Table of Contents
  1. Why I love this recipe.
  2. Everything you’ll need to make this recipe.
  3. Here’s how to make this recipe.
  4. These pro tips will make this recipe a success.
  5. Frequently asked questions about this recipe.
  6. You'll love these other Thanksgiving recipes.
  7. Watch how to make this recipe.
  8. Have I convinced you to make this recipe?
  9. Orange Spiced Turkey Recipe

It’s the centerpiece of Thanksgiving: the highly-anticipated turkey. Preparing and roasting it correctly can be intimidating, but this detailed recipe makes it clear. You’ll be left with a perfectly roasted bird covered in crispy skin, a delicious spice rub, and bright citrus flavors. Get ready to win at the main dish this holiday!

Why I love this recipe.

I find the fete of preparing and roasting the Thanksgiving turkey exciting. I relish preparing something we often do not have the chance to create otherwise. The turkey has a lot riding on it. It has to be the main event and will be critiqued by everyone. If it’s good, everyone is happy. If it’s bad, everyone will remember. This recipe takes the worry out of a dry bird by simply using a dry brine technique. Salt works into the meat and helps bring out the flavor and keep the moisture in the bird. To up your kitchen cred, a perfect blend of spices and citrus is added to the brine. This blend creates a depth of flavor that gives the roasted meat a special touch. A recipe worthy of that one time a year we roast a bird, maybe even worthy of making it more often.

Golden brown orange spiced turkey resting on a silver serving platter with figs and bay leaves underneath.

Everything you’ll need to make this recipe.

  • Turkey is essential and needs to be non-brined to begin with. Do not buy a pre-brined bird. Choose a good quality organically raised bird for the best flavor.
  • Orange juice and zest add the bright, fresh flavor of citrus. The orange works seamlessly with the spices to bring out the most flavor.
  • Onion powder is used in the dry brine to add the onion flavor without the moisture of fresh onion. The powder mixes in with the salt and is easily applied to the meat.
  • Garlic powder works in the same way as the onion powder. The powder form is softer and sweeter tasting than the fresh.
  • White wine adds complexity to the basting liquid with a little acidity. The wine mixes with the butter and herbs for a rich basting sauce.
White marble surface filled with all ingredients needed to make an orange spiced turkey including raw turkey, spices, sugar, white wine, and more.

Here’s how to make this recipe.

  1. Prepare the dry brine. Finely grate the peel off an orange. In a small bowl, combine the orange zest, cumin, cinnamon, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, ground clove, brown sugar, and kosher salt. Adjust the amount of salt based on the size of the turkey. Use 1 tbsp for every 4 lbs of turkey.
  1. Brine the turkey. Place the turkey on a pan. Using your hands, gently work the rub beneath the skin, making sure not to rip the skin. Rub the brine on the exterior of the turkey, evenly coating the skin. Place the turkey in the fridge for 8 to 24 hours. If desired, cover the turkey.
  1. Prepare for roasting. Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Once melted, add the orange juice and white wine. Crush the bay leaves in your hand and add to the pan. Let cook until the butter is fully melted and the mixture is combined. Turn off the heat and add in the cheesecloth, pushing it down to soak up the liquid. While the cheesecloth soaks, remove the turkey from the fridge and drain any liquid from the pan. Place a small rack in the bottom of a roasting pan and add the turkey on top. Fold the wings underneath the body. Truss the turkey using butcher’s twine. Begin by placing the middle of the twine near the neck of the turkey. Bring both ends back, above the wings but under the body. Take the ends underneath the legs and wrap each one around the end of its respective leg. Tightly tie a knot, bringing the legs together.
  1. Roast the turkey. After trussing the turkey, remove the cheesecloth from the pan, gently wringing out any additional liquid. Place it over the bird, completely covering it. Place the turkey in a 400°F oven. After 30 minutes, turn down the oven temperature to 375°F. Every 30 minutes, soak the cloth with additional basting liquid. As the turkey nears booking completion, check the temperature. In the last 45 minutes, remove the cheesecloth from the turkey and continue to baste with the liquid. Roast until the breast registers 160°F and the thighs register 170°F. Once the turkey is at temperature, remove it from the oven and allow the turkey to rest for 20 to 30 minutes. The turkey will continue to roast from the residual heat, bringing the breast to 165°F and the thighs to 175°F. Once it has rested, carve it and serve.

For the perfect accompaniment, make sure to check out my recipe for cranberry marmalade! It can easily be made while the turkey is finished roasting or even while it is doing its final rest after coming out of the oven!

These pro tips will make this recipe a success.

  • Using your hands, slowly and gently separate the skin from the meat before adding the dry rub. This separation allows more airflow into the area, crisping up the skin. It also makes it easier for the brine to be applied. Be gentle and ensure the skin does not rip.
  • Leaving the turkey exposed in the refrigerator while brining allows air to circulate around the skin to dry it out. This will make it crisper when roasting. The turkey can be covered while brining, but it’s based on personal preference.
  • Placement of the turkey on the pan can make a big difference. Placing the wings underneath the turkey ensures the tips don’t burn and roasts more evenly. It’s the same principle for the legs. The tightly knotted butcher’s twine makes sure the bird roasts evenly.
  • Checking the turkey’s temperature frequently is key. Once it gets removed from the oven, the internal temperature continues to rise. This means it will be fully cooked once it sits out of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes.
Large browned turkey sitting on a silver platter with a slice taken out from the side of the turkey showing interior white breast meat.

Frequently asked questions about this recipe.

Do I have to use a cheesecloth?

No. The cheesecloth is an added step to make sure the bird does not get too dark but keeps the moisture from basting close to the meat. Without cheesecloth, watch the bird and tent with foil as needed to ensure it is not burning.

How much kosher salt is needed for a dry-brine turkey?

You’ll need 1 tablespoon of kosher salt for every four pounds of turkey. For example, for a 12-pound turkey, three tablespoons of kosher salt will be needed.

Can I use a different type of pan to roast the turkey?

Yes! You can use a traditional turkey V-rack pan.

How long does a turkey take to thaw?

Due to the size of a turkey, thawing takes time. To thaw, place the turkey in the refrigerator and allow one day of thawing time for every four pounds of turkey weight.

Should the turkey be removed from the oven every time it needs to be basted?

This is a personal preference. Pulling out the oven shelf and basting or removing the bird and basting both work.

When is the turkey done roasting?

Roast the turkey until the breast registers 160°F, and the thighs register 170°F. Once the turkey is at the correct temperature, remove it from the oven and allow it to rest for 20-30 minutes. The turkey will continue to roast from the residual heat, bringing the breast to 165°F and the thighs to 175°F.

Watch how to make this recipe.

More Thanksgiving recipes

Have I convinced you to make this recipe?

I hope you make this recipe and put some food on your table. Leave a comment and share a star rating so you can let others know how much you love this recipe. This helps show others that this is a recipe they, too, can make, enjoy, and love!

Large silver platter resting on wooden table with browned turkey resting before being sliced for Thanksgiving.

Orange Spiced Turkey

5 from 5 votes
It's the centerpiece of Thanksgiving: the highly-anticipated turkey. Preparing and roasting it correctly can be intimidating, but this detailed recipe makes it clear. You'll be left with a perfectly roasted bird covered in crispy skin, a delicious spice rub, and bright citrus flavors. Get ready to win at the main dish this holiday!
Prep Time 1 day
Cook Time 3 hours 45 minutes
Resting Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 day 4 hours 15 minutes
Servings 12 servings (for a 15 lb turkey)

Ingredients

For the turkey

  • 12-18 lbs turkey
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp orange zest
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt for every 4 lbs turkey (example: 3 tbsp for a 12 lb turkey)

For the basting liquid

  • 1 ½ cups unsalted butter
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 5 bay leaves

Instructions
 

  • In a small bowl, combine the garlic powder, onion powder, cinnamon, cumin, cloves, black pepper, orange zest, brown sugar, and kosher salt. Mix to evenly combine.
    2 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp onion powder, 1 ½ tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp cumin, 2 tsp black pepper, 2 tbsp orange zest, 1 tbsp light brown sugar, 1 tbsp kosher salt for every 4 lbs turkey (example: 3 tbsp for a 12 lb turkey), ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • Remove the giblets and neck from the thawed turkey and set the turkey on a small rimmed baking sheet that will catch any juices. Gently separate the turkey skin from the meat by working fingers in between and lifting the skin, being careful not to tear the skin, including the breast, thighs, and legs.
    12-18 lbs turkey
  • Rub the salt mixture over the entire turkey, including under the skin and the cavity. Once the salt rub is all used on the turkey, set the turkey in the refrigerator uncovered for 8 to 24 hours, with 24 hours being ideal. Leaving the turkey uncovered allows the skin to dry out and become crisp during roasting.
  • After brining, preheat the oven to 400°F.
  • In the bottom of the roasting pan fitted with a wire rack. Place the turkey on the rack with the breast facing up. Bend the wings forward and underneath the breasts, protecting the tips from the heat. Tie the legs together with butcher's twine.
  • In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, orange juice, white wine, and bay leaves. Set over medium-low heat to melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, soak four 16-inch square pieces of cheesecloth in the butter mixture. Lay the soaked layers of cheesecloth over the breast of the turkey and down the sides, roughly covering halfway down the thighs. Baste more butter onto the cheesecloth as needed to ensure it is saturated.
    1 ½ cups unsalted butter, ½ cup orange juice, ½ cup white wine, 5 bay leaves
  • Place the turkey in the preheated oven. Roast at 400°F for 30 minutes and then lower the temperature to 375°F. During roasting, baste the cheesecloth-covered turkey every 30 minutes. In the final 45 minutes of roasting, remove the cheesecloth to evenly brown the turkey. Roast until the breast registers 160°F and the thighs register 170°F. Turkey takes approximately 10-15 minutes to roast per pound. Check the turkey's internal temperature during roasting to ensure it is not overcooking, as each turkey can roast at a different rate. Once the turkey is at temperature, remove it from the oven and allow the turkey to rest for 20-30 minutes. The turkey will continue to roast from the residual heat, bringing the breast to 165°F and the thighs to 175°F. Once the turkey has rested, carve and serve.

Notes

NOTE: Nutritional information is based on a 15 lb turkey.
Using your hands, slowly and gently separate the skin from the meat before adding the dry rub. This separation allows more airflow into the area, crisping up the skin. It also makes it easier for the brine to be applied. Be gentle and ensure the skin does not rip.
Leaving the turkey exposed in the refrigerator while brining allows air to circulate around the skin to dry it out. This will make it crisper when roasting. The turkey can be covered while brining, but it’s based on personal preference.
Placement of the turkey on the pan can make a big difference. Placing the wings underneath the turkey ensures the tips don’t burn and roasts more evenly. It’s the same principle for the legs. The tightly knotted butcher’s twine makes sure the bird roasts evenly.
Checking the turkey’s temperature frequently is key. Once it gets removed from the oven, the internal temperature continues to rise. This means it will be fully cooked once it sits out of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes.
 

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 707kcal
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Difficulty Intermediate
Method Roasting

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Kaleb

I’m Kaleb! I'm not a chef, professional baker, landscaper, or designer, but I like to play each on Knollgate Farm. Come join me on my journey and let's learn together!

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5 Comments

  1. I made your citrus dry rub Turkey last year but my family found it too peppery!
    I plan to try this orange spice dry rub this year, but the brine I have been using for many years has rosemary in it. What do you think about adding some fresh rosemary to the rub ? I loved my brine recipe but I’m tired of wrangling a 16 pound bird in a giant pot with 2 gallons of liquid!
    I love your videos! Both cooking and gardening! 💚

  2. Please tell me this makes good drippings for gravy. Is there a recipe for the gravy using this brine/baste combo? Thanks

  3. 5 stars
    Great recipe. I tried it and everything was delicious. Moist and tender bird complimented nicely with the cranberry marmalade. A keeper for sure.

  4. 5 stars
    This is a fabulous recipe!!! Everyone raved about, it was the most raved about turkey in our 50 years of marriage!!! No scented candles needed when cooking this bird!! I had never done a dry brine turkey and I had my moments wondering if this was going to be successful, especially when we put the bird in the refrigerator with no covering or wrap. I had trouble getting the skin to separate from the meat, but found messaging the skin was really the key, Reaching into the narrowest corners, was made easier by using a flat spread spatula, popular with icing cakes. I loaded the spatula with spices to deliver into that area. The cheesecloth was easier with my husband and I working together, BTW holding two corners keep the mesh from becoming a mess. We made the gravy and citrus cranberry sauce too, altogether “top drawer”!!! Thanks so very much