10 Delicious Ways to Season a Turkey
It's never too early to begin planning the bird's big day. The Thanksgiving turkey is to a cook what a blank canvas is to a painter: Your roast will take on the vision you imagine for it; its mild dark and white meat absorbing the essence of the seasonings you offer, and its acres of skin offering an opportunity to shine (literally, if you use a glaze), or crackle crisply. Choosing those seasonings is part of the joy and anticipation of this best of American holidays, and we have curated the pick of our recipes to highlight the different directions you might like to pursue.
Overlooked staples like salt and sugar bring out the best in a good quality bird. Deeper into spice territory, the warming aromas of cumin and chile create an unforgettably complex roast. After an overnight rub, toasted coriander and fennel seed are complimented by the sweetness of fennel bulb. On the other hand, fresh herbs add vivacity to compound butters and glazes. Seasonal produce like citrus, pears, chestnuts, and quince can be incorporated into basting juices, syrups, and stuffings.
The restrained but sophisticated combination of white wine and butter render pan juices you will want to spoon up. Maple syrup, brushed late over the roasting skin, or earlier in a concentrated glaze with mustard, adds its versatile and evocative warmth to the Thanksgiving centerpiece.
This gallery has made us very hungry. We hope it infuses you with ideas and confidence to make the most of your turkey's big moment.
Salt and Sugar
Cumin and Spice and All Things Nice
Cumin sings in this strikingly bold, highly spiced turkey. First it features in the overnight brine (along with black peppercorns and chile), and then it is emphasized in a spice butter that includes nutmeg, cloves, allspice, chile, and garlic powder, which gets slathered on before roasting.
Coriander, Black Pepper, and Fennel
A vibrant overnight rub of toasted coriander, black pepper, and fennel seeds gives turkey's secret weapon (crispy skin) a chance to shine. The mellow sweetness of fennel bulb adds depth of flavor during roasting.
Rosemary, Sage, and Thyme
Nothing delivers flavor as well as fat, and this trio of classic Mediterranean herbs weaponize butter by infusing it with their delicious fragrance. Slather it between the breast and the skin where it will baste the meat and preserve the scent of the herbs.
Mustard, Maple, and Thyme
In this full-bodied glaze, the autumnal sweetness of maple syrup is balanced by sharply pungent Dijon mustard, with thyme leaves added for fresh aroma.
Using a dry, fruity white wine combined with good butter to baste your turkey every hour creates intensely delicious pan juices and a delectable skin.
The warmth of maple syrup adds a burnished glaze when brushed over the turkey's skin in its final hour of (high-heat) roasting.
Stuffing a turkey generously with halved oranges and herbs perfumes the meat from the inside, out. As it grills, the oils in the citrus's skin are released and permeate the entire bird.
A bowl of perfumed fall quinces scents a room deliciously, but you will not regret sacrificing them to make this gorgeously ruby-hued glazing syrup, added in the last half-hour of roasting (save the leftover cooked fruit for dessert or add it to your stuffing).