Unless you've been living under a (Plymouth) rock, by now you've heard about the whole "fried turkey" craze; you may have even eaten it before. And if you have, you know just how good it is. Crispy skin, tender meat, shorter cooking time - indeed, a perfectly fried turkey is a beautiful thing. So this year, you want to make it for your own Thanksgiving table.
But before you drop that bird into a GIANT VAT OF BOILING-HOT OIL, make sure to take a few precautions. Your guests (and your homeowner's insurance company) will thank you.
- Turkey (if you didn't already know you'd need a turkey in order to fry a turkey, perhaps this isn't the best cooking method for you to utilize)
- 5-6 gallons cooking oil - peanut is best, but vegetable oil works as well
- 30 qt. Cooking pot/fryer basket - some places, like Sears, even sell turkey frying kits.
- Propane gas cooktop - equipped for outdoor use
- Long wooden stick (i.e. hockey stick)
- Goggles/gloves/apron - yes, you will look silly, but it's better than looking dead
- Oil thermometer
- Meat thermometer
*Note: Before preparing and seasoning the thawed turkey, be sure to put it in the cooking pot and add water until it's just covered - this should be AT LEAST 5-6 INCHES FROM THE TOP OF THE POT; remove the bird and use a ruler to measure how deep the water is - that's how much oil you'll need to put in the pot when it's time to cook!
PREPARE THE BIRD
Unfortunately, you can't just take the turkey out of the packaging and toss it into the oil. There are a few things you have to do first:
- COMPLETELY thaw the turkey - If you don't, it won't cook through - and a good host doesn't give guests Salmonella poisoning.
- Remove the innards - Who uses those, anyway?
- Remove the pop-up timer and plastic truss that holds the legs together - Because nothing ruins a good turkey like melted plastic.
- Pat the turkey dry, both inside and out - Kitchen Physics 101: Water and hot oil DO NOT mix.
SEASON THE BIRD
Otherwise, it will just taste like - well - turkey.
You can Google "turkey seasoning" for ideas on what kind of herbs and spices to use - just make sure you use a dry rub, and don't add any butter or other liquidy base (see #4 above for why). And try to get some under the skin and inside the cavity - the more flavoring opportunities, the better!
For a truly decadent turkey, Google "turkey brining" recipes.
PREPARE THE COOKING VESSEL
- GO OUTSIDE. Do not even attempt to do this inside your house, or your garage, or out on your deck. GO OUTSIDE, I tell you!!
- Set the gas burner on a level, dry surface - Make sure the area is well-ventilated and away from anything flammable.
- Keep the propane tank as far away from the burner as possible
- READ THE INSTRUCTIONS that came with your fryer - Every fryer is a little different, like a snowflake - a delicious, deep-fried snowflake.
- Dry the pot - Again. Water and oil. No good.
- Add the oil
- Light the burner - Start it off on High, and heat to 350 degrees.
FRY THE BIRD
- If you haven't already, don your lovely bird-frying garb - An unscathed host is a beautiful host.
- Find a bird-dunking buddy - You'll need his/her help to lower the bird into the oil.
- Turn off the heat - Just for a minute, while you're actually lowering the bird into the oil. Most turkey-frying fires start right around this moment due to overflowing oil hitting an open flame.
- Put the turkey in the frying basket, and hang it from the wooden stick - It's all very Jack and Jill - except instead of a pail of water, you've got a pail of yummy bird!
- SLOOOOOOWLY lower the basket into the oil - There will inevitably be some bubbling and popping when the turkey goes in; going slow can help alleviate this and make it manageable. Aren't you glad you turned the burner off?
- Turn the burner back on - Make sure to monitor the temperature of the oil throughout the cooking process, and increase or decrease the flame as needed.
- Cook for 3-4 minutes per pound of bird
- Remove the bird - Turn off the burner, and using your Bird Buddy and the pole, remove the frying basket from the oil. Let the excess oil drip off for a few moments before taking it inside.
- Check the internal temperature - it should be 170 degrees in the breast and 180 degrees in the thigh.
**NEVER** leave the bird alone while it's cooking!! - You need to be there to monitor the oil temperature (don't let it get so hot it starts smoking - that can lead to combustion), make sure the oil doesn't bubble over, and most importantly, keep the poor poultry company as it gives its life over for your gorging pleasure.
No one likes to clean up, but it's a necessary evil.
Wait until the oil has completely cooled. If you want to re-use it, use a filtering funnel to remove any sediment or stray turkey bits and return the oil to its original container. Store it in a cool, dry place for up to six months, as long as the container is airtight.
If you're a one-and-done kind of turkey fryer, you can take the oil to a recycling center, or call up a local restaurant - they often will take the oil and dispose of it for you.