A Gluten Free, Grain Free, Soy Free Thanksgiving – The Turkey

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It’s Thanksgiving week!  Everyone has been posting recipes and ideas like crazy.  I think I forgot to tell you, I don’t eat turkey…so this week is not on my list of traditional favorites!  However, I don’t want you to feel left out AND I want you to be SAFE this holiday.  Starting today, I am sharing my thoughts, ideas, recipe links, and ways for you to enjoy…

 A GGF-Approved Thanksgiving!

In case you are okay with being “non-traditional”, here’s what I have on Thanksgiving Day…a simple & safe menu that doesn’t require a lot of guess work!  If this doesn’t suit you, scroll down to get to the turkey prep.

  • Flank Steak or Filet Mignon
  • Creamy Mashed Potatoes
  • Sauteed Green Beans or Steamed Asparagus
  • GGF Pumpkin Crustless Cheesecake

I know the above is pretty non-traditional, but it’s what I treat myself to while everyone indulges in the traditional fare (and falls asleep afterward).  I’m usually ready for a brisk walk or some power shopping after I eat!

Though I do not personally indulge in turkey or more traditional fare, I know many will want to…so I have developed a list of favorites.


Turkey is generally unsafe for Celiacs and Gluten Sensitive individuals when sold under the “normal” labels (such as Butterball, store label, etc.; see pictures below).  Why they aren’t safe:  the turkey is pre-marinated with a solution to help preserve it and add flavor.  That solution almost always has modified starch or “broth” as an ingredient, both of which contain gluten and can leave you feeling miserable!  (In the pictures below, I’m sorry it’s hard to see!  The front label of the Butterball states that the solution contains natural flavors and modified starch, both of which can be dangerous for you to consume.  These ingredients are not always obvious or easy to locate on the label, as shown.)

Butterball Turkey label post 11.25.13Close up turkey front labelTurkey back ingredient label

The safest type of turkey for you is a free-range, no antibiotics, non-marinated turkey.  You may have to use methods other than your local grocer to find one, although they are becoming more commonly available (albeit more expensive).  In my local area, I have found them through local and natural stores for $2.69-$2.89 per pound (vs. the general “sale” of $.88/pound for regular grocery store turkeys).  As you add that up, it explains part of my reason for indulging in steak on this holiday…it can actually be less expensive for me!  The biggest reason, of course, that I don’t indulge in turkey is that they are grain fed (unless you find naturally fed ones) and turkeys retain the corn oil in their system from what they eat, which may be just enough to trigger your body’s immune reaction to whatever condition you have rooted in gluten sensitivity.

 So, you found a free-range, no antibiotics turkey.  Now what?

Brining a turkey

Again, I have not done this myself, but all of my cooking research points to the best method of turkey preparation as a method called “brining”.  This is a salted solution that soaks into the turkey, and will naturally “lift” the flavor of the meat itself.  You will need to allow 24 hours for this prior to cooking the turkey.

Here is a recipe from Martha Stewart for brining the turkey.  To be GGF-approved, leave out the wine that she lists.  You can add some olive oil if you’d like and even some apple cider vinegar to the mix (though I’d be light on that).  You can also simplify the spices if you don’t have all of them on hand.  *Please note* if you did purchase a turkey that is pre-marinated, do NOT try to brine it.  It will become mushy and Thanksgiving may become stressful!

 Marinating (flavoring) the turkey

After you have brined the turkey, be sure to rinse it off and dry it well, which keeps the skin perfectly intact.

So here’s the crazy part…I cooked a turkey once when I was an exchange student, and it was the most incredible turkey I had ever eaten!  We followed a recipe in a magazine and laughed because it called for a syringe.  I highly recommend it, and here’s why!  If you use a syringe, you keep the turkey’s natural fat sealed in under the skin.  The skin crisps up with what you inject, and the natural juices are encased within the skin, leaving you with a wonderfully moist, juicy, and flavor-rich turkey to enjoy!

Find a syringe (inexpensive at the drug store), and either make a solution of melted butter (I recommend unsalted) with your favorite herbs, such as rosemary, basil, black pepper, oregano, thyme, and salt; or, you can just inject the melted butter and lay the herbs just inside and on top of the skin, so that the syringe doesn’t get jammed up.  I recommend that you chop the herbs in a food processor until they are really tiny, allowing them to pass through the syringe.  You can be pretty creative here and not go wrong!  With your syringe full of butter or solution, go all over the turkey skin and inject the solution into the turkey and under the skin.  The more you place under the skin, the crispier the skin will be.

If using a syringe is too over the top for you or not readily available, use the same solution as above, but use the butter in a softened state instead of melted.  Combine the softened butter and herbs, and rub it into the turkey all over, getting into the crevices and under the skin where possible.  Remember, you still want to keep as much of the skin intact to seal in the natural juices.

Roasting the turkey

After all of this, roast the turkey, breast side up, in a roasting pan with ¼” water. The oven should be preheated to 325 degrees.  With the syringe method, you should not need to baste the turkey, but it won’t hurt anything to add more of the solution as you bake it to ensure moisture content (if you don’t use a syringe, you should baste every 30-45 minutes).  Bake until the turkey reaches 165-180 degrees on a meat thermometer.  Allow the turkey to “rest” for about 30 minutes prior to carving.  Do NOT stuff the turkey.  Any grain free stuffing is just going to turn to mush, and that equals Thanksgiving misery!

Check back tomorrow for two of your favorite traditional side dish recipes!

~GGF Gourmet

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