When it comes to seasoning your Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey, or any turkey for that matter, sooner is better. Two days ahead of time is ideal, but one day is fine too. Let it sit overnight uncovered in the fridge to let the seasoning permeate the bird.
If you don’t have that much time to spare, don’t worry: your turkey will still taste great. In any case, you’ll want to season a thawed, totally dry turkey that has been out of the fridge long enough to get up to room-temperature.
Another question that sparks heated debates this time of year …
Should you brine?
There are well-documented pros and cons to brining, but I’m going to avoid that sticky wicket entirely! I will say this, though: if you’re working with a Kosher turkey, it’s already pre-brined. So instead of giving it a second salt-water bath, you could go with a “dry brine” and rub 1/2 tsp. salt per pound of turkey. Chef and food writer Melissa Clark recommends a dry rub of kosher salt, pepper, citrus zest and rosemary. Sounds good to me!
What other seasonings can you use? Remember that old Simon & Garfunkel song? The usual suspects of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme are popular for good reason: they taste great. But there are excellent roast turkey recipes that include cloves, nutmeg, allspice, basil, ginger, lemon, crushed celery seed, cayenne, and paprika. There are many ways to season a turkey.
When thinking about potential seasonings, it’s worth considering your audience before you stray too far from the beaten path. Many otherwise adventurous eaters can have remarkably conservative palates when it comes to their holiday turkey. (In their defense, simple can be sublime, and sometimes salt and pepper are all you need.)
And don’t forget butter!
Not only is butter delicious, it’s a great medium for herbs like sage, rosemary or thyme, and lemon adds a nice flavor too. AND unsalted butter will give your turkey a nice golden hue and delightfully crispy skin.