Should I Season My Turkey Before Cooking? A Comprehensive Guide to Pre-Seasoning Your Thanksgiving Feast

Make your Thanksgiving turkey more flavorful than ever with our top turkey tips. In no time, youll know how to season a turkey that guests will crave.

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, so you’ve probably already planned your menu, which should include the best Thanksgiving sides and mouthwatering pumpkin pies. And of course, you’ve got the traditional turkey lined up.

Getting (and serving) the ideal turkey for every guest at the dinner table is important, whether you’re hosting a small get-together for friends and family or hosting a Friendsgiving celebration. Make sure you choose the appropriate size turkey for your holiday meal by knowing how much to serve each person.

But before you pop your perfectly chosen turkey into the oven, don’t forget to season it well. When combined with pitch-perfect seasoning, the right Thanksgiving turkey recipes can elevate your bird from a simple bird to an amazing fowl. Follow these tips and tricks on seasoning your turkey for a juicy and flavorful meal.

Ah, Thanksgiving. A time for family, friends, and, of course, the star of the show: the turkey. But before you pop that bird in the oven, there’s one crucial step you shouldn’t skip: pre-seasoning.

Why Pre-Seasoning Matters

Pre-seasoning your turkey isn’t just about adding flavor. It’s a culinary magic trick that unlocks two key benefits:

  • Juicier Meat: Salt acts as a magnet, drawing moisture from the turkey’s cells. This moisture then mixes with the salt, creating a brine that gets reabsorbed into the meat, resulting in a juicy, flavorful bird.
  • Crispier Skin: The salt also helps dry out the turkey’s skin, which is essential for achieving that golden-brown, crispy perfection.

Pre-Seasoning Techniques

There are two main ways to pre-season your turkey: dry-brining and wet-brining


This method involves rubbing the turkey with a generous amount of salt (and optionally, other seasonings) and letting it sit uncovered in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours, or up to 24 hours.


This method involves submerging the turkey in a salt-water solution (and optionally, other flavorings) for 12-24 hours.

Which Method is Right for You?

Both methods are effective, but dry-brining is generally preferred for its simplicity and the fact that it doesn’t require additional liquid. However, wet-brining can be a good option if you want to infuse your turkey with additional flavors.

Pre-Seasoning Tips:

  • Use kosher salt: It’s coarser than table salt and distributes more evenly.
  • Don’t be shy with the salt: Aim for 3/4 to 1 teaspoon of kosher salt per pound of turkey.
  • Season under the skin: This helps the salt penetrate the meat more deeply.
  • Refrigerate uncovered: This allows the skin to dry out, promoting crispiness.
  • Let the turkey rest before carving: This allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in a more tender bird.

Additional Flavor Boosters

While salt is the star of the pre-seasoning show, you can also add other seasonings to enhance the flavor of your turkey. Here are some ideas:

  • Herbs: Rosemary, thyme, sage, and parsley are classic Thanksgiving pairings.
  • Spices: Black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika add warmth and depth.
  • Citrus: Lemon or orange zest adds a bright, fresh note.
  • Aromatics: Garlic, onion, and ginger infuse the turkey with savory goodness.

Pre-seasoning your turkey is a simple yet powerful way to ensure a juicy, flavorful, and crispy bird for your Thanksgiving feast. So don’t skip this crucial step! With a little planning and preparation, you’ll be the hero of the holiday table.

Additional Resources:

  • Food & Wine: Why You Should Pre-Season Your Turkey
  • Taste of Home: How to Season a Turkey: 11 Secrets to the Most Flavorful Turkey


  • Should I season my turkey the day before?

Yes, pre-seasoning your turkey at least 12 hours before cooking is ideal.

  • Can I season my turkey too much?

It’s possible to over-season your turkey, but it’s more likely that you’ll under-season it. Don’t be afraid to use a generous amount of salt.

  • What are some good dry-brine recipes?

There are many great dry-brine recipes available online. A simple recipe is to use 1 tablespoon of kosher salt per 5 pounds of turkey, along with 1 teaspoon of black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme.

  • What are some good wet-brine recipes?

There are also many great wet-brine recipes available online. A simple recipe is to use 1/2 cup of kosher salt, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, and 1 gallon of water. You can also add other flavorings, such as herbs, spices, or citrus.

Season Inside the Turkey

Don’t limit your seasoning to just the exterior of your holiday main. Make sure your spice mixture reaches every crevice and crevices of the turkey, including the insides. This will give your roast the most flavor possible.

should i season my turkey before cooking

Instead of filling your bird with stuffing, fill it with aromatics. (News flash: Cooking stuffing inside a turkey can be dangerous. ) The basics, like onion, garlic, thyme, rosemary, and sage, help lend that traditional Thanksgiving flavor.

Take your aromatics up a notch by adding halved lemons or oranges. The citrus will add a nice brightness to the turkey and keep it perfectly moist.

Here’s a full list of all the ways you can stuff your holiday turkey—that don’t include stuffing.

should i season my turkey before cooking

Crack Open a Beer

You can use beer to flavor your holiday turkey, just like you might with Can-Can Chicken or beef brisket. Instead of basting your bird with drippings from the pan, baste with your go-to brew. Here, there’s no need to go overboard, but make sure the beer is one you’d enjoy drinking.

should i season my turkey before cooking

This method might seem a little intimidating, but it packs a serious punch when it comes to boosting your turkey’s flavor. Flavor injectors work by pumping extra ingredients (think broth and melted butter) right into the center of your bird for extra moisture and an extra tasty turkey.

should i season my turkey before cooking

Prep and Seasoning a Turkey

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