Frances Heirloom Turkey and Gravy Recipe (Gluten-Free Style)

Frances Heirloom Turkey and Gravy Recipe (Gluten-Free Style)


Every year for Thanksgiving, my mother makes an amazing dinner for a large amount of family and friends. Recently, I made the somewhat daunting decision to take on the Christmas turkey dinner for my family. I did research, I had lots of input from my mother and settled down to make a 20 pound bird (almost) all by myself. Ack. Terrifying.

This recipe was my grandmother Eleanor Frances Smith Chandler's Thanksgiving turkey recipe and she got it from her mother Frances Smith, It was a pride and joy recipe for the family. There is always, of course, the dinner disaster family stories. My grandmother once had everything completely done for a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner, and when the designated carver took the blade to the bird he found an embarrassingly raw center. When her father-in-law reminded her of this twenty years later, it still reduced her to tears. There was one year my mother (also Frances) had a leaky turkey bag and a dried out bird. That year continues to be joked about years later as we had to order Chinese food for dinner instead.  In short, making and occasionally having a fiasco with this recipe seems an important rite of passage for the Franceses in my family--me being Andrea Frances--the last in this long illustrious line of turkey cooks.

The first year I made this I had my own mild disaster ...but well a picture might be a better representation?

You see that beautiful turkey? Well, it was accidentally cooked upside down. With the brining and the nerves and busyness I made an upside-down turkey. Worst part was that I did not notice until it was done, and the husband was trying to carve it. He had never carved a turkey before. We were beginning to wonder if we somehow got a GMO-mutant turkey without breasts. Whoops.

The most important part of this funny mistake was that IT WAS DELICIOUS. I make my Christmas turkeys upside down every year now. They are definitely less-pretty, but the breast retains so much more moisture that it is worth it. However, for the purposes of this tutorial I made it right-side up, so it doesn't offend turkey-purists (yeah, I know there are some of you out there).

One more note: We have a lot of Celiac sufferers in our family, so our Thanksgivings are entirely gluten-free for the big dishes.




5 Gallon Food Grade Bucket

Brining Bag

Large pan (NOT nonstick)



Cheap Cloth Gloves

Vinyl kitchen Disposable Gloves

Mason Jar with Lid



2 Large Bunches Celery

2 Large Onions

Brine Mix (you can definitely make your own, but this is so easy) I live Simply Organic Turkey Brine

TURKEY (For the purposes of this post, I used a 13-pound gobbler)

Vegetable/Canola Oil


3+ bunches of fresh sage

fresh thyme

fresh or dried oregano (if desired)

gluten free cornbread mix (I used Bob's Red Mill)

2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary

gluten free flour 1/4-1/2 cup

kosher salt (handfuls)

coarsely ground pepper and sea salt



The night before your meal prepare the turkey by brining itx. I use a food-grade 5 gallon bucket with a brining bag in it. I add the brining mix and add enough water so that it is fully dissolved. Stir with a spoon until all the grittiness is gone.

Wash your sink thoroughly so that it is clean enough to open your turkey directly into it. Remove the neck and giblets (yeah, gross word, but they are VERY necessary) and set aside. I go ahead and put them into the crockpot I use to boil them into broth during the day. You could also just put them in a ziplock bag.)

**You do not need to rinse your turkey (most people agree that rinsing does not have a benefit and makes cross-contamination through splashing more likely. I disinfect my counters very thoroughly several times throughout this whole process). 

Place the turkey breast side down in the brining bag within the five gallon bucket. 

Refrigerate overnight with the turkey in the brine. (I think there is a danger in the turkey becoming too salty, but I have never had this happen. The longest I have ever brined is 24 hours.)

Stuffing (Semi-Homemade) Prep-work:

A day or two before you will make your turkey, prepare your cornbread. You can also make it from scratch, but this is delicious and super easy. With two little ones around, easy is what wins right now in my home. I used one package of Bob's Red Mill cornbread to make a 9x9 glass pan of cornbread. I cooked it about ten minutes beyond the package instructions. I left it out on the counter loosely covered in order to dry it out a bit which is ideal for the stuffing. 

The night before the turkey day, I prep my stuffing vegetables. I chop two large bunches of celery (KEEP THE CENTER LEAFY PART) and two large vidalia onions. Add the leafy bit of the celery into whatever container I have the giblets in. If I have them in a crockpot, I add enough water to keep everything moist overnight. 


Begin simmering the giblets and celery leaf stalks in enough water to entirely submerge. I use a small crockpot, so that this does not take up a burner. Ideally, you would start this as soon as you wake up in the morning so that the water would be turned into broth by the time you are making the stuffing. 

Gluten Free Cornbread Stuffing

Wash and tear the leaves off of the three bunches of fresh Sage. If desired, also to this to fresh thyme (I forgot to get thyme at the grocery store for my turkey, but it really does add something). Melt one stick of butter in the bottom of a large dutch-oven style pot. Add sage and thyme and begin to saute until it is well wilted and fragrant. Add in celery and onion. It will seem like A LOT but it cooks down a ton as you keep it on medium heat pretty much constantly stirring. Once it it cooked down a lot and the celery and onions are very translucent add a few grinds of some coarse sea salt and fresh black pepper. Also add 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano if desired. 

Crumble up the corn bread into the celery/sage/onion mixture. Add small amount of broth (should have been cooking at least and hour or so by now) from the giblets. The amount of the broth you need will depend on how dry your cornbread is. For my stuffing we added about 1 1/4 cups of the giblet broth.

***Add more water to the giblet/celery pot, so it can continue to simmer and be used for the gravy

When we make stuffing for a big group in a large turkey we add a couple stuffing mixes into the pot and then need a lot more of the broth. We like this brand of GF stuffing. Stir everything all together and remove from dutch oven so that it can cool a little bit before the turkey is ready for it (don't let it totally cool). With a big group of people, I put about half of what I make into a separate pan to be cooked separately from the turkey. This time I just used what I have and put whatever fit within the turkey.and discarded the rest.  


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees or 325 if your prefer. (Make sure you remove any unnecessary oven racks before you heat it up.) Use a large shiny metal pan (we use an old wilton sheet cake pan) that has been thoroughly coated in canola/vegetable oil. (We cook the turkey directly on the pan to maximize the brown drippings). 

Clean your sink out again thoroughly, so that you can gently rinse the brine off of the turkey directly in the sink. Avoid cross contamination and any splashing of the water. Place the turkey in the well-oiled pan (double-check that the desired side is up)Okay. So the deal with "stuffing" cooked inside the turkey is that it can be very dangerous when not done properly. Once you put the stuffing in the turkey, it must go into the oven as quickly as possible. Always stuff the turkey LOOSELY. Always pay attention to the USDA's recommendations for "doneness" as far as temperature goes (at least 165 degrees in the stuffing). This is very important to avoid making your guests sick. Here are the USDA's recommendations to cook stuffing safely. Once you have started stuffing your bird, the CLOCK IS TICKING! Everything that you touch is contaminated and should be cooked immediately (which is why I divide up the stuffing first). I had always used a spoon and made a bit of a mess while LOOSELY stuffing my turkey on both ends. The stuffing is always still hot, so this year I used some cheap cotton gloves with a pair of disposable vinyl one on top. So much less mess and no burned fingers. 


The clock is ticking! Coat the turkey in vegetable/canola oil and a basting brush. Add a few pats of butter. Add sprigs of rosemary behind each leg. Put an aluminum foil tent over top of the turkey, and place your beautiful bird in the oven. I cooked my stuffed 13 lb turkey close to 4 hrs and 15 minutes with the tent off for the last 1 hr 15 min. I used a meat thermometer to confirm doneness. 

Here is a good graphic on how long to cook your turkey. 

Everywhere seems to say cook a turkey at 325 degrees, but I have always done it at 350 degrees without it drying out. I do start basting as soon as there are enough drippings to baste with--usually about an hour and a half in to the roasting time. There is a delicate balance between basting to keep it nice and moist and not opening the oven too much. I try to do it every half hour or so. I am probably an over-baster. 

When the turkey is about to come out of the oven. Turn off the heat under the giblet/celery broth, and let it cool a bit before you are ready to make the gravy. 

When the turkey comes out of the oven let it rest a bit before you move it. 10 minutes is probably enough. Spoon out the stuffing under the neck fold before moving, so that it doesn't all fall out. Move it onto the serving dish (usually takes two-ish people and a few utensils) and then tent again (with new foil) until it is time to carve. 


This is the part of the recipe that truly sets the Frances family Turkey apart. The mothers in my family have been passing this method down for years. 

Take a slotted spoon and remove any extra bits of stuck on stuffing and rosemary sprigs. Don't scrape off any burned brown areas! These areas are vital as the gravy cooks. Pour the remaining drippings into a gravy separator. The greasy parts will rise to the top and you will be able to mainly use the less oily bottom part. Pour it back into your pan. 

Take a cup of the broth into a mason jar and add in 1/4 cup of gluten free flour. Shake together until well-combined. It is okay if it is still a bit lumpy. Add this mixture into the pan. 

Add in small handful of table salt.Turn on the burners underneath the pan on low to medium heat and keep using a large spatula to scrap and swirl and squish it around until it gets more smooth. The lumps will smooth out as you use the spatula to scrape everything around. It does take a bit 10 minutes or so, so be patient and don't get discouraged if it seems lumpy at first. KEEP SCRAPING AND STIRRING. Don't let it burn. (This is a great job for a guest to do before dinner. Just tell them to keep everything moving and squishing it into the warm bubbling parts.)

After the gravy begins to smooth out, thicken, and become that beautiful brown color, add in 2-4 more cups of the giblet broth. Continue to scrape and swirl until the gravy becomes thick and more uniform. The "burned-on" areas will continue be incorporated and give the gravy a deeper brown color. Add more salt to taste. Turn off the burners. If you want perfectly smooth gravy you can put it through the separator again, but we never do that in our family. Just let it cool a bit then pour into your gravy server. Mason jars work GREAT for this when you don't have a traditional gravy boat! 

Carve the turkey! Serve with the gravy! Enjoy the deliciousness and feel very proud of yourself for the amazing meal you made!

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