Smoky Maple Turkey


This smoky and maple-flavored make-ahead Thanksgiving turkey has a genius reheating trick.

Overhead View of Smoky Maple Turkey Sliced and Served on Oval Dish with Lemon Wedges
Photo: Victor Protasio
Hands On Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
4 hrs

Just when you think you've learned all the tips and tricks to make a succulent Thanksgiving turkey, a surprising one appears. In this recipe, you'll start by coating the turkey in a smoky maple butter that goes under the skin for a pop of flavor and then on top for a mouth-watering golden color. After the bird roasts, this beauty can be served on the spot—after it rests, of course, to ensure that the turkey's juices settle in. But this clever reheating technique from Aimée Wimbush-Bourque, author of Brown Eggs and Jam Jars, will allow you to roast the turkey a day in advance. Simply store the cooked, carved turkey in iceberg lettuce leaves drizzled with a little stock, and then reheat in the oven. The lettuce keeps the meat tender and juicy, and you'll be less stressed on Turkey Day.


  • 1 12- to 14-lb. whole fresh turkey, gizzards removed

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 medium lemon, zested (about 1 tsp. zest) and halved

  • 2.50 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

  • 1 yellow onion

  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise

  • 2 cups apple cider

  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, separated into leaves, if storing

  • ¼ cup chicken broth, if storing


  1. Place turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a large roasting pan. Dry with paper towels and tuck wing tips under. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

  2. Preheat oven to 450 F with rack in lower third position. Stir together butter, syrup, paprika, pepper, lemon zest, and 2 teaspoons salt in a medium bowl. Using your fingers, carefully loosen skin at base of turkey breast and thighs. Spread about ¼ cup butter mixture under skin, taking care to keep skin from tearing. (If you can't reach all the meat, that's OK.) Spread remaining butter mixture over skin of breast and wings. Sprinkle breast and wings with remaining ½ teaspoon salt.

  3. Cut onion in half lengthwise (reserve 1 half for another use). Place lemon halves, onion half, and garlic halves in the cavity. Tie drumsticks together with kitchen twine. Pour cider into pan.

  4. Place turkey in the oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 350 F. Roast until a thermometer inserted in the thickest portion of the thigh registers 165 F, about 2 to 2½ hours, rotating the pan halfway through. After 1 hour of roasting, add water to the pan to a depth of ½ inch. Tent breast and legs with foil if needed to prevent over-browning.

  5. To serve immediately: Transfer turkey to a cutting board; let rest for 30 to 60 minutes. Remove kitchen twine, carve, and serve.

To Store and Prep at Feast Time

Transfer turkey to a cutting board; let rest for 45 minutes. Remove kitchen twine and carve. Let cool for 30 minutes. Line an oven-safe 13-by-9-inch baking dish with about half of lettuce leaves. Arrange carved meat on lettuce and drizzle with broth. Cover turkey with remaining lettuce leaves and seal dish tightly with aluminum foil. Refrigerate for up to 1 day. To serve, bake turkey in foil-covered baking dish at 350 F until heated through, 30 to 45 minutes. Discard lettuce and serve.

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