Marinating a Large Turkey: Time Guidelines and Tips

This turkey marinade is a simple and quick way to add flavor to your holiday turkey with little work. It’s made with olive oil, fresh herbs, spices, and citrus. The result is the most tender and juicy turkey ever!

Turkey for Thanksgiving can be made in a plethora of ways, like this marinated turkey, deep-fried turkey, or smoked turkey. Serve your turkey with my favorite Instant Pot cranberry sauce for a memorable dinner. It’s a surefire way to always have a gorgeous and delicious bird!

I’ve prepared turkey in countless ways, but a turkey marinade is one of my favorite ways to add flavor to this traditional holiday dish. In addition to giving the turkey a deep and complex flavor, this mixture of olive oil, herbs, and spices keeps it from drying out in the oven.

Marinating is a great way to infuse flavor and tenderness into your turkey, especially for larger cuts like breasts and tenderloins. However determining the optimal marinating time for a large turkey can be crucial to achieving the best results.

How Long to Marinate a Large Turkey:

  • General Guidelines: Most marinating recipes recommend a marinating time of 6 to 24 hours for large turkey cuts. This timeframe allows the marinade to penetrate the meat and impart its flavors without compromising the texture.
  • Factors to Consider: The marinating time can vary depending on the size of the turkey cut, the type of marinade used, and the desired level of flavor intensity.
    • Size: Larger turkey cuts may require longer marinating times to ensure even flavor distribution.
    • Marinade Type: Marinades with acidic ingredients, such as citrus juices or vinegar, can tenderize the meat more quickly, potentially requiring shorter marinating times.
    • Flavor Intensity: If you desire a stronger flavor, you can marinate the turkey for a longer duration. However, be mindful of exceeding the 24-hour mark to avoid compromising the texture.

Tips for Marinating a Large Turkey:

  • Use a Sealable Container or Large Plastic Bag: This allows you to position the turkey in a single layer, ensuring even marinade coverage.
  • Turn the Turkey Regularly: This helps the marinade reach all sides of the meat for consistent flavor distribution.
  • Refrigerate the Marinating Turkey: Always keep the marinating turkey refrigerated to maintain food safety.
  • Discard Leftover Marinade: Do not reuse marinade that has come into contact with raw meat to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Consider Overnight Marinating: If time permits, marinating the turkey overnight can enhance flavor and tenderness.

Additional Considerations:

  • Thawing the Turkey: If using a frozen turkey, ensure it is completely thawed before marinating.
  • Cooking the Turkey: After marinating, cook the turkey according to your preferred method, such as roasting, grilling, or smoking.
  • Food Safety: Always follow safe food handling practices when preparing and cooking turkey.

Marinating a large turkey can significantly enhance its flavor and tenderness. By following the recommended marinating times and tips, you can ensure that your turkey is infused with delicious flavors and cooked to perfection. Remember to adjust the marinating time based on the size of the turkey cut, the type of marinade used, and your desired level of flavor intensity.

Tips for the perfect marinated turkey

  • Make sure to rub the marinade under the skin as well as all over the bird. While the turkey marinates, you can keep it in a big pot, a brining bag, or a baking dish covered with plastic wrap.
  • There won’t be a lot of messy liquid to deal with because this is almost like a wet rub and the marinade will sit on the skin and flesh of the turkey, penetrating it with flavor.
  • A marinade is not the same as a turkey brine. A liquid mixture of salt, sugar, and water is called turkey brine. If you want to use a certain kind of technique, you can use my recipe for turkey brine.
  • You can make this marinade up to two days in advance of using it. Put it in the refrigerator to use when coating your turkey.
  • You can roast, smoke or grill your marinated turkey. Whatever method you decide on, just make sure you use a thermometer to determine when the turkey is fully cooked and ready to eat. The thickest area of the breast or thigh should register 165 degrees Fahrenheit on a meat thermometer.
  • An average turkey weighing 12 to 14 pounds can be covered with this marinade. It might be necessary to double the marinade if your turkey is larger.

How do you make turkey marinade?

Olive oil, soy sauce, fresh herbs, garlic, orange and lemon juice, and seasonings should all be whisked together. Pour the mixture over a thawed turkey. Until the time comes to cook it, let the turkey remain in the marinade. After taking the turkey out of the marinade, cook it to your liking, then slice and serve.

Simple ingredients that you may already have on hand are needed for this recipe.

  • Olive Oil: This forms the base of the marinade. Any kind of olive oil will do the trick, though I usually use extra virgin.
  • Soy Sauce: Although adding soy sauce to turkey might seem strange, it actually adds a complex, savory flavor and some much-needed salt.
  • Citrus Juice: Fresh squeezed juices work best, and I use a combination of orange and lemon juice.
  • Citrus Zest: Grate or microplane one orange and one lemon to extract the zest.
  • Herbs: I use a variety of fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme, sage, and chives. Although fresh herbs taste better, you can use one-third as much dried herbs in a pinch.
  • Garlic: To bring out the flavor of the turkey, add a lot of finely minced garlic.
  • Spices: To complete the marinade, I add salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and sweet paprika.

How long can you keep a thawed turkey in the refrigerator before cooking?


How long can you marinate a turkey in the refrigerator?

Whole poultry or poultry parts may be marinated by completely immersing the poultry into the marinade. To help infuse the marinade into the poultry, you may use a fork to make random holes. A needle-like injector may also be used. Poultry can be refrigerated for up to 2 days in a marinade.

Can you marinate a turkey for 2 days?

As the years have passed, I’ve realized that the reason they don’t like turkey is its lack of flavor. But I’ve found a solution! It was my fault for not letting the turkey marinate long enough. The secret to a juicy and delicious turkey is to let it soak in brine for 24 hours, then marinate it for another 24 hours.

How long can marinade stay in fridge?

You can marinate pork, beef, lamb, veal, or game animals such as venison in the refrigerator in a covered container three to five days. Boil used marinade before brushing on cooked meat. Discard any uncooked leftover marinade.

Can I make a marinade ahead of time?

Prepare your marinade in advance and tightly seal in a zip-top freezer bag and place in the freezer for up to 3 months.

How long can you keep marinated Turkey in the fridge?

Store marinated turkey in the fridge for up to 48 hours. You can make it ahead and store it for up to 24 hours in the fridge or 90 days in the freezer. Use fresh herbs instead of dried ones if that’s what you have.

How long should you marinate a Turkey?

For a whole turkey, pour the marinade over the whole bird to coat the turkey, rubbing under the skin and inside the turkey cavity. How long should I marinate a turkey? Raw turkey should be marinated for a minimum of 4 hours and up to 24 hours. Because of the acid in the lemon juice, marinating longer is not recommended.

Can you freeze Turkey after marinating?

You can place your raw turkey and marinade in a freezer safe bag (we love these) and store it in the freezer for up to 6-9 months before thawing and cooking. This is a great way to have to ready to go when you have that turkey craving! What Is The Best Way to Cook Turkey After Marinating?

What happens if you marinate a turkey overnight?

This can result in the marinade dripping all over your refrigerator. * Marinading the turkey for too long. This can result in the turkey becoming tough and dry. marinating a turkey overnight is a great way to add flavor and moisture to your bird. The process is simple and only requires a few ingredients.

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