Spice-Rubbed Turkey

There is no way around it - you have to brine your turkey if you want a flavorful and juicy Thanksgiving main dish. Wet brines are great if you have a container large enough to hold the turkey, brine and lots of cold water. Dry-brining, the less messy method, draws the natural moisture of the bird to the surface for a crackly, crispy skin and flavorful, juicy meat, creating a scrumptious turkey that will have your guests begging for the recipe. If a turkey is great at dinnertime, you know it will be fabulous for leftovers, such as soups and stews and turkey casseroles. After properly thawing your turkey be sure and thoroughly dry it off with a paper towel before applying the herb rub to the inside and outside of the bird. Then you will need to chill the turkey for 8 to 24 hours, so make sure you've allowed enough prep time.

Spice-Rubbed Turkey
Photo: Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall
Active Time:
15 mins
Bake Time:
2 hrs 15 mins
Rest Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
11 hrs


  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon black pepper

  • 1 (14- to 16-lb.) fresh or frozen, thawed whole turkey, patted dry with paper towels (giblets and neck removed and reserved for Homemade Turkey Stock)

  • 1 medium-size yellow onion, quartered

  • 3 bay leaves

  • 1 garlic head, halved

  • 5 thyme sprigs

  • 5 oregano sprigs

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


  1. Stir together smoked paprika, chili powder, kosher salt, and black pepper in a small bowl. Set aside 1 tsp. spice-rub mixture. Rub remaining spice-rub mixture over thawed whole turkey, patted dry with paper towels (giblets and neck removed and reserved for Homemade Turkey Stock). Place turkey, breast side up, on a roasting rack in a large roasting pan lined with aluminum foil. Chill, uncovered, 8 hours or up to 24 hours.

  2. Preheat oven to 450˚F with rack in lower third of oven. Place yellow onion, bay leaves, halved garlic head, thyme sprigs, and oregano sprigs in cavity. Tie turkey legs together with kitchen twine, and tuck wing tips under. Lightly brush turkey with olive oil, being careful not to remove too much of the spice-rub mixture from skin. Sprinkle evenly with reserved 1 tsp. spice-rub mixture.

  3. Bake in lower third of preheated oven 45 minutes. Loosely cover turkey with aluminum foil, and reduce oven temperature to 350˚F. Continue baking until golden brown and a meat thermometer inserted in thickest portion of thigh registers 165˚F, 1 ½ to 2 hours. Transfer to a cutting board, and rest 30 minutes before carving. Pour pan drippings through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl; discard solids. Reserve 1 ½ cups strained drippings for Old-Fashioned Turkey Gravy or Mushroom Gravy.

Related Articles