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Brown Ale Turkey and Gravy

10 Servings

3½ hours 30 min active

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How to roast the Thanksgiving turkey has turned into an annual ordeal. The debate over brining alone is enough to make one consider going vegetarian. And of course there’s the finicky business of how to get the thigh and breast meat to cook to perfect—yet different—temperatures simultaneously. We knew we had been overthinking this for far too long. So we decided to skip the culinary gymnastics and instead perfected a tried-and-true method: basting. But better. We douse our bird twice—no need for constant babysitting—with a reduction of brown ale and fresh herbs, which combine to form a rich, malty base. We also use a secret ingredient in the baste: fish sauce. It adds savory depth that shows up in umami-rich gravy, made from pan drippings. And don’t worry, it doesn’t taste at all fishy. A foil wrap traps the moist heat needed to get succulent breast meat; it’s removed about halfway through to develop that crispy mahogany skin that we crave.




Don’t be skimpy when choosing herb sprigs. Big, leafy sprigs that are at least 4 inches long were ideal. And avoid hoppy beers, which turned unpleasantly bitter when reduced.

3½ hours

30 min active


  • 2

    medium yellow onions (1 to 1¼ pounds), peeled and cut into 8 wedges each

  • 4

    large sprigs fresh thyme


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Zarina L.
October 4, 2022
Can you make this GF?
Wondering if there are any substitutions that can be made to make this Gluten-Free! We don't have a lot of GF beer options nearby, but I'd love to try this recipe.
Dorothy B.
January 30, 2024
Low effort for outstanding result
This has become our go-to way to have turkey for Thanksgiving.
Debra K.
January 7, 2024
Loved it
Incredible gravy and tender turkey.
Linnea S.
November 21, 2023
Can you substitute the brown ale. My wife is allergic to hops
Robert B.
November 19, 2023
Good looking bird and tasty gravy!
Recipe was straight forward and there wasn’t much difficulty. The beer. onion, herb reduction smelled so good cooking!
Mary S.

Can you do the beer reduction in advance? If yes, how early?

Mary S.

Thanks! I didn't end up doing it early, but having made this, now I'm not sure it would save all that much time.

Lynn C.

Hi Mary - I think you can make this ahead. I would say no more than a couple of days. Since the reduction and solids (don't forget to reserve these!) are meant to still be warm when they are added I would reheat gently on the stovetop before adding them.

The Milk Street Team

Pamela D.

This is a great basting idea. I replaced the fish sauce with a shiitake dashi from the Vedge cookbook because one of our guests can't have fish sauce.
What do you think about using it on salmon? or as a tempeh or tofu marinade?

elizabeth g.

I made this for Thanksgiving. The gravy was exceptional. I learned to take the turkey out at 155 and letting it sit. Perfect!

Amy B.

This was amazing. Best turkey I’ve ever had. I added some fresh herbs and an onion and a small amount of salt into the cavity of the bird as well. Can’t rave enough. Followed directions completely and it was perfect.

Mona P.

This recipe is perfect!! My husband followed it exactly as stated. The turkey browned beautifully, the meat was so tender and the drippings created a delicious gravy. Thank you Milk Street!!

Mary S.

First, let me say this was a tasty and visually stunning way to make a turkey. The recipe was super easy and low stress, and the turkey was delicious. The only negative is the overwhelming fish sauce smell. My 9 year old (who loves fish) kept coming in and asking "Why does it smell like cat food?" He was not wrong, and eventually the other smells overwhelmed, but it did make for a good laugh. Had I been hosting a large group, I'm not sure everyone would be so open-minded. Next time I might try doctoring this up and subbing marmite for fish sauce.

Jody O.

This is my go to turkey now. The gravy is fantastic-my family said they'd just drink it from a

nash r.

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Donna K.

Made this today. A 12# turkey roasted to perfection per this recipe. The gravy though...absolutely delicious! It made this the best turkey meal I've ever roasted. The fish sauce turns out, is a perfect touch and I found I spent less time in the kitchen basting.

Sylvia B.

I made this today for Thanksgiving. I wondered if the 1/4 cup of fish sauce was a mistake. I wish I had trusted my instincts. I can still taste the fish sauce hours later. The house smelled absolutely horrible while it was cooking and it didn’t taste good. I’m not sure I’ll make this again but if I do I certainly won’t use 1/4 cup fish sauce!

Diana L.

I made this before thanksgiving as a test using a four pounds chicken. It was very good. The gravy is delicious. Then we made a Turkey for thanksgiving using this recipe (19lb). Also, amazing. I am now making it again with the chicken.

Connie H.


I have a question, I've read through the recipe and only see 1/2 tsp of salt used for seasoning the basting liquid..could you clarify if the turkey should be seasoned all over and in the cavity?

Or is there a reason for not salting the turkey prior to cooking?

Thank you

Lynn C.

Hi Connie -

No, the turkey itself doesn't get seasoned with salt since the beer reduction has both salt and pepper and fish sauce, which is very salty.

The Milk Street Team

Stacey D.

I make this Turkey every year. I have since this recipe first came out. It’s easy. I do cook it in my electric cooker instead of the oven. I use my oven for the stuffing recipe that came out in the same issue as this Turkey recipe. Together they are amazing. I save all the juices from the turkey and use it to make the gravy. Oh my gosh! Then I use the left over turkey to make turkey pot pie the next day. I use the gravy as the filler.

Lorena G.

I just roasted a turkey this weekend using this recipe and it was DE-LICIOUS! Our turkey was nearly 20 lbs, so I thought that I needed to slightly increase the ingredients. So, I think that affected the taste of the gravy in the end (a bit too salty and a strange aftertaste) and the family wasn't a fan. Next time I will follow the recipe exactly. I have always been terrified of ending up with a raw turkey, but a digital thermometer in the breast takes the guess work out of it. I was surprised that the turkey was done in 2:30 hours, considering how big it was. It had beautiful brown skin and even the breast was so juicy!