Recent years have seen an explosion of interest in deep fried turkey – due as much to the increased availability of specially made home turkey fryers as to the tasty appeal of this traditional bird with a crusty twist.
Frying a bird at home can be a challenging task requiring special safety precautions and temperature monitoring that’s not typical with an oven-baked bird.
But with just a small investment of time and effort, you too can enjoy the payoff of a tasty turkey seared crisp on the outside, moist, juicy and delicious on the inside.
First things first: Invest in a quality fryer. Turkey fryers come in propane models and electric models; there’s no difference in how well or quickly they cook the bird, so choose based on your personal preference. They can range cost $70 to $100 for a basic, electric model or more than $300 for a propane-powered, restaurant-quality fryer.
The key to selecting your fryer is the size. You’ll want to make sure it can accommodate the size of bird you have in mind. The ideal fryer will let your turkey fit in with ample space on all sides and at the top to account for oil displacement once the bird is dropped in.
You’ll need roughly three gallons of oil for a 12-pound turkey, and peanut oil is the best. It doesn’t break down the way vegetable or corn oils do, enabling it to maintain temperature better and ensure an evenly cooked bird.
Next comes safety. Because you’ll be placing a large bird into a big cooker full of oil, it’s best that you not fry a turkey on a deck or any other surface that could catch fire if the oil boils over. A concrete floor is ideal, so a clean garage, driveway or an unfinished basement could work just fine for frying your turkey.
Prepare your turkey the day before with a few injections of marinade and a dusting of salt and pepper. Remember, you’re deep frying, so too much seasoning rubbed on the bird will likely end up in your oil, not in your mouth.
Once your oil has heated to 375 degrees, place your turkey in the fryer basket and very slowly lower it into the oil. Wear an oven mitt for this in case any oil pops. You want roughly two inches of space at the top of the fryer to minimize the chance of boil over. A trick to checking this beforehand is to fill the cooker with water, put your bird in, and check the displacement. Remove water until the displacement isn’t overflowing, then take your bird out and mark the proper fill level.
Your cooking oil should include instructions for meat cooking times; four minutes per pound is a general guideline. Once your turkey is ready, remove it slowly and immediately place it on a platter covered in absorbent material.
Let the bird rest for 30 minutes before serving.
The frying process locks the juices inside the turkey, making it distinctly moist. Set one on your Thanksgiving table or carve one up for a summer treat and watch your guests gobble it up!