Secrets to a Perfectly Seasoned Turkey

Cook, Learn, Thanksgiving, Tips & Techniques

Don’t stress out about a dry, bland turkey this Thanksgiving. In reality, there are plenty of ways to ensure a moist and flavorful bird without too much trouble.


Some cooks swear by brining, while others prefer simple salt and pepper sprinkled on the turkey skin. No matter what you choose, keep reading for our expert seasoning tips.


Using a Spice Rub

It’s easy to create signature seasoning blends for the Thanksgiving bird, from spice rubs and pastes to savory liquid blends.


First, choose a medley of your favorite herbs and spices. For the freshest flavor and aroma, grind whole spices in a spice grinder, then custom-blend your seasonings. Add olive, canola or grape seed oil to make a paste, or broth or wine for liquid blends. Dry rubs and pastes are rubbed into the skin, which should be scored first to allow the flavor to permeate the turkey.
Dry rubs and pastes are rubbed into the skin, which should be scored first with a meat tenderizer to allow the flavor to permeate the turkey. Rub the spices under the skin and on the outside of the turkey before roasting. 



This method allows the seasonings to penetrate the meat and encourages the fat to render, resulting in optimal flavor and texture.



Tool Tip

You can also use a flavor injector to achieve a savory, juicy bird. The syringe inserts liquid flavoring into the turkey before roasting, eliminating the need to baste.

Brushing the turkey with liquid while it roasts helps to seal in moisture, creating a delicious, attractive finish. Basting large birds will prevent them from drying during their longer cooking times.


A basting liquid can be as simple as a good-quality oil, or it can be a vibrantly seasoned mixture with flavorful liquids and aromatic ingredients. It should always include some fat to carry flavor and prevent the food from drying out.


Avoid basting too often, as heat will escape from the oven and prevent proper cooking. Basting every 45 minutes to 1 hour is a good rule of thumb.


How to Brine

A good brine keeps your turkey tender, succulent and packed with flavor.


To make a basic brine, stir in 1/4 cup kosher salt for every 4 cups of liquid. (The salt should be kosher salt, which does not contain additives.) You can use water only or mix in other flavorful liquids, such as orange juice, apple cider or wine. Brown sugar, lemon zest, garlic, ginger, sage, rosemary and cinnamon sticks are just a few popular flavoring ingredients. Heating the liquids helps to dissolve the salt and meld the flavors, but be sure to cool the brine completely before adding the turkey.


A whole turkey is best after brining for about 24 hours. See how Amanda, one of our culinary experts, does it in the video below.

33 comments about “Secrets to a Perfectly Seasoned Turkey

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  3. Maysem

    In the video, Amanda says not to stuff a brined turkey. My family and I LOVE stuffing in a turkey so I can’t not stuff the turkey with the stuffing:) Any other suggestions? Should I just skip the brining?

    1. fireAKems

      Try cooking the stuffing separately, then stuffing it in the turkey when it is finished. Do it on the fly and and no one will know the difference.

  4. Olivia Ware Post author

    Maysem, try just seasoning under and over the turkey skin with butter, salt, pepper and herbs instead of brining. The stuffing will help keep the bird moist and flavorful, too. Enjoy!

  5. Yoke

    I stuff a brined turkey or chicken all the time. Just use a little less or no salt in your stuffing

  6. Nancy

    Please tell me if I can add liquied to the dry buttermilk rub instead of using it dry? I’ve never used dry rub for turkey, didn’t read the info about the buttermilk product before I purchased it.

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