How to Deep Fry a Turkey Without Killing Yourself in the Process
Thanksgiving draws nigh, and once again, the great turkey cookening is upon us.
This year, countless families will wait too long to put the bird in the oven, forget to remove the neck and giblets, or otherwise make a mess of things. Even the folks who do everything right will be disappointed because frankly, plain ol’ turkey isn’t anything to write home about. However, there is an alternative to roasting a turkey in the oven that provides a supremely moist bird on the inside with the perfect crispy-skinned exterior.
If you’re looking for a turkey-cooking technique that’s faster, tastier, and more dangerous, consider learning how to deep fry a turkey this Thanksgiving.
What You’ll Need
- 1 8-14 lb. turkey (larger turkeys are difficult to deep fry)
- Your favorite seasoning or marinade
- 3-5 gallons of peanut oil
- 3-5 gallons of water
- 1 propane burner and propane tank
- 1 giant stock pot (at least 30 quarts)
- 1 large frying basket, lift hook, or makeshift metal handle
- 1 temperature gauge
- 1 meat thermometer
- 1 large rod for lowering the turkey
- 1 pair of goggles for each cook
- 1 apron for each cook
- 1 pair of gloves for each cook
- 1 fire extinguisher (you never know!)
WARNING: If you don’t know already, deep frying a turkey can be very, very dangerous. You might practice frying smaller items before tackling a turkey or enlist a helper who knows something about deep frying. Seriously. Improper frying techniques can lead to severe burns and house fires. Don’t be the guy who burns down his neighborhood all for a fried bird.
IMPORTANT: Soak the turkey in cold water and make sure it is completely thawed.
- Remove the turkey’s giblets (internal organs) and set them aside. You might have someone make them into a tasty gravy while you’re busy frying. You should also cut off the protruding tail section and the extra neck skin, since these will burn off anyway.
- Find a flat surface on which to fry your turkey. Be sure to do it outdoors, far away from anything that could conceivably catch fire. A concrete driveway or patio is a great place. Do not attempt to fry your turkey on a wooden deck. Set up your propane burner with the propane tank as far from the burner as possible.
- Cut small incisions beneath the wings, legs, and neck. This will allow oil to drain from the bird after you’re finished cooking.
- SUPER IMPORTANT: One common mistake is filling the pot with too much oil. Upon dunking, the turkey displaces the oil, causing it to overflow and ignite creating a grease fire of epic proportions. You probably don’t want to spend Thanksgiving at your local burn center—follow these steps to make sure you use the right amount of oil:
- Place the turkey into your stock pot
- Pour water into the pot until the turkey is covered by an inch of water.
- Remove the turkey from the pot.
- Score the water line with a knife–this will be your oil fill line.
- The fill line should be no more than three inches from the top of the pot. Try to aim for five or more inches below the rim.
- Dump the water and thoroughly clean and dry the stock pot—any remaining moisture will seriously disagree with the oil.
- It’s also important to dry the turkey with paper towels. Once you get it as dry as you can, put it in the fridge for about 20 minutes so it can dry out even more. Remember, oil + water = apocalypse!
- Apply your favorite seasoning or marinade to the turkey. You might rub herbs into the skin or use a marinade injector to get the flavor deep into the meat.
- Pour peanut oil into the stock pot until it reaches your predetermined fill line. Ignite the burner and attach the temperature gauge so the tip is beneath the oil’s surface. Allow the oil to heat up to 350 degrees.
INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT: Never, ever leave your oil unattended while cooking.
Frying the Turkey
- Make sure the turkey is properly secured in the fry basket or on the lift hook. The turkey’s head—or what used to be its head—should be facing down. Once the oil reaches 375 degrees, have an assistant help you lower the turkey into the oil.
- Put on your gloves, goggles, and apron.
- Attach your fry basket or lift hook to a hockey stick or another strong stick or rod.
- Position the turkey in the center of the rod. Have your assistant hold one side of the rod while you grab the other.
- Lower the turkey into oil the VERRRRRY SLOOOWWWLY to prevent splashing.
STUPENDOUSLY IMPORTANT: Turn the propane burner off before you dunk the turkey. This will eliminate the possibility of a fire caused by overflowing oil.
- Set your timer for about 3.5 minutes times the weight of your bird in pounds. For example, a 10-pound turkey should cook for 35 minutes.
- The oil temperature will drop about 50 degrees after you add the turkey. Turn the propane burner back onto high.
- Watch the temperature gauge carefully. Once the oil temperature climbs back to 350 degrees, turn the heat down so the temperature levels out at 350.
- Do not leave your turkey unattended. Watch it constantly during the cooking process to make sure nothing goes awry.
- As the end of the cooking time draws near, pull the turkey out just enough so you can stick a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. If the meat thermometer reads 165 degrees, you’re done! If not, put the turkey back in and cook for a few more minutes.
Removing the Turkey
- Once the thigh temperature reaches 165 degrees, you’re ready to take out the turkey.
- Turn off the burner.
- Remove the turkey with the same rod you used before.
- Let the turkey linger over the pot for a minute so the oil can drain out.
- Place the turkey onto a platter with several paper towels.
- Let the turkey sit for about 20 minutes after removing it from the oil, then carve it up.
- You did it! Enjoy your delicious turkey and be thankful that your face wasn’t burned off.
After belts are unfastened, dishes are stacked high, and leftovers are stowed in the fridge, it’s time to face reality. You should let the oil cool overnight, then dispose of it or store it for later. If you filter and store your oil properly, you can use it to deep fry other tasty foods, almost indefinitely.
Article originally published November 24, 2014. Updated November 9, 2016 by Chase McPeak.