Cooking for a crowd this Thanksgiving? If oven space is at a premium, try a different approach for cooking your turkey. Deep fried turkey is a flavorful and quick alternative to the traditional roasted or smoked turkey.
That said, anything that involves a large pot of hot oil can be a bit dangerous, so it’s important to understand how to safely deep fry a turkey before getting started. We’ve got you covered! In this guide, learn everything you need to know about preparing and deep frying a turkey.
Preparation Methods for Deep Fried Turkey
Before you learn the specifics of how to deep fry a turkey, you’ll need to prepare your bird. Brines, marinades, and dry rubs are three different options that can help keep your turkey moist, juicy, and flavorful.
For maximum flavor, you can also try combining preparation methods—like injecting a marinade and then coating the turkey with a dry rub.
To make a brine, you’ll need about six quarts of hot water, along with a pound each of salt and brown sugar. Dissolve the salt and sugar to create the brine, and then immerse the turkey in it for at least eight hours. Then, remove the bird, pat it dry with a paper towel, and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before frying. This will ensure that it’s completely dry, which is essential to minimize oil splatter and spillage.
Injecting the turkey with a combination of butter, spices, and other seasonings before frying it will make it flavorful and moist. You can create injectable marinades with a wide variety of flavor profiles, such as Cajun, Italian herb, butter and beer, and many more. If you add herbs, make sure to blend the marinade thoroughly before injecting it, so it fits through the needle of the syringe.
Once you have your marinade prepared, pour it into a meat injector. To distribute the marinade, inject the syringe into the bird, and then pivot it around to reach as much surface area as possible without re-piercing the turkey. This will help minimize the number of injections you have to make.
Because any moisture on the turkey can cause the fryer’s hot oil to spatter, a dry rub can be an ideal way to season your turkey. Dry rubs are typically made up of salts and spices to keep the meat tender and juicy.
For deep fried turkey specifically, don’t use butter prior to spreading on the dry rub. Simply sprinkle the salt and seasoning mixture directly onto the turkey, and then rub it into the skin. Cover the bird in plastic wrap and let it sit for about 24 hours.
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How to Fry a Turkey Step by Step
Once you’ve prepared your turkey and let it marinate for the prescribed amount of time, it’s almost time to fry. However, before you begin, make sure:
- Your turkey fits in your fryer! Depending on the size of your deep fryer, you may be limited to a certain size bird.
- You have the right type of oil. Peanut oil is an ideal choice for turkey deep fried because it has a mild flavor and a high smoke point.
- You have enough oil. To deep fry a whole turkey, you’ll generally need about four to five gallons of oil, depending on the size of your bird and fryer. To determine the exact amount of oil, place your thawed (but not yet marinated) turkey in the fryer and fill it with water until the turkey is covered by about half an inch. Remove the turkey, and then measure the water that remains in the fryer—that’s how much oil you’ll need.
- Your turkey is completely thawed. Again, it’s important to avoid any moisture on your bird. If you can use a fresh bird, great! But if not, place your frozen turkey in the refrigerator two to three days before Thanksgiving to make sure it has time to thoroughly thaw.
Step 1: Gather Your Equipment
To deep fry a whole turkey, you need a fryer, of course, but you also need a five-gallon propane tank, a long-stemmed thermometer, and plenty of peanut oil. Set up the fryer outside on a flat, level surface—far away from your house, trees, overhangs, and any other flammable materials.
Step 2: Heat the Oil
Earlier, you determined exactly how much oil you need to deep fry your specific turkey. Fill the fryer with that amount of oil, and heat it to 350℉.
Step 3: Finish Preparing the Turkey
If your turkey has been marinating in the fridge, remove it, let it sit at room temperature if necessary, and make sure it’s completely dry—moisture and hot oil do not mix! Then, secure your bird on the fryer’s lowering mechanism (e.g., a drain basket or a hook device) neck side down.
Step 4: Lower the Turkey
Shut off the burner, and then slowly lower the turkey into the fryer. Once the turkey is submerged, turn the burner back on. This helps lower the risk of spills and splatters.
Step 5: Let It Fry
Once the turkey is in the fryer, it will cook fairly quickly. Generally, it takes about three minutes per pound to fully deep fry a turkey—so a 20-pound turkey, for instance, would take about an hour to fry.
When you’re ready to check the internal temperature, slowly raise the turkey and let the oil drip off. Insert your long-stemmed thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey thigh. Once it reaches 180℉, it’s ready to remove from the oil. Let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes, and then carve the turkey.
Safety Tips for Frying Turkey
Deep frying a turkey will result in a tasty meal—but any process that involves hot oil has the potential to cause safety issues. Every year, turkey fryers lead to hundreds of incidents, including injuries and fires. To ensure you and your turkey make it to the table unscathed, keep these safety tips for how to fry turkey in mind.
Thaw and Dry Your Turkey
Any excess moisture on your turkey can cause the oil to splatter or spill over, which can cause burns or a fire. Make sure to completely thaw and dry the turkey before you fry it.
Fry in a Safe Place
Make sure your turkey fryer is set up at least 10 feet from your house, away from any flammable materials, including fences, trees, and garages. Never leave it unattended, make sure no children or pets are in close proximity when you begin heating the oil, and once you turn on the burner, don’t attempt to move the fryer.
No matter how careful you are, hot oil tends to splatter. Even before the oil heats up, wear oven mitts, safety glasses, and an apron when you handle the fryer and the turkey. It’s also a good idea to wear long pants, long sleeves, and closed-toe shoes.
Also, make sure to go slowly when submerging the turkey into the oil or lifting it out of the fryer. Moving the bird too quickly can cause oil to spill over.
Have Backup Safety Measures In Place
If you follow these safety protocols, you shouldn’t have an issue—but you should keep a fire extinguisher within arm’s reach, just in case. A wool blanket can also help extinguish an oil fire, but never try to put one out with water—water will only make the fire spread.
A New Tradition
Deep fried turkey is a moist, flavorful, and delicious alternative to your traditional roasted turkey. And, as an added bonus, a turkey cooks much quicker in a fryer than in an oven or smoker—so you don’t have to plan your meal around hours and hours of roasting. With the right safety measures in place, you and your guests can enjoy juicy, crispy turkey deep fried this Thanksgiving.
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