When roasting or grilling whole turkeys, it is important to marinate the bird first before cooking. Since the dry heat methods in cooking also dries up the surface of the bird, marinating helps keep the meat moist. The ingredients in the marinade, most especially the acids like citrus or wine, will help tenderize the meat as well. With the seasonings, herbs and sauces incorporated into the marinade, it suffuses the meat with even more flavor.
In some marinated turkey recipes, the turkey may be brined first before marinating. Brining usually involves simple salt water although some recipes also include brown sugar, apple cider, and pepper. The brine solution keeps the turkey moist and well-seasoned. If using frozen turkey, be sure to allot at least three to four days for the process to ensure the turkey is perfectly and safely thawed and the brine permeates through the meat. Wash off the brine before applying the marinade. Though brining prolongs preparation time, brining and marinating turkey make it especially succulent. But if you prefer, you can skip the brining altogether and proceed to marinating.
The basic ingredients in marinated turkey recipes include an acid like vinegar, juice from a citrus fruit (like orange or lemon), or wine plus salt, pepper, herbs and spices (marjoram, thyme and sage are listed in a recipe for an herb marinade from the National Turkey Federation website).
The marinade for your marinated turkey recipes can be introduced into the turkey in any of the three ways. The most common is mixing the marinade and then putting it in a large plastic bag together with the turkey. Another way is to put the turkey in a glass bowl large enough to hold it and then pour the marinade. If you have a plastic bowl with cover, all the better. Turn the turkey so all the parts soak the flavor. You can also do this if using just the turkey parts like breast or leg.
Lastly, you can get the marinade deep into the turkey meat by using a meat, marinade or spice injector. The meat injector has a syringe with a large gauge needle. With the marinade on the injector, you can inject it into the thicker parts of the meat for more moisture and flavor. Use only liquid marinade and avoid ingredients that may clog the injector.
Using any of these methods, remember that the turkey must always be marinated in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. The NTF discourages using the marinade with which the bird had soaked to baste it on the grill to avoid contamination.