No traditional Thanksgiving celebration is complete without turkey. Traditionally, the bird is slowly oven roasted, but deep frying turkey is much quicker. The bird is juicy all the way through when it’s done correctly. But when done incorrectly, a bad bird isn’t the only potential outcome you’ll face.
Prepping the Fryer
We all know how long the Thanksgiving turkey takes to cook in the oven. Deep frying is quick by comparison, but it requires careful prep work. Plan to deep fry the bird outside. Do not cook the bird indoors; this increases the risk of fire hazards and danger to others.
Deep frying turkey is dangerous even under the best of circumstances, so it pays to prepare. Scout out a location with a flat, fireproof surface. Wooden decks are not suitable for deep frying. Ideally, choose a location that’s several feet away from plants, trees, furniture and other flammable items. Keep all children and pets away. Place wet blankets and/or a fire extinguisher near the cooking area in case of a emergency.
In order to fry the bird safely and cook it thoroughly, you’ll need a large deep fryer or a pot with a 26-quart capacity (at least). You’ll also need a wire basket that can fit inside the pot, metal tongs, a meat thermometer, cooking oil and a burner (to heat the oil).
Prepping the Bird
The bird should weigh between 10 and 15 pounds. Don’t try deep frying a turkey any larger than this. If a lot of people need to be fed, cook more than one turkey. The bird or birds should be fully thawed before frying.
Place the turkey inside the empty cooking pot. Fill the pot with cold water until it rests about two inches above the top of the turkey. The surface of the water should be at least four inches below the top edge of the cooking pot. Remove the bird and pour the water into a large bowl or pitcher. This is how much oil the turkey needs in order to cook. Vegetable oil or peanut oil, or some combination of the two, can be used for deep frying turkey. Peanut oil smokes less and gives the bird a lot of flavor. This is the oil that’s most commonly used in the Cajun recipe for fried turkey.
Frying the Turkey
While the oil in the fryer is preheating to 400 degrees, pat the turkey dry with paper towels and add any seasonings you want. The bird can be injected with a marinade, covered in a dry spice rub or both. If you’re using a marinade, lift the turkey skin before injecting and allow the turkey to rest for at least 12 hours in the refrigerator prior to cooking (this allows the flavor to sink in). Don’t stuff the turkey because it won’t cook properly in the oil.
When the oil is bubbling, place the turkey inside the fryer. Put the turkey in the wire basket and carefully lower it down into the pot. Hot oil will splash out of the pot as the turkey is lowered, so clear the area of all people and pets. Wear protective clothing and eye gear, as well. Lower the bird slowly, not quickly, in order to minimize the amount of splashing.
The turkey should be cooked three to four minutes per pound (about 40 minutes for a 10-pound bird). Keep watch on the turkey and the hot oil during the cooking process. An untended vat of bubbling oil is dangerous to animals and humans, and it’s also a potential fire hazard. Use the meat thermometer to ensure the bird has been thoroughly cooked before you pull it out. The temperature should be 175 to 180 degrees for dark meat and 165 to 170 degrees for white.
Once the turkey is cooked, lift it out of the oil and place it in a large pan that’s lined with paper towels. Let it stand for about 20 minutes before carving. Otherwise, the bird will be too hot to handle. Don’t attempt to move the fryer for at least an hour after the heat is turned off.
Deep frying turkey results in a bird that has a crispy outer skin and juicy meat inside. It’s a quick way to get a delicious bird, but it is dangerous. Take the proper precautions, use the right tools and thoroughly prepare yourself to enjoy a safe, delicious Thanksgiving holiday.