Many people associate turkey only with Thanksgiving, and even more, do not like preparing it all year round due to its bad rep of ending up bland and dry.
The truth is, with a suitable turkey rub and the proper preparation, the turkey can easily become your favorite food.
Learn more about the best smoked turkey rub recipes that can transform a plain chicken into a gourmet beauty by reading on.
Here are some of our best recommendations for barbecued or smoked turkey rubs in a variety of flavors and heat levels.
Easy Classic Smoked Turkey Rub
This recipe is for an easy-to-make, and well-balanced rub for smoked turkey or chicken, which is neither too spicy, not too sweet nor too savory, so it will probably please everyone’s taste. It is suitable for kids who don’t like too much heat.
The recipe is simple, and you can easily adjust any of the ingredients if you want to make it spicier or add more sugar and paprika for using it on pork.
- Smoked paprika – 4 tablespoons (8 tablespoons for pork)
- Brown sugar – 3 tablespoons (6 tablespoons for pork)
- Salt flakes – 3 tablespoons
- Ground black pepper – 2 tablespoons
- Ground cumin – 1 tablespoon
- Garlic powder – 1 tablespoon
- Onion powder – 1 tablespoon
Instructions for making this classic BBQ turkey rub with these simple ingredients:
- Mix everything together and transfer the mixture into a shaker
- Use the shaker from a distance of 12 inches to coat the turkey or meat evenly
- Let the rub do its magic by letting it sit on the meat before smoking or grilling it
The Simon and Garfunkel Turkey Rub
It may sound strange to name a spice rub for turkey and chicken after Simon and Garfunkel, but there is some pretty sound logic behind this name. The reason why the recipe is named after the famous duet is in reference to their album titled “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme” from 1966. The title comes from the text of the traditional 16th-century English ballad “Scarborough Fair,” which they sang and included in the album. According to the legends regarding this old song, these four herbs represent “bitterness, strength, faithfulness, and courage.”
But no matter the name, this rub, including the herbs, works perfectly when prepping the turkey and other poultry.
- Dried and crushed parsley – 1 tablespoon
- Dried and crushed sage – 2 tablespoons
- Dried and crushed rosemary – 1 tablespoon
- Dried and crushed thyme – 1 tablespoon
- Dried and crushed oregano – 1 tablespoon
- Dried and crushed basil – 1 tablespoon
- Dried and crushed bay leaf – 1 tablespoon
- Ground pepper – 1 tablespoon
- Sugar – 1 tablespoon
- Add 1 tablespoon of dried crushed hot red pepper if you want some heat (optional)
Instructions for making this “musical” smoked turkey rub:
- Measure each ingredient
- Pour everything in the blender and put the lid on
- Blend the ingredients for several seconds, stop and run again, several times
- Use the pulse mode to blend the mixture into a powder
- Pour it all in a jar
- Sprinkle the turkey with salt, if it has not been brined
- Coat the turkey (or chicken, potatoes, or others) with a little bit of water
- Sprinkle on the ready rub generously
- Let the turkey sit in the fridge for 1-3 hours to get the flavors rubbed in
- Proceed to smoke, grill, or roast the turkey
Garlic Butter Dry Brine for Juicy Turkey
With this simple recipe for dry brining turkey, you can prepare the perfect Thanksgiving turkey or use it for tenderizing and seasoning poultry throughout the year.
Thanks to the dry brining method, the juices of the bird will be drawn out, and it will be ready for roasting.
Dry brining includes applying coarse salt and other seasonings on the whole turkey and letting it rest in the fridge for 2-3 days.
In addition to the dry brining, this turkey prep method includes a garlic butter rub as well.
Keep in mind that this recipe requires that you prep the turkey 3 days in advance before the cooking.
For the dry brine:
- Coarse ground kosher salt – 1 tablespoon per 5 pounds of turkey
- Dried and crushed thyme – 1 teaspoon per 5 pounds of turkey
- Dried and rubbed sage – 1 teaspoon per 5 pounds of turkey
- Freshly ground black pepper – ½ teaspoon per 5 pounds of turkey
For the garlic butter rub:
- Softened butter – 1 stick
- Olive tablespoons
- Garlic powder or granulated garlic – 1 tablespoon
Step-by-step instructions for preparing the Thanksgiving turkey with the garlic butter dry brine:
- Dry the body and cavity of the turkey by patting it with paper towels
- Mix the ingredients for the dry brine in a bowl
- Sprinkle several teaspoons of the dry brine inside the cavity of the bird
- Coat the breast meat by gently lifting the skin with several teaspoons of the dry brine
- Sprinkle the leftover dry brine on the rest of the turkey
- Place the turkey in a roasting pan and cover it with plastic wrap completely
- Let it rest in the refrigerator for 2-3 days
- When the time comes to roast the turkey, add the stuffing, including carrots, onions, and orange
- Mix the olive oil, butter, and garlic in a bowl and use your hands to apply it to the breasts under the skin
- Apply the remaining garlic butter rub on the rest of the turkey
- Proceed to roast the turkey or smoke it as preferred
Read our comprehensive guide on how to reheat smoked turkey
Citrus and Herb Turkey Butter Rub
This is another excellent rub to use when preparing your Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey, which will leave all of your family members and guests wanting more.
- Softened unsalted butter – ½ cup or 1 stick
- Navel orange – 1 zested
- Lemon – 1 zested
- Garlic – 3 cloves minced
- Fresh sage – 4 tablespoons chopped
- Fresh rosemary – 3 tablespoons chopped
- Fresh thyme – 3 tablespoons chopped
- Kosher salt – ½ teaspoon
- Freshly cracked black pepper – ½ teaspoon
Step-by-step guide to preparing the rub and the turkey:
- Combine all of the ingredients for the rub in a bowl by stirring them thoroughly
- Prepare and clean the turkey and place it in a roasting pan
- Pat the turkey dry inside and out with paper towels
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit
- Loosen the skin over the breasts and legs gently and start applying the buttery rub on the meat, trying to cover the entire bird with it
- Sprinkle the turkey with pepper and salt
- Tie up its legs, and roast it for 3 to 3 ½ hours
- Use a good meat thermometer to check whether the bird is ready (180 degrees Fahrenheit in the thighs and 170 degrees Fahrenheit in the breasts)
- Let it rest for 30 minutes at room temperature before carving the turkey
The Best Ever Fried Turkey Rub
This rub for deep-fried turkey is called “the best in the world” by its author, and the fact is, the combination of the flavors and ingredients used are amazing and go perfectly well with turkey.
This is a recipe for deep frying turkey, including a combination of a rub and an injection marinade.
For the injection marinade:
- Melted butter
- Lemon juice
- Worcestershire sauce
- Garlic salt
- Onion salt
For the dry rub:
- Onion salt
- Garlic salt
- Seasoning salt
- Chili powder
- Freshly ground black pepper
Instructions for preparing this juicy and delicious deep-fried turkey:
- Thaw and pat dry the turkey
- Mix the ingredients for the injectable marinade
- Inject it all with a syringe by making as few holes in the skin as possible, by turning the needle around through the same hole
- Mix the dry rub ingredients in a bowl
- Sprinkle them all over the dry bird and sprinkle some inside the cavity as well
- Wrap the turkey in plastic wrap and let it sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours
- Proceed to deep fry the turkey for 3-5 minutes per pound, and check with a meat thermometer whether it is ready (internal temperature should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit)
Jerk Smoked Turkey Rub
If you like spicy food, then this Jamaican-style turkey rub is an excellent option to try out next time you are grilling or smoking a turkey. It consists of a jerk marinade with some of the hottest peppers.
- Scotch bonnet peppers – 1 or 2
- Garlic – 2 cloves
- Scallions – 4
- Crushed whole allspice – 6
- Chopped fresh thyme leaves – 1 tablespoon
- Apple juice – ½ cup and 2 tablespoons
- Salt – 2 tablespoons
- Freshly ground pepper – 1 teaspoon
- Vegetable oil – 2 tablespoons
- One 10-pound turkey
Steps for making the Jerk Smoked Turkey:
- Spatchcock the turkey (remove the backbone to flatten it)
- Blend the ingredients for the jerk rub, including the scallions, garlic, Scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, pepper, salt, and apple juice, until they blend into a paste
- Rub each side of the turkey with the marinade
- Smoke the bird at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 to 2 ½ hours
- Mix the remaining apple juice with vegetable oil and use it to baste the turkey every 45 minutes
- Let the bird rest for 20 minutes before carving it