Gluten Free Thanksgiving Turkey

Gluten Free Girl remains ‘royalty’ in the world of gluten-free food writing. We read her page often, and are excited to try this recipe for our turkey this Thanksgiving!

Gluten-free Turkey for Thanksgiving

I love a good roasted turkey, the skin crisp, the flesh juicy. Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t start for me until I have stolen a piece of skin from the bird just out of the oven.

For that reason, a dry turkey that flecks off the bone and makes me reach for the gravy boat is just plain depressing.

(I’m not the only one who looks forward all year to that glorious turkey moment. Did you see Kim Severson’s piece about Thanksgiving turkey in last week’s New York Times? Of course, you also have to read the flip side, Julia Moskin’s piece about how much more she enjoys the sides than the bird. Where do you stand?)

Thankfully, since Danny came into my life, the only reason I have to reach for more gravy is that it’s delicious. Even if it is gluten-free.

Did you know that some frozen turkeys can have gluten in them? The turkeys with pre-injected basting might. Seriously? You don’t want those anyway.

We put in our order for a free-range turkey, raised locally, never frozen ja few days ago. I can’t wait for that first taste.

Of course, there are plenty of you reading who don’t like turkey for Thanksgiving. If not, what are you cooking? Another meat? Or something vegetarian? I’m sure we’d all like to share. This NY Times article about going meat-free for Thanksgiving fascinated me.

roast turkey breast

Brine for Turkey

It seems that many of us avoid turkey during the rest of the year because it’s so darned dry. Well, I’ve learned that turkey has a bad reputation for no reason. All it takes to make the best turkey you have ever eaten is a little brining.

We’ll be making this brine on Wednesday evening and submerging our 12-pound turkey in it overnight. If you are making a bigger turkey, make more brine.

  • 2 gallons water
  • 1 head garlic, peels and all
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns, toasted and crushed
  • 2 tablespoons white peppercorns, toasted and crushed
  • 2 lemons, juice and hull
  • 10 sprigs rosemary
  • 20 sprigs thyme
  • 10 sprigs sage
  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 bay leaves


Combine all the ingredients and stir well.

You have brine.

Our Spice Rub for Turkey

Last week, Danny and I had the privilege of spending three days in northern California, at Kingsford U. (You can read all about it here, and we hope you do.) We had the privilege of learning from Chris Lilly, pitmaster and champion of barbeque competitions, whose book, Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book, is now our barbequing bible.

His class on putting together spice rubs changed the way I will be making them from now on. Each meal needs its own special blend. Chris taught us to think in terms of balancing sugar and salt in different ways, depending on the protein we are cooking, of how much heat we need, of transitional spices to fill in the spaces, and signature flavors that announce themselves strongly. (We’ll be writing a full post about this soon, over on the other blog.)

In that class, I smelled and tasted and thought and played, until I came up with a spice rub I loved. Chris liked it a lot. Danny thought it was better than his. And we like it so well that this will be the spice rub for our Thanksgiving turkey. We think you might like it too.

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons turbinado (or demerara) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder (or granulated garlic)
  • 1 teaspoon fennel pollen (or ground fennel seeds)
  • pinch cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

Combine everything together. Blend well.

To make the final turkey, brine it overnight.

The next day, pat it dry, as dry as you can.

  • Preheat the oven to 450°.
  • Coat the turkey in some sort of fat (Danny suggests canola oil. Butter or duck fat would be great too.)
  • Spread the spice rub, liberally.
  • Put the turkey in a roasting pan. Put it in the oven.
  • Roast at the high heat for 20 minutes.

Turn the heat down to 375° and roast the bird until it is golden and juicy, about 1 1/2 hours.

You need to take its internal temperature. Most official guides say take it to 180°. We’re seeing a lot of chefs cooking poultry to 175° these days. You should do more reading and see what feels right to you. But please, don’t overcook the bird.

Take the turkey out of the oven and let it rest, for about 15 minutes, before carving. This would be the time to make the gravy.

Cut into that juicy golden turkey and enjoy.

Update: The wonderful Karen Robertson made this suggestion about what to do after brining the turkey.

The folks over at Cooks Illustrated (Nov/Dec 2000)suggest letting the bird air dry for a day and here is why…when the bird sits overnight uncovered in the refrigerator (after brining) “the residual moisture left in the skin from brining evaporates during the overnight rest in the refrigerator.The skin crisps in the oven rather than steaming from the excess moisture.”
If you have time it might be worth a try. We follow this method each year with fantastic results.“

We’re going to try this too.


1 thought on “Gluten Free Thanksgiving Turkey

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