Turkey is for life, not just for Thanksgiving! The Thunder Chicken might be a staple of the festive season, and rightly so, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy this king of poultry all year round.
Unfortunately, turkey meat has an undeserved reputation for being dry and bland, which leads people to underestimate its ability to be a show-stopping culinary centerpiece.
That’s where we come in.
With these turkey rub recipes, you’ll be able to turn you plain old gobbler into something extraordinary and with tastes ranging from the spicy cajun to tried and tested garlic butter, there is something for everyone.
Not sure how to use these rubs? Check out our recipe for bbq turkey.
Click to jump straight to each topic
- 1. Easy smoked turkey rub
- 2. The Simon and Garfunkel Spice Rub
- 3. The garlic butter rub (get the best from your dry brining)
- 4. The citrus and herb butter rub
- 5. The Best Fried Turkey Rub
- 6. The Cajun Turkey Rub (for the deep Louisiana flavor)
- 7. Jerk Smoked Turkey Rub (the spicy one)
- 8. The Smoked Turkey Rub (the one that frees up the oven)
1. Easy smoked turkey rub
Here’s your new go-to, classic bbq turkey rub. It’s perfectly balanced and suitable for kids who don’t like a lot of heat.
If you prefer a little extra kick there are some easy adjustments you can make.
This is our go to rub for turkey or chicken, but you can also use it on pork by doubling the paprika and sugar.
- 4 tbsp smoked paprika
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 3 tbsp salt flakes
- 2 tbsp ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp mustard powder
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp onion powder
Check out the full recipe here.
2. The Simon and Garfunkel Spice Rub
In case you were wondering, this spice rub contains no ground up Simon and Garfunkel.
This rub, created by Meathead Goldwyn, takes its name from the inclusion of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
These herbs were featured in the lyrics of the song Scarborough Fair, which the pair famously covered.
This multi-purpose rub works well with most poultry, pork, the outside of a baked potato, and even on eggs.
Meathead suggests lightly coating your chosen food with water or olive oil to help the rub dissolve and then applying it liberally.
There is no salt in the rub so if you aren’t brining your food it’s best to combine it with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt per pound of food.
If you are looking to add a little heat to this rub, you could always add a tablespoon of chipotle flakes or cayenne to bring up the heat.
You can find the full recipe over at AmazingRibs.com.
3. The garlic butter rub (get the best from your dry brining)
This rub recipe comes in two parts, the dry brine to season the meat and the garlic butter rub to give it a deep garlicky flavor.
Dry brining is the act of covering a turkey in a coarse salt-based rub and then refrigerating it for a few days to draw out the bird’s juices. The salt rub then dissolves into the liquids and is reabsorbed, tenderizing the meat and spreading the seasoning throughout your turkey.
To dry brine your turkey, first, pat your turkey dry with paper towels and then sprinkle some of the dry brine inside the cavity and spread it around. Then spread the rest of the dry brine mix over the outside of the turkey.
Set the turkey in a container, cover it, and put it in your refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours. Remove the cover and leave to sit for a further 8 to 24 hours. Once that is done, cover the bird in the garlic butter rub below.
Spread some of your Garlic Butter Rub under the skin of the breast and the rest evenly over the bird, then roast the turkey according to the recipe.
4. The citrus and herb butter rub
Citrus and herb rubs go together with turkey like hotdogs and cold beer.
This traditional butter rub has all the tastes of the festive season, and, while it’s not going to win any awards for originality, there is something fantastic about a holiday classic done just right.
The fat in the butter will give your turkey skin a nice crisp crunch while the herbs and lemon zest impart a range of beautifully delicate flavors into the cooking meat.
Just remember, this rub recipe doesn’t have any salt in it, so season you bird well after you’ve applied the rub.
5. The Best Fried Turkey Rub
The inventor of this rub and injection combo calls it the way to make “best fried turkey IN THE WORLD,” and while that is quite a claim, the flavor combos do look amazing.
The rub and injection mixture is used to add a massive depth of flavor to the turkey and to help keep it moist while you are deep-frying it. The injection combines the traditional flavors of butter, lemon, and herbs while the rub adds a smoky tang with garlic, chili, and paprika.
Combined with the crunch of a well-fried turkey, these big flavors are a great new take on the traditional Thanksgiving bird.
If you’ve never injected meat before and are a little unsure about the process, check out our complete guide to injecting meat for smoking.
Deep frying a whole turkey is no small task, and getting it wrong can be pretty disastrous. Thankfully, the recipe also includes a full step-by-step guide to the deep-frying process.
6. The Cajun Turkey Rub (for the deep Louisiana flavor)
Turkey meat has a somewhat unfair reputation for being dry and bland, and if that is something you are afraid of, you need to use this rub. No one is going to accuse any turkey hit by this fantastic blend of deep cajun flavors of being tasteless.
The mixture of paprika and cayenne, applied beneath the skin, will give your bird a beautiful deep red color and a big hit of spicy heat, while the butter keeps the meat moist and tender.
The eight cups of chicken stock are there to regularly baste your turkey to keep it moist and, as the full recipe points out, the combination of basting stock and the juices from the turkey make a fantastic gravy.
7. Jerk Smoked Turkey Rub (the spicy one)
Have you ever wished thanksgiving involved more eye-watering chili pepper heat?
If you have, this Jamaican-style jerk rub is the answer to your prayers, as it’s full of Scotch bonnet pepper spice. It’s not all heat though, the garlic, thyme, and Jamaican favorite, allspice add a real depth of flavor to a meat that isn’t commonly associated with jerk spices.
The trick to cooking a jerk smoked turkey and keeping it moist and juicy is to spatchcock it beforehand. Spatchcocking, also known as butterflying, means removing the bird’s backbone and flattening the carcass, meaning you can apply more rub and cook the bird faster.
If you like the sound of this one, you can check out the full recipe, complete with instructions on how to cook a spatchcocked turkey. .
8. The Smoked Turkey Rub (the one that frees up the oven)
Oven space is always at a premium when you are cooking a big meal, and there is rarely room for the vegetables once you’ve squeezed in a 15-pound turkey.
Using this rub recipe, you can free up your oven space and serve up a turkey brimming over with delicate smokey flavor and rich notes of cumin and oregano.
You can find the full recipe, plus some handy notes on how the creator smoked his turkey in a Traeger wood pellet grill, here.
Wrapping it up
With these punchy spice rubs, you need never worry about serving up a dry or disinteresting turkey ever again. From the spices of Jamaica to the big flavors of cajun country, there is a spice mix here for everyone and, with our companion guides and recipes, they are all simple and easy to use!
Do you have a favorite spice rub you like to use with turkey? Perhaps a cooking technique that keeps even the biggest bird nice and juicy? We’d love it if you’d tell us in the comments below.