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15 Secrets to the Most Flavorful Turkey Ever

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

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With Thanksgiving just around the corner, you’re sure to have your menu planned from the best sides to perfect pies. And of course, you’ve got the traditional turkey lined up. But before you pop that bird into the oven, consider giving it an extra boost of flavor. We’ve got techniques to help you get your tastiest turkey ever. Now, let’s talk tips. Check out our best-ever Thanksgiving turkey recipes.

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Brine your bird

To add extra flavor and tenderness to your Thanksgiving turkey, try a basic brine. Soaking the turkey in this saltwater mixture helps to tenderize the meat while adding flavor and moisture throughout the entire turkey. The simplest of brines is plain ol’ saltwater, but we love to add herbs and spices to give the turkey as much flavor as possible—this recipe is a good place to start for an herb-based brine. But take heed, brining is a plan-ahead trick. Your bird should sit in the brine for at least four hours (though overnight is best, so start a full day ahead).

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Cooking Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey in a roasting pan with lemons and herbsElena Veselova/Shutterstock

Opt for aromatics

Instead of filling your bird with stuffing, fill it with aromatics. (News flash: Cooking stuffing inside of 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 and acidity to your turkey.

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Season under the skin

It can be tempting to sprinkle your seasonings right on top of the turkey as you’d do with any other protein, but to get the most flavor, it’s best to season under the skin. This puts those spices in direct contact with the meat for maximum impact. Plus if you don’t like the skin you can peel it off after cooking without losing all the herby goodness. Go further than the traditional salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary with this show-stopping cranberry orange turkey.

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Try a marinade

Marinades aren’t just for the grill! Try marinading your turkey in a mixture of broth, spices and lemon juice, like in this five-star recipe, for a turkey that’s flavorful through and through. Similar to brining, your turkey should sit in the marinade for a few hours to soak up all the delicious flavors.

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Give the grill a go

We love a classic roast turkey, but there are so many other cooking options for the big day! If the snow’s not flying, fire up the grill! This method is a little less traditional, but the grill provides a whole new flavor to your bird. The smokiness can give this Thanksgiving standard a new life. We love this recipe for you Turkey Day grill-masters.

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Go and glaze

Layer on the flavor with a bright and aromatic glaze. Brushing on a glaze takes an already tasty turkey skin to the next level. Glazes are an easy and quick way to give your main course an extra boost. This recipe only has four ingredients and takes ten minutes to prep!

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Closeup of a Thanksgiving Turkey being basted with its own juicesSteve Cukrov/Shutterstock

Baste, baste, baste

Come Thanksgiving, we all have our turkey basters at the ready. But why settle for just basting the bird with its own juices? Try basting your turkey with wine or even beer to add extra flavor. As these basting liquids cook, they help caramelize the outside of the turkey for exceptionally tasty and crispy skin.

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Coat with compound butter

When hasn’t butter made something better? Rub compound, or flavored and seasoned butters underneath the skin of your turkey to add another layer of flavor to your traditional turkey while also crisping up the skin. Best of all–any leftover butter makes a great spread for your bread basket. Want a few flavor ideas for your better butter? We’ve got some!

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Demonstration of injecting a turkeyCharles Knowles/Shutterstock

Inject flavor

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. Looking for a flavor injector? We’ve got you covered.

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Try a new technique

Want all these flavorful techniques to really shine? Try spatchcocking your turkey this Thanksgiving. Spatchcocking, or butterflying, your whole turkey exposes more of the meat inside the bird. This extra surface area allows you to add even more herbs and seasonings, meaning that there will be more flavor in every bite. New to this technique? Our experts break it down step-by-step.

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Craft your secret weapon

Set yourself up for success with this brilliant tip. While the turkey is still in its packaging, devise an oven shield out of aluminum foil. This will help protect the bird from over-browning (read: tender and juicy!) when it comes time to roast. Mold a few sheets of foil around the breast area, then set aside in a safe place until roasting day. Get our full turkey roasting guide here.

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Empty open electric oven with hot air ventilation.brizmaker/Shutterstock

Go legs first

Slide the turkey into the oven legs first. The reason? Oven temps are often warmer near the back. This way, the thighs will get the higher heat they need, while the breast cooks in the lower heat by the door. Perfect temperature is key for perfect texture and flavor. Read up on more reasons why your oven could be the culprit of common cooking woes.

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Layer on the gravy

Go beyond turkey drippings to add flavor to your sauce. This make-ahead gravy recipe adds a sweet, herbal touch to homemade gravy by adding maple syrup, onion and sage. Experiment with your own spice blends. Get more great gravy recipes.

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Roll it up

Guarantee stuffing in every single bite by wrapping it up jelly-roll style. This stuffed turkey recipe will show you how it’s done. With skin side down, pound turkey breast with a meat mallet to a half-inch thickness. Season and spread your stuffing over the turkey to within an inch of the edges, then roll it up and secure with string.

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Don’t count out the casserole

If you don’t mind forgoing the turkey centerpiece, a casserole is a perfect way to blend the flavors of the holiday in true family-style fashion. Grab your best serving spoon and tempt your guests with this creamy turkey casserole.

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