Applewood Smoked Turkey Breast with Cider Bourbon Gravy – Thanksgiving on the Grill

Thanksgiving is almost here, and I am thankful, but like many, we still have all our shopping and food preparation to do. At times like these, simplifying the menu becomes very appealing. The Thanksgiving on the Grill series brings easier prep and rich flavors with Applewood Smoked Turkey Breast with Cider Bourbon Gravy. Featuring smoky and spicy flavors without having to prepare a whole bird, this dish is perfect for smaller family gatherings.

Begin with a brine of salt, maple syrup, black peppercorns, bourbon, and water to infuse moisture. Thoroughly rub the turkey breast with butter under the skin, then apply a rub of sugar, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, onion powder, and cumin under and over the skin.

Slowly smoke the turkey breast with soaked applewood chips until cooked throughout, then slice and serve. The gravy features shallots, apple, garlic, bourbon, and apple cider for a savory covering with a bit of heat.

Thanksgiving is about being thankful for friends and family, so don’t get bogged down with prep with the Thanksgiving on the Grill series.

Serves: 4-6

Applewood Smoked Turkey Breast with Cider Bourbon Gravy Ingredients


  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup whole black peppercorns
  • 4 cups cold bourbon
  • 1 1/2 gallons of cold water
  • 1 (7-pound) turkey breast


  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika (I used bourbon smoked paprika – so good)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • soaked applewood chips for smoking (our smoker calls for about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 1 cup water

Cider Bourbon Gravy

  • the reserved turkey neck
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 shallots, diced
  • 1 small apple, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup bourbon
  • 2/3 cup apple cider
  • 2 cups COLD low-sodium chicken stock
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Applewood Smoked Turkey Breast with Cider Bourbon Gravy Directions

  1. Before beginning, make sure your bourbon, water, and chicken stock are COLD.
  2. To make the brine, combine the salt syrup, sugar, peppercorns, bourbon, and water in a large bucket. Remove any pieces from the turkey, like giblets or the neck, reserving the neck for the gravy. Make sure to refrigerate it in a resealable bag. Once the turkey is cleaned up, put it in the liquid and refrigerate it for 8 to 12 hours.
  3. Remove the turkey from the brine and pat it completely dry with paper towels. Place it on a baking sheet and refrigerate it for an hour or two so it dries thoroughly.
  4. Preheat your smoker to 300-325 degrees F, adding wood chips to the burner.
  5. In a bowl, combine the sugar, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, onion powder, and cumin, mixing well to combine. Gently lift the turkey's skin and rub the melted butter all over the meat. Use it all up! I use my hands and a spoon to drizzle it down in spaces I can't reach. Take the spice rub and rub it all over the meat underneath the skin. Rub the rest of it all over the outside of the skin, covering the turkey.
  6. Combine the water and bourbon in a glass and pour it into the smoker's water pan. Place the turkey in the smoker (I like to do it breast side down, so the juices run down into it) and shut the door. Our smoker recommends smoking poultry for 20 to 30 minutes per pound, so I smoked this turkey for about 3 1/2 hours. Read the suggestions on your smoker, and according to your turkey size, adjust the cooking time. If desired, you can baste your turkey with melted butter while smoking, but I find that opening up the door to my smoked releases a good amount of heat, thus lowering the temperature. Once the turkey is finished, let it rest for about 20 minutes before slicing.
  7. About 30 minutes before the turkey is finished, begin the gravy. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and the apple with the salt and pepper, stirring to coat. Cook for 5 minutes, occasionally stirring until the shallots and apple are soft. Add in the garlic and the turkey neck and brown it on all sides, cooking for about 5 minutes per side. Increase the heat to medium-high and pour in the bourbon. Stir continuously, scraping any brown bits from the pan and cook until almost all of the bourbon evaporates – you just want a thin layer left in the pan. Add in the cider and bring it to a simmer.
  8. Pour the cold broth into a shaker bottle or jar. Add the flour on top; place the lid on the shaker and shake continuously for at least 30 seconds until the flour is incorporated. Remove the neck from the pan and begin to whisk the cider constantly. Slowly pour in the stock and flour while whisking, and stir for at least 10 to 15 minutes while the gravy thickens. Don't stop stirring!
  9. Carve your turkey as desired and serve it with the gravy. I find that this gravy reheats well also – simply add it to a saucepan over low heat with a drop of water or stock and heat it, occasionally stirring, until it liquefies again.

Taken from