How to Season a Turkey 3 Ways
There's no one way to season a turkey. In fact, the flavor combinations are truly limitless. Brine your turkey with cinnamon, brown sugar, and apple cider for a sweet, autumn turkey. Or baste your turkey with a lemon herb butter. Or turn up the heat with a Cajun dry rub!
Feeling overwhelmed? Whichever spices and herbs you choose to go with this holiday season (or any season), there are a few tried-and-true methods for seasoning your turkey just right. Learn how to baste, rub, and brine for a turkey that's tender and flavorful every time.
Related: How to Cook a Turkey
Method #1: Try Basting
Basting a turkey is an attractive option because it helps seal in moisture and leaves you with a nice and shiny finish. It involves brushing or pouring liquid over the turkey that will release fat as it cooks. This could mean using the juices in the roasting tin or applying your own mixture over the turkey.
How to Baste a Turkey
If you prefer to use the juices from the roasting tin, use a turkey baster or a long-handled spoon to pour the juices from the tin over the turkey. This should be done every 30 to 45 minutes while the turkey is in the oven. You may also baste by pushing a flavored butter under the skin of the turkey, or brushing it with an oil mixture before roasting. Test your basting skills with one of these top-rated recipes:
Method #2: Use a Seasoning Rub
Using a seasoning rub, like a dry rub, liquid rub, or paste, to season your turkey is another way to bring some serious flavor to your holiday dinner. Dry rubs are made up of powdered spices and dry herbs, while liquid rubs typically are mixed with broth or wine. Pastes are made by mixing spices with some type of oil.
How to Season Your Turkey With Seasoning Rubs
While you can season right on top of the skin, you'll get the best flavor by rubbing your seasoning under the skin and inside the turkey. This way the seasoning will have direct contact with the meat.
To season the breast meat under the skin, use your fingers to pull the skin away from the meat, and massage the rub underneath, directly onto the meat. Be careful not to tear the skin while doing this. Make sure to apply the rub generously on the inside as well, so all parts of the meat are well seasoned. While you're at it, you can also add aromatics to the turkey cavity such as onions, citrus fruits, fresh herbs, etc.
If you have time, place your seasoned turkey in the fridge for 24 hours to allow the seasoning to penetrate as much of the meat as possible. If using a rub is your method of choice for seasoning your turkey, try one of these recipes:
Method #3: Brine Your Bird
If you have a little more time on your hands, brining is the perfect way to keep your turkey tender and full of flavor. At the most basic level, brining involves submerging a turkey in a mixture of water and salt for around 24 hours before roasting. This process insures that the turkey is moist and seasoned throughout the cooking process. And there are almost endless ingredients you can add to your brining mixture for a variety of flavor combinations.
How to Brine a Turkey
For every 2 gallons of water stir in 2 cups kosher salt or coarse sea salt. You can experiment with different liquids and flavoring ingredients (orange juice, wine, apple cider, brown sugar, and rosemary to name a few). The mixture should be heated so that all the flavors combine, and then cooled off before being added to a large pot or bucket containing the turkey.
Once your turkey is submerged, it's ready to brine in the fridge for the next 8 to 24 hours. When you're done brining, rinse the turkey and pat it to dry. Roast it as usual, but remember to reduce or omit added salt since the turkey will already have absorbed a good amount. Check your turkey frequently, as brined turkeys tend to cook faster.
For more, read our guide to brining a turkey, or give it a try with one of these popular recipes: