Don’t act surprised—turkey has been deep-fried, spatchcocked, and cooked Peking-style over the years, so this was just a natural progression. Like a mammoth version of your favorite beer can chicken, this recipe uses a “tall boy”—that’s a 24-ounce beer can, for all the squares—to act as the pillar for a Thanksgiving bird. The beer inside the can perfumes the turkey flesh with its essence while the beer in the roasting pan mingles with the pan juices to make a flavorful gravy that comes together in minutes while the majestic bird rests jauntily on the cutting board. A compound butter flavored with lots of lemon zest, chile flakes, and thyme leaves bastes the turkey meat from the under the skin, keeping it incredibly moist. Don’t skip the step of salting the turkey and letting it air-dry in the refrigerator overnight. This both acts as a dry-brine for the bird and also drives moisture off the skin, resulting in a crackling-crisp texture.
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
10 sprigs fresh thyme, stems removed, plus more sprigs to garnish
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons, plus more lemon wedges to garnish
Freshly ground black pepper
1 (12 pound) whole turkey (thawed, if frozen), giblets removed, and dried thoroughly
1 (24-ounce) can American-style pilsner
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1. On a cutting board, mince the garlic, then sprinkle with a little salt and continue chopping and smashing the garlic with the side of your knife until it forms a mostly smooth paste. Scrape the paste into a medium bowl and use a fork to stir in the butter, chile flakes, thyme leaves, and lemon zest until evenly combined. Season the butter mixture with pepper.
2. Place the turkey on a cutting board, and using your fingers, insert them between the skin and the meat of the turkey over the breasts and thighs, taking care not to pull off the skin. Using your fingers or a spoon, insert small pieces of the flavored butter under the skin all over the turkey and smooth it out by pressing on the butter over the skin to make sure it covers the meat evenly. Use any leftover flavored butter in the bowl or on your hands to rub all over the turkey. Season the outside and inside of the turkey liberally with salt and pepper. (You can prepare the turkey through this step up to 1 day in advance. Transfer the turkey to a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, until ready to bake.)
3. Heat the oven to 325°F. Pour half the beer from the can into a large roasting pan. Carefully insert the beer can into the cavity of the turkey and stand the turkey upright in the roasting pan. Transfer the turkey to the oven and roast until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh (not touching the bone) reads 160°F and the juices run clear, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
4. Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Using a triple-thick layer of folded paper towels in each hand, carefully lift the turkey and beer can together and onto a large cutting board. Let the turkey rest while you make the gravy.
5. Pour the pan drippings through a strainer into a liquid measuring cup or fat separator. Let stand to allow the fat to separate from the drippings, at least 10 minutes (if you have the time, place the drippings in the freezer to quicken this process). Skim off 1/4 cup of the fat from the top of the drippings and transfer it to a small saucepan; skim off and discard the remaining fat. You should have between 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups of pan drippings. Pour enough chicken stock into the drippings to make 3 cups total.
6. Heat the fat in the saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking often, for 1 minute. Pour in the drippings and stock and whisk until smooth. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat and season the gravy with salt and pepper.
7. Carefully remove the beer can from the turkey cavity and discard it along with the beer inside. Carve the turkey and transfer it to a large serving plate. Decorate the turkey with more thyme sprigs and lemon wedges, if you like, and serve with the gravy.
Photo by Liz Clayman