How to Cook a Turkey with Maple Butter

Learn how to cook a turkey in flavorful maple butter packed with fresh herbs and lemon zest. It's so good, you'll want to spread this butter on everything!

If you’re wondering how to cook a turkey, you’ve come to the right place. While our cooking turkey in a bag method, passed down by my father, is tried and true, sometimes you want to step out of the box a little and try something new. That’s where this incredible maple butter comes in. The maple butter is packed with fresh herbs and lemon zest, and is so flavorful that I ended up making a second batch to spread on bread, potatoes, and vegetables for the next month!

When I first tried this recipe, I was a little uncertain about coating my turkey in the compound butter (a fancy term for butter mixed with stuff), because I thought the maple syrup and apple cider would make my turkey too sweet.

I’m so glad I chose to try it anyway, because the flavor was so surprising, but it still tasted like a traditional Thanksgiving turkey, because you can’t mess with a holiday food tradition! Well you can, but it might get you kicked off the holiday hosting rotation.

Learn how to cook a turkey in flavorful maple butter packed with fresh herbs and lemon zest. It's so good, you'll want to spread this butter on everything!

This was also new to me because I wasn’t sure how to cook a turkey without a bag, which was how I grew up cooking it with my father. But my favorite part of a roast turkey is the crispy skin, so I thought it would be good to try roasting it without the bag.

HOW TO COOK A TURKEY WITHOUT BURNING IT!

As you can see in the photos, I did experience burning in a few spots, so let me help you learn from my mistakes.

If you notice in the photos, the spots that burned on my turkey were the wing tips and drumstick tips, which I totally should have covered in foil, but simply forgot to. The other spots that burned were the two spots closest to the oven walls, on the breast end, and on the drumstick by the back wall.

I think that part of it was the turkey was SO stinkin’ big! But the recipe I followed also called for having the turkey uncovered and cooking at a high temperature the first 30 minutes. So I consulted a few friends and it was suggested to only do 15-20 minutes for browning the skin, then covering it for the rest of the cook time.

Learn how to cook a turkey in flavorful maple butter packed with fresh herbs and lemon zest. It's so good, you'll want to spread this butter on everything!

My friend Elise also cooks her turkey upside down, since the dark meat takes longer to cook and the juices of the turkey are then dripping down into the breasts. I’m absolutely trying that next year!

Now give this maple butter turkey recipe a try, because you will want to eat the butter straight from a jar. BUT know that I’ve changed the recipe to have you cook it in a roasting bag, since I know for sure how to cook a turkey in a bag without scorching it. You’ll get wonderfully juicy meat every time!

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Learn how to cook a turkey in flavorful maple butter packed with fresh herbs and lemon zest. It's so good, you'll want to spread this butter on everything!

How to Cook a Turkey with Maple Butter
Prep Time
45 mins
Cook Time
2 hrs 45 mins
Total Time
3 hrs 30 mins
 
Learn how to cook a turkey in flavorful maple butter packed with fresh herbs and lemon zest. It's so good, you'll want to spread this butter on everything!
Course: Main
Servings: 12 -16 servings
Author: Diana Johnson
Ingredients
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 cup ⁄3 real maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 lemon juice of (reserve left over lemon)
  • 3/4 cup butter softened
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lb whole turkey neck and giblets reserved, 12-16
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped celery
  • 1 1/2 cups hopped carrots
  • 1-2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Instructions
  1. Combine apple cider and maple syrup in a saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking until reduced to 1/2 cup, then remove pan from heat.
  2. Stir in 1 tablespoon thyme, 1 tablespoon marjoram, 1 tablespoon sage, and lemon zest.
  3. Stir in butter until melted, and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Cover, and refrigerate until cold.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place rack in lower third of oven.
  6. Place turkey inside a roasting bag,set in a roasting pan. Reserve 1/4 cup maple butter for gravy, and rub the remaining maple butter under the skin of the breast and over the outside of turkey.
  7. Arrange onion, celery, carrots, reserved left over lemon, turkey neck and giblets around the turkey inside the bag.
  8. Sprinkle 2 1/2 tablespoon thyme, 2 1/2 tablespoons sage, 2 1/2 tablespoon marjoram, and lemon juice over vegetables.
  9. Seal the bag and place in the oven.
  10. Roast turkey for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until a meat thermometer inserted into the meaty part of the thigh registers 170 degrees F.
  11. Snip one corner off the bag and use potholders to lift the turkey up and pour the juices from the bag.
  12. Remove turkey from the bag to a platter, and let stand 30 minutes.
  13. Strain the bag juices into a large measuring cup, and then remove any excess fat.
  14. Add enough chicken broth to bag juices to measure 3 cups.
  15. Transfer liquid to a saucepan, and bring to boil. In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup maple butter and 1/4 cup flour until smooth.
  16. Whisk flour and butter mixture into broth mixture, then stir in remaining thyme. marjoram, and sage.
  17. Boil until reduced to sauce consistency, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Learn how to cook a turkey in flavorful maple butter packed with fresh herbs and lemon zest. It's so good, you'll want to spread this butter on everything!

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