Deep-fried turkey is a Southern delicacy. The preparation of it is as much a social event as are the holidays at which it is served. But deep frying a turkey can also go horribly wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing and haven’t prepared sufficiently. If you’ve ever seen a YouTube video about some unsuspecting soul who went about it the wrong way (though not necessarily recommended!), you know what we mean.
There are, however, ways to be safe and enjoy a crispy-skinned, juicy and delicious holiday bird that your family and friends will talk about for years to come.
Supplies You’ll Need
To cook the perfect deep-fried turkey, you will need more than just a turkey. Make sure you’ve gathered the following supplies before you start your frying adventure.
1 defrosted turkey
Seasonings of your choice
Approximately 4-5 gallons of oil (peanut is preferred in the South, though beware of your guests’ allergies)
28–30 quart pot
Fryer basket or stand
Metal hook with which to lift and lower the turkey
Measure for Safety
To ensure that you use the proper amount of oil, take your turkey and place it in your cooking pot. Pour water in to cover as much of the turkey as possible. Pay close attention at this point, as you do not want to exceed the max fill line or come more than four to five inches close to the top of the pot.
Lift the turkey out and pat it dry with paper towels. Measure out the amount of water in the pot: that’s the amount of oil you’ll need to use when frying. You can also mark the waterline with a permanent marker and fill the oil to that line.
It’s okay if the entire turkey isn’t submerged. The heat of the oil will cook the entire bird. More is not necessarily better in this situation.
Frozen Is Frightening
You will want your turkey to be at room temperature before you begin. Never attempt to deep fry a frozen turkey. The cold turkey striking the hot oil will almost immediately cause a fire.
Work on the Extras
Unwrap the bird and take out the giblets. Rinse the turkey with cool water and pat it dry with paper towels. To give the turkey additional flavorings, you may brine your turkey, inject seasonings into the bird, or add a dry rub just before the frying process. If you used a brine, you’ll need to rinse the brine and then pat dry before frying.
Select a Work Area
Your work area should always be outside.
Make certain you are working in an area where the propane burner can sit on a flat surface and will not tip over. The burner should not be too close to trees, bushes, your home, or any other flammable item — including interested spectators.
While you never want to attempt to fry a turkey inside your home, you do want to have a fire extinguisher on hand, just in case. And your home security system with a smoke alarm will help alert you to anything that might sit in the oven a little too long inside while everyone is outside watching the big event.
You’ve prepped, and now you’re ready to get to work. Ask the kids to stand back at a reasonable distance.
Preheat the oil to approximately 400 degrees. Ease the bird into the fry basket and — with gloves on — hook the basket and lower it slowly and gently into the heated oil. Even at room temperature, the turkey is going to change the temperature of the hot oil, and that will cause the oil to bubble and potentially sizzle and pop.
Once the turkey is fully submerged, release it and the basket. Do not walk away to kick back and wait at this point: you will need to watch your turkey closely. In general, you will need to cook the turkey for approximately three to four minutes per pound, until it reaches an internal temperature of 175 to 180 degrees.
Stick a Fork in It
Check the temperature of the turkey with a meat thermometer to ensure it’s cooked thoroughly. When it’s done, lift the turkey out with the metal tongs or hook. Again, move slowly. The oil will still be hot and you do not want to splash it.
Let the turkey sit for a few minutes before you attempt to remove it from the basket. Turn the propane burner off during this time, and remind everyone not to touch the pot of oil. It will hold its heat for an extended period.
Place the turkey on paper towels to drain for a few minutes prior to carving.
Tips for the Turkey Master
Follow these five simple steps and you’ll be a turkey-frying master.
1. Always do a water/turkey/oil check to measure the amount of oil you will need before you begin. You have to allow for the extra volume the turkey will add. You don’t want the oil to overflow the container when you put the turkey in.
2. Wear gloves. Even if everything goes perfectly, you are frying with very hot oil. There may be some splatter, and you don’t want to burn your hands.
3. If your turkey is more than 14 pounds, you may want to remove the legs and thighs and fry them separately to ensure even cooking.
4. Never attempt to stuff a bird you are going to fry. Cook the stuffing separately.
5. Take all the credit and enjoy your standing as the best Thanksgiving cook around.
Follow some simple tips, work smart, and be safe this year. A delicious deep-fried turkey is within your grasp.
Written by Emily Long
Emily Long is a safety expert for SafeWise.com. She is passionate about promoting safe and healthy habits for day-to-day living. When she isn’t writing about safety and well-being, she can be found teaching yoga, road tripping, or hiking in the mountains. Learn more