Maple and Sage Brown Butter Roasted Turkey
This Thanksgiving turkey recipe roasts up so juicy, with a bronzed, crisp skin glazed with sweet, seasonal maple and sage brown butter.
There are so many different ways you can cook a turkey for Thanksgiving, and I think I’ve probably tried them all!
I’ve done the fried turkey thing, the smoked turkey thing, I’ve brined overnight, I’ve dry brined.
These methods all result in a delicious Thanksgiving turkey, truly. But honestly, my favorite way to do it is just to roast the turkey with some aromatic seasonings.
So I highly recommend making it easy on yourself with this simple maple and sage brown butter roasted turkey recipe.
With just a few simple ingredients, you get everything you could ever want in a turkey: moist, tender meat, seasonal, savory flavor, and crispy bronzed skin.
Table of Contents
- What’s great about this turkey recipe
- What does this maple and sage brown butter turkey recipe taste like?
- Special equipment
- How to make it
- How to serve it
- Expert tips
- Frequently asked questions
- A few more of my favorite fall and winter recipes
What’s great about this turkey recipe
- Tastes amazing: The combination of maple and sage brown butter is perfect for the season, and it infuses the turkey with a wonderful flavor.
- Few ingredients: You only need a handful of basic ingredients.
- Easy to make: Spend just a few minutes prepping this recipe, then just let the oven do the rest!
- Beautiful: This turkey recipe roasts up magnificently regal, with a gorgeous bronzed, crisp skin. Your guests will be so impressed!
What does this maple and sage brown butter turkey recipe taste like?
This mostly just tastes like a really good roast turkey. It’s moist and juicy, and it has that rich, savory flavor that’s so traditional at this time of year.
But there is a little hint of something extra, especially on the skin. The maple helps things to brown and gives a slightly earthy sweetness.
And the sage brown butter is so nutty and herbal. Sage is the quintessential Thanksgiving herb. When you taste it, you know it’s Thanksgiving!
Butter: I prefer unsalted butter because it lets me control the amount of salt in the dish. Different brands of butter can contain different amounts of salt, so this way you get a more consistent result. We are going to brown the butter, which caramelizes the milk solids and gives it the most wonderful savory nuttiness.
Sage: Use fresh sage leaves, they’ll crisp up in the brown butter.
Maple syrup: Real maple syrup helps to brown the bird and adds a uniquely seasonal flavor.
Salt: I like kosher salt best because it doesn’t have any additives (table salt usually contains iodine which can leave a bitter taste), so the flavor is pure. It’s also inexpensive and easy to find in a regular grocery store.
Pepper: I like ground black pepper for this recipe, but you can substitute with another kind if you like.
Turkey: Figure on about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of turkey per person. And if you decide to buy a frozen turkey, allow one day of thawing for every 4 pounds. It will likely take several days! So plan accordingly. It should be thawed in the fridge, but if you don’t have enough space you can put it in a cooler full of ice instead.
How to make it
Don’t be afraid to make a roast turkey! I know it sounds scary but really the oven does most of the work. There are only a few minutes of active time needed for this easy turkey recipe.
Step 1: Prep the turkey
Once your turkey is fully thawed, remove it from the packaging and take the giblets out. They’re usually in the main cavity of the bird, but sometimes they’ll put something in the neck as well, so be sure to look!
Place the turkey in the roasting pan with the breast side up. Bend the wing tips back and tuck them under the back of the turkey. And use a little kitchen string to tie the ankles together.
These quick steps will help your turkey to cook evenly, without getting overly browned on any of the parts that might otherwise stick out too far.
Step 2: Make the maple and sage brown butter glaze
Start by heating the butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat.
It’s best if you can do this in a light-colored skillet, so you can really see the browning as it happens.
I have a whole post dedicated to brown butter. You can read lots about it here: How to Brown Butter.
Basically, you’re going to let it melt, then boil, then foam, and then it will start to turn brown. Watch it carefully, it can happen pretty fast and you don’t want it to burn.
As soon as the butter becomes amber-brown, remove it from the heat and toss in the sage leaves. They will fry up and sizzle, and become crisp like a potato chip. And their essential oils will perfume the butter in the most gorgeous way.
Then just whisk in the maple syrup, salt, and pepper and that’s your turkey baste made!
Step 3: Baste and roast the turkey
Brush about half the mixture all over the outside of the bird, and roast the turkey until it registers an internal temperature of 165 degrees F in the thickest part of the thigh.
Every 30 minutes or so, you’ll want to go in and continue brushing on the maple and sage brown butter mixture as the bird cooks.
Step 4: Rest
This step is very important. Your turkey will continue to increase in temperature by as much as 10 degrees, even after it’s taken out of the oven.
During this time, the juices will move from the surface (near the skin) back into the meat. If you were to cut into the meat without resting it first, all the juice would run out all over your counter.
This resting time also frees up your oven, allowing you to warm up all the side dishes.
It may seem like a long time to leave it out, but trust me, it’s fine. If you’re concerned about it getting cold, just drape some foil loosely on top.
How to serve it
This turkey recipe pairs perfectly with all the traditional Thanksgiving side dishes. Serve it along with:
Have plenty: 1 1/2-pounds of turkey per person may sound like a lot, but it’s really the magic number. I’d even recommend purchasing a little more than that, so you can have some leftovers.
Allow enough time to thaw: Thawing a big heavy bird can take several days! If you buy frozen, you’ll want to start it thawing probably by Monday at the latest, maybe even the Thursday before if it’s closer to the 30-pound range. Make sure you buy it in plenty of time.
Use a cooler: It’s not safe to thaw a turkey at room temperature. It needs to be kept relatively cold throughout this process. If you don’t have space in your fridge, fill the bottom of a cooler with ice and pop the turkey in there. Check it every day and add more ice as needed.
Don’t stuff: It’s really not considered safe to stuff the cavity of the turkey. Prepare your dressing in a separate dish and bake it off while the turkey rests.
Use a thermometer: You’ll want to roast your turkey for about 15 minutes per pound, but the best and safest way to know whether your turkey is done is to take its temperature. A digital thermometer, inserted in the thickest part of the thigh, should register 165 degrees F minimum.
Rest: Resting the meat is so important! Tent it with foil and let it sit for at least 45 minutes before you carve it.
Frequently asked questions
If you’d really like to take the pressure off, roasting your turkey the day before can really help.
Follow all the recipe instructions, and then carve the turkey, place in it a large casserole dish, and sprinkle it with a little turkey stock so it doesn’t dry out.
Cover it with foil, then just reheat it in the oven until it’s warmed through.
The nutritional info in the recipe card below reflects a serving size of 1 1/2 pounds of meat per person.
If you have any leftovers, let them cool completely before wrapping tightly and chilling in the fridge.
Leftover turkey will keep for 3 to 4 days in the fridge, or up to 6 months in the freezer.
It can be thawed in the fridge and reheated in the microwave or in a 170-degree F oven (covered) until warmed through.
My favorite way to enjoy leftover turkey is on a sandwich. In my family, we get together the day after Thanksgiving for sandwiches. I like to load mine up with stuffing, cranberry sauce, and cole slaw, on toasted bread. It’s so good!
A few more of my favorite fall and winter recipes
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Maple and Sage Brown Butter Roasted Turkey
To Make the Maple and Sage Brown Butter Glaze
- Place the butter in a small, light-colored skillet over medium-low heat.
- Allow the butter to melt, then bubble and boil.
- Continue to cook the butter, swirling the pan occasionally, as it bubbles down to a simmer.
- Watch carefully as the butter becomes foamy and the milk solids begin to brown.
- When the butter takes on a nutty, amber color, toss in the sage leaves (be careful, they will sizzle and spit).
- Immediately pour the sage brown butter from the skillet into a heat-safe bowl to halt the cooking process, and vigorously whisk in the maple syrup, salt, and pepper.
To Cook the Turkey
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Remove the giblets from both cavities of the turkey, tuck the wing tips behind the bird, and tie the ankles together with kitchen string.
- Place the bird in a roasting pan, and brush it with about half the glaze.
- Cook until the juices run clear (not pink) and the thigh meat registers an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, basting with the glaze every 30 minutes (approx. 2 1/2 to 3 hours total for an 18-pound turkey).*
- Allow the turkey to rest for 1 hour at room temperature before carving.