Most every family has a host of Thanksgiving traditions and closely held recipes. Still, there is plenty of room for experimentation while still keeping up family rituals. Our friends at Local Palate, a print and online publication focusing on Southern culinary history and culture, share this recipe for a turkey dry rub. It is a slightly different take on a conventional seasoning mix—but still in keeping with a familiar flavor profile.
You can utilize a dry rub whether you opt to roast or fry your holiday turkey. We recommend using this recipe to dry brine (or pre-season) your bird. A dry brine helps season a turkey much in the way that a traditional wet brine does, but without the water. With a dry brine, you rub the seasonings directly into the meat and skin, then let the bird rest in the refrigerator—at least overnight.
A large bird like a whole turkey can be easily overcooked and made dry. Applying seasonings in advance draws out the turkey’s juices, which are then reabsorbed, adding moisture and flavor. The larger the piece of meat, the more time required for an effective brine. You can begin the process by seasoning the turkey a day or two in advance. The thawed and seasoned turkey should rest—uncovered or lightly covered—to keep the skin dry, making for a deliciously crispy skin when cooked.
1 tablespoon coarse black pepper
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon chili powder
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon ground thyme
4 tablespoons paprika
4 tablespoons smoked paprika
¼ cup kosher salt
Combine all ingredients. They can be stored in a sealed container until ready for use.
When ready to season your turkey, place your bird on a large surface or cutting board. Don’t forget to check the inside of the bird’s cavity to make sure the neck and giblets have been removed. Pat the outside of the turkey dry with paper towels.
Gently loosen the skin over the breast and legs, separating it from the meat. Season the cavity using at least 2 teaspoons of the dry rub—according to your personal taste. Rub the seasoning mixture under the skin of the legs and breast. Sprinkle the remaining spices over the skin of the turkey. Refrigerate, breast side up, in a roasting pan for 1-3 days.
You can cook your turkey using any method without patting it dry.