Apple Cider and Maple Brined Smoked Turkey Breast with Cider Bourbon Cream Sauce

Larry White

Apple Cider and Maple Brined Smoked Turkey Breast with Cider Bourbon Cream Sauce
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If there's one dish that will always stand the test of time, it's smoked turkey breast. With the use of today's instant read thermometers, you can pull the turkey out at the exact temperature that will ensure a moist piece of meat.

Using a salty and sweet aromatic brine will also enhance the juiciness of your bird while adding flavor. So if you miss your temperature mark by pulling the meat out of the smoker a tad bit too late, all is not lost. The brine acts as an insurance policy by helping you retain moisture.

I paired this smoked turkey breast with a delicious easy cider bourbon cream sauce that's great on any game bird, chicken or pork. It’s so good in fact, that if it comes in contact with your overfilled holiday plates of food, it'll just make everything else taste better.

Feel free to play around with the brine. You can sub honey for the maple syrup and add bird friendly herbs as well.


For the brine

3 quarts water

1 quart real apple cider

1 cup kosher salt

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup real maple syrup

1 teaspoon pink curing salt (instacure #1) *Optional

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1 onion, quartered

1 cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon whole cloves

2 sprigs of thyme

For cooking the turkey

1 to 2 boneless turkey breast

1 to 2 sticks of unsalted butter

Aluminum foil

Instant read thermometer

Seasoning of choice

For the Cider Cream Sauce

1 ½ cups apple cider

½ cup turkey stock or broth

2 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons bourbon

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

¼ teaspoon dried sage

Small pinch of dried chili flakes (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste


For the Smoked Turkey

  1. Bring one quart of the water to a simmer (reserve the remaining two quarts and cider for step two). Add all of the ingredients for the brine and stir well until the salt and sugar have dissolved.
  2. To a large bowl or pot add the hot brine and the remaining 2 quarts of water and 1 quart of apple cider. Put in the refrigerator until chilled.
  3. After the brine has cooled, add the turkey breast. Place a plate or bowl on top of the turkey in order to keep the breast submerged.
  4. Brine the turkey in your refrigerator for 6 to 18 hours.
  5. Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse with cool water and completely dry off with paper towels. Place on a plate and put it in your refrigerator for 4 to 24 hours to dry. This will help the smoke adhere to the meat. If you’re in a pinch for time, you can skip drying in the refrigerator. Simply dry the turkey with paper towels.
  6. Heat your smoker to 265 degrees.
  7. Season the breast with the seasoning of your choice.
  8. Insert an instant read thermometer into the meat in the thickest part. Place the turkey in your smoker. The closer to your vent pipe the better. The smoke exiting the smoker will pass by the turkey ensuring a stronger smoke flavor. Smoke the turkey for 1 ½ hours.
  9. Line an oven-safe cooking vessel with 2 layers of heavy duty aluminum foil. Remove the turkey from the smoker and place on top of the foil. Place the butter on top of the turkey. Enclose the turkey in the foil by crimping the foil together on top of the turkey.
  10. Place back in your smoker and cook until an internal temperature of 160 is reached. Remove from the smoker and allow to rest and carryover cook at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.
  11. Slice across the grain and serve with the cream sauce. The butter can be reserved and used for other dishes. Just be sure and taste for salt content.

For the cider bourbon cream sauce

  1. In a large skillet add the turkey broth, bourbon, apple cider, herbs and chili flakes. Stir to combine and bring to a slow simmer. Cook this mixture until it reduces to the consistency of maple syrup. This can take up to 20 minutes.
  2. Pour in the heavy cream and bring the mixture back to a gentle simmer. Reduce the sauce until it coats the back of  a spoon. This can take up to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with the smoked turkey.

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About the author

Larry White

Larry White is a hunter, avid outdoorsman and former restaurant chef whose life revolves around food and being in wild places.

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