. Using a whisk, combine all the ingredients until they form one consistent texture. Once that is complete, move onto the turkey and prepare it for the brining stage.
Prepping Your Turkey for the Brining Process
Cooking a turkey requires foresight and a little patience. Most chefs will tell you the stakes are high for a Thanksgiving meal because your work takes center stage and is on display for all your friends and family. But as they say, pressure makes diamonds, and this recipe is a gem. When preparing your turkey for the tasty brine you’ve just put together, time is of the essence. The thawing process, depending on how large your turkey is, can take up to a few days when thawing in a refrigerator. The last thing you want to do is try to microwave a 16-inch turkey just to get the ice to melt, so start your thawing process well in advance.
Once the turkey is thawed, extracting the neck and giblet package from its cavities will be a lot easier. Your turkey is now ready to be brined in a large and durable plastic bag. Follow these steps to securely combine your turkey and brine without creating a mess.
- Begin by placing the plastic bag inside a large stockpot, and ensure you have plenty of space for the turkey and liquid brine.
- Take your turkey and place it at the bottom of the bag, leaving the bag open for the next step.
- Pour your brine mixture into the bag, along with ice, so that the brine covers the turkey as much as possible when the bag is closed and tightly sealed.
- Seal the bag and place the pot inside your refrigerator, letting it cool in the fridge for at least 12 hours, but no more than 14.
When time is up, you can begin preparing the freshly brined turkey for the grilling process. Follow these instructions for the best way to ready your flavor-packed turkey.
- Pull the turkey from the fridge and remove it from the brine. The easiest way to do this is in your sink, as you can discard the brine down the drain afterwards.
- Once the turkey is removed, rinse it under cold water and pat it down with a paper towel to dry it off.
- Next, take one large chopped onion and stuff it inside the turkey’s neck cavity. Pin back the neck skin with toothpicks or skewers, tuck back the wing tips, and tie the drumsticks off with butcher twine.
- Take three tablespoons of unsalted melted butter and spread it evenly around the surface of the turkey. This will give it a crisp outer skin during the grilling process.
- Stack two foil pans on top of each other and place a roasting rack on the pans. This allows any excess fluids to drip onto the pans rather than down your grill.
- Lastly, place your turkey on the rack and let it sit for one hour. While you wait, prepare your wood chips for the grill by soaking them in water for 30 minutes, then placing them in your smoker box.
A good cook is always prepared and following these steps will produce the tastiest turkey you’ve ever had!
Fire Up the Grill
We promise all your hard work will pay off soon! Now that you’re ready to grill your turkey, the finish line is in sight. Those wood chips and the smoker box you prepped in the previous step will make sure this turkey gets that rich smoky flavor you’ve been craving all day. When you’re ready, fire up your grill and follow these directions on how to achieve the ultimate grilled turkey taste.
- As with all recipes, begin by preheating your grill. While it warms up, place your smoker on your grill and turn your burners up to a medium-low heat. Wait for the woodchips to begin smoking, then prepare your turkey to be placed on the grill.
- Turn off one burner and designate that area for indirect cooking. This will be where you place the turkey.
- With your turkey facing breast side down on the roasting rack, and the foil pans underneath, place it directly over the burner that’s been turned off.
- Close the grill’s lid and let the turkey cook for about one hour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- After one hour, open the lid of your grill and flip your turkey, making sure to replace the wood chips in your smoker box with new, pre-soaked ones.
- Close the lid of your grill and let your turkey cook for another 60 to 90 minutes. Around that time, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of your turkey.
- Once it reaches a minimum of 170 degrees Fahrenheit, it will be ready for some extra flavor in the form of maple syrup. Take two tablespoons of dark maple syrup and brush it all over the surface of your turkey.
- Finally, let it cook for approximately 15 more minutes, then remove it from the grill.
Can you smell just how incredible this turkey will be? Depending on how close your neighbors are, you can expect them to peek over and see just what you’re whipping up in your backyard!
Putting On the Finishing Touches and Serving
There are only a few minutes separating you and your guests from the Thanksgiving meal of a lifetime. Once you remove the turkey from the grill, let it rest on a cutting board for about 20 to 30 minutes. After it has cooled slightly, it’s time to do the honors. Carving a turkey is an art form in itself, but knowing you’ve got hungry guests ready to eat, be generous with your cuts and let everyone get a hearty slice of turkey on their plate. After all, there’s probably plenty to go around!
Thanksgiving really isn’t complete without the proper accompaniments. Perhaps the second-best part about your Thanksgiving meal, behind the turkey, is the delicious gravy! The maple brine might be the headliner of this recipe, but there’s a reason why it also calls for a bacon-infused gravy. Rich with bits of crispy bacon that you can make right on your grill’s side burner, it’s the perfect item to drizzle on your turkey. Add in your favorite sides, and this Thanksgiving is bound to go down in the record books!
Using Blue Rhino to Bring Thanksgiving to Life
Thanksgiving comes with its fair share of stressors. Worry about one less thing by letting Blue Rhino fuel your cookout. Thanks to our Propane Finder, you can spot the closest location carrying our trusted propane tanks, and never have to spend another moment concerned with where you can exchange or purchase a fresh grill cylinder. Let us handle the propane while you whip up this amazing Maple-Brined Turkey this Thanksgiving!