Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Smoky Maple Brined Roasted Turkey Breast

Smoky Maple Brined Roasted Turkey Breast

Last week, I shared a recipe for Mole Brined Roast Turkey Breast. Because I'm a big believer in variety, today I'm offering another turkey brine recipe. This one is similar to the brine I made in 2012, but with a more woodsy focus to the flavors: maple, rosemary, juniper and a bit of liquid smoke.

You may have noticed that I always have recipes for turkey breasts instead of turkeys. This is for a few reasons. First, I tend to host small Thanksgiving dinners. We just don't have the space for a big gathering. But second, even if I was having more guests, I'd probably still roast turkey breasts. They are easier to get right--you don't have to worry about whether the breast will dry out while still cooking the dark parts. The whole thing takes much less time. And they don't take up as much space in the oven, leaving room available for the other dishes you may want to roast concurrently with the turkey.

When roasting turkey, I recommend gauging its temperature with an instant-read thermometer. Don't rely on the pop-out that comes with many turkeys. I find them to be very inaccurate. You can see above that the hasn't popped yet, but I know the turkey was done based on its internal temperature having reached 165 F. I've also had the opposite happen: the thing pops, but the turkey really needs more roasting time.

Smoky Maple Brined Roasted Turkey Breast

6-8 lb. turkey breast

Brine for breast:
2 tbsp. juniper berries
2 tbsp. all spice berries
1/2 cup kosher salt (may substitute 1/4 cup table salt)
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp. liquid smoke
2 sprigs of rosemary
8 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
8 sprigs thyme
2 whole cloves

Roast breast:
1 sweet onion, sliced
1/2 bunch sage sprigs
1/2 bunch thyme sprigs
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Seasoned salt and fresh-ground black pepper

1. Place juniper and allspice berries in a resealable plastic bag and crush (you can use a rolling pin, a heavy pan or even a cocktail muddler to crush them). Transfer to a large pot or brining bag. Add salt, maple syrup, liquid smoke and 2 cups hot water. Stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Add rosemary, parsley, thyme and cloves. Add 3 quarts cold water and stir to combine. Place turkey breast in pot/bag. Cover pot or seal bag and refrigerate to brine overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 450 F. Set a V-rack inside a roasting pan. Place onion slices, sage and thyme sprigs on rack. Remove turkey breast from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Put turkey breast on top of herbs on rack. Brush turkey all over with melted butter and season with salt and pepper.

3. Roast turkey for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 F, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast reads 165 F, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours total roasting time. Let breast rest 30 minutes before carving.

Other Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving Central (all Thanksgiving recipes)

Mole Brined Roast Turkey Breast

Brined Roasted Turkey Breast

Roasted Turkey Breast with Herb Butter

Easy Turkey Gravy


  1. Love this. Plan to do it with whole turkey though.

    1. Awesome! I think you could just adjust the proportions and it would work fine. I tend to use less salt than standard brine ratios, so you might want to consider using more. In America's Test Kitchen's The New Best Recipe cookbook, they call for 2 cups of table salt for 2 gallons of water, which is significantly more salt, although they only brine the bird for 4 hours, instead of overnight.