Braised food

Cider Braised Turkey Thighs with Potatoes and Apples

This one-pot Thanksgiving meal might convince you to ditch the roast turkey for good, thanks to a braise that guarantees tender meat and a flavorful cooking liquid that eliminates the need for gravy.

Because braises are so forgiving and flexible, you can adapt this recipe to your needs. If you want an even slower braising, lower the oven temperature and cook longer. This recipe cooked best in a large (8 quart) oval Dutch oven, but it also worked in a 5 1/2 quart round Dutch oven. Because the food is more piled up in the smaller pot, with less opportunity for evaporation, the braising may need to cook longer and you may want to reduce the braising liquid on the stovetop after it comes out of the oven. Also swap out your choice of root vegetables or herbs.

Larger thighs are easily cut into several portions. Serve with bread for dipping or pour the juice over your mashed potatoes. See the related recipe for No-Knead Focaccia with Sausage, Apple and Shallots.

Click here to see all the dishes on our fancy and simple Thanksgiving menus for 2021.

Active time: 40 minutes ; Total time: 1h30

Get ahead: The embers can be prepared up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated in the casserole (if your casserole is not enamelled, transfer it to another container to preserve it). Reheat covered in a 350 degree oven or on the stovetop until heated through. For crispier cuts, you can reheat the turkey and vegetables on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven, with reheated cooking liquid served on the side.

Storage Notes: Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.


4 – 8

Size tested: 4-8 servings

  • 4 turkey thighs with bone and skin (4 1/2 to 6 pounds total), patted dry

  • Fine sea or table salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar

  • 1 1/2 cups (one 12-ounce can or bottle) hard cider (can substitute a mixture of low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth and unsweetened apple juice or non-alcoholic sparkling cider)

  • 15 sprigs of thyme, divided

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 1/2 pounds small golden potatoes, halved (quartered, if large)

  • 8 ounces carrots, washed, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces

  • 2 medium apples (13 ounces total), peeled, cored and each cut into 10 to 12 wedges

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Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Generously season the turkey thighs with salt and pepper.

In a large Dutch oven, preferably enameled cast iron and oval, over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Place two of the thighs skin side down in the pan and sear until golden brown (the pieces should come apart easily when browned), 3 to 4 minutes, using a splatter screen if necessary. Flip and cook until the other side is also dark golden brown, another 3 to 4 minutes, adjusting the heat if necessary. A little browning on the bottom of the pan (the bottom) is good. Transfer thighs to a large rimmed baking sheet or platter and repeat with remaining pieces.

Reduce heat to medium. Pour in all but about 1 tablespoon of melted turkey fat (you can strain and refrigerate the excess for roasting). Remove any burnt pieces of meat or skin. Add the garlic to the skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and golden but not browned, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Add the apple cider vinegar to the skillet, being careful of vigorous bubbling and steaming. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Stirring constantly, cook until vinegar is reduced to about 1 tbsp. Pour in the hard cider, scrape up the golden bits again, add 10 sprigs of thyme and the bay leaves, and return the heat to medium-high. Let the cider bubble until it has reduced by about two-thirds, 8-10 minutes (if using a round Dutch oven you may want to push it a little deeper as the liquid doesn’t cook as much easily in the oven). Turn off the fire.

Place the potatoes, carrots and apple wedges in the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange the browned turkey thighs on top, overlapping them as little as possible. Cover, place the pan in the oven, and braise for about 40 minutes, or until the turkey registers 155 to 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. (Don’t be surprised if it takes longer if your ingredients overlap more due to the shape or size of your Dutch oven.) Remove the lid and continue cooking until the meat reaches at least 165 degrees (a little higher is fine, as dark meat is forgiving) and vegetables are tender, another 5-10 minutes. Discard bay leaves and, if desired, thyme sprigs.

Let the ember sit for at least 10 minutes, as it will be very hot. You can put the lid back on the pot if you’re trying to keep it warm longer – the Dutch oven will insulate it well. Sprinkle with the leaves of the remaining thyme sprigs, then serve straight from the pan, making sure to include enough braising liquid.

VARIATION: If you want to use chicken thighs, cut the vegetables a little smaller so that they cook faster. Aim for 30 minutes covered in the oven then remove the lid until the chicken is done, another 15-20 minutes.

Origin of the recipe

From Voraciously editor Becky Krystal.

Tested by Becky Crystal.

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