Bourbon-Glazed Turkey with Pearl Onion Giblet Gravy

Chef Tanya Holland's secret for a turkey with juicy meat and nicely lacquered skin: Brine the bird overnight and then baste it frequently with a bourbon-brown sugar glaze as it roasts. Mashed roasted garlic gives the pearl onion giblet gravy a subtly sweet, nutty flavor.

Bourbon-Glazed Turkey with Pearl Onion Giblet Gravy
Photo: © John Kernick
Active Time:
1 hrs
Marinate Time:
8 hrs
Total Time:
14 hrs
12 servings



  • 1 (15-pound) turkey—heart, gizzard, and liver chopped and reserved

  • 2 cups apple cider

  • 1 1/2 cups kosher salt

  • 2 cups dark brown sugar, divided

  • 3 rosemary sprigs

  • 1 bunch thyme

  • 1 bunch sage

  • 3 pounds ice cubes

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped, divided

  • 2 celery ribs, finely chopped, divided

  • 1 large carrot, thinly sliced, divided

  • 10 garlic cloves, divided

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 cup bourbon

Mashed Roasted Garlic

  • 2 large heads garlic, halved horizontally

  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • 2 tablespoons canola oil

  • 1 (12-ounce) bag frozen pearl onions, thawed

  • 3 cups turkey stock or low-sodium chicken broth

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1/4 cup Mashed Roasted Garlic


Make the Turkey

  1. Put the turkey in a brining bag set in a tub or very large pot. In a large saucepan, combine the cider with the salt, 1 cup of the brown sugar, and the rosemary, thyme, and sage, and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Add 6 quarts of cold water to the brine and pour over the turkey. Add the ice to the brine and refrigerate the turkey overnight.

  2. Preheat the oven to 450°F and set a rack on the lowest shelf of the oven. Drain the turkey and pat dry. Discard the brine. Fill the turkey cavity with half of the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic cloves; scatter the remaining vegetables in a large roasting pan and set a V-shaped rack in the pan. Tie the turkey legs with butcher's twine and transfer the bird to the rack, breast side up. Add 2 cups of water to the pan and roast the turkey for 30 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the remaining 1 cup of brown sugar with the butter and the bourbon and heat just until the sugar and butter melt.

  4. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and brush the turkey with some of the glaze. Continue roasting the turkey, brushing it every 15 minutes, for about 3 hours, adding another 2 cups of water and tenting the turkey with foil halfway through roasting; cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 165°F. Transfer the turkey to a carving board and let rest for 30 minutes; set aside the roasting pan with the juices.

Make the Mashed Garlic

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Arrange the garlic cut side up on a sheet of foil and drizzle with the olive oil. Season the garlic with salt and pepper to taste and wrap it in the foil. Roast the garlic for about 1 hour, until very soft. Let cool, then squeeze the garlic cloves out of the skins and mash.

Make the Gravy

  1. Strain the turkey pan juices into a heatproof bowl and skim off the fat. (You should have about 1 cup.) Discard the vegetables.

  2. In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the chopped turkey giblets and cook over moderate heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the pearl onions and cook until lightly browned in spots, about 5 minutes longer. Add the turkey stock and the reserved turkey pan juices and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the saucepan.

  3. In a small bowl, mash the butter with the flour and whisk it into the gravy. Bring to a boil and simmer until the gravy thickens, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the mashed roasted garlic.

  4. Carve the turkey and serve with the gravy.

Suggested Pairing

Juicy, berried California red blend.

Make Ahead

The mashed roasted garlic can be covered in oil, stored in a jar, and refrigerated for up to 1 week.

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