The first time I was told about deep fried turkey, I recoiled in horror! My imagination ran over with thoughts of horrendous dry and greasy meat.... That said, I am currently living in North America so it seemed like something that I should do!! I am very pleased to report that my initial assessment could not have been more wrong, the end result was very moist meat that is not greasy and is a huge favourite in our household. The key is the short cooking time due to the high temperature of the oil. The temperature causes the skin of the bird to seal and oil doesn't go through the meat - the turkey is steamed from the inside.
WARNING: Deep frying a turkey is not without risk. Searching YouTube will provide many examples of fireballs, injuries and property destruction; however, there are a few rules that if followed will reduce (but not eliminate) the chances of injury:
- Choose a well made and stable fryer.
- Locate the fryer outside and on a non flammable surface.
- Ensure the turkey is completely defrosted.
- Keep the oil below 350° Fahrenheit.
- Turn the burner off when lowering the turkey into the fryer.
- Wear appropriate clothing.
- Dont drink and fry.
- If a fire develops, DO NOT use water to extinguish as this will just spread it.
This is still the possiblity of injury even if you follow the above as you will be dealing with a very hot, flamable liquid and a large mass of turkey. Ensure that you always make an assessment of your own safety and only continue if you are comfortable.
Step 1: Tools and Ingredients
Turkey- Ensure the turkey is smaller than the max size recommended for your fryer. If it is larger there is a chance that the oil will overflow or the turkey will not be submerged in the oil to allow even cooking.
Salt and Pepper - Other seasoning could be used but will flavour (taint) the oil and reduce its ability to be reused. I find that salt and pepper is all the seasoning that is required.
Canola Oil, approx 17lt - Ensure that you use an oil that is suitable for deep frying. I got a bulk pack of canola oil from Costco that was suitable and was also very reasonably priced!
Turkey fryer (https://amzn.to/2KVGBBe)
The fryer in the link above is not quite the same as the one that I purchased; however, it has the features that I consider essential:
- wide and solid base to reduce the chance of tipping over.
- adjustable regulator to allow the temperature of the oil to be kept within a safe working range.
- flame timer to shut the gas off after a short period of time. I originally thought that this was a pain but it does ensure that you constantly monitor the fryer and do not become distracted and leave it alone to overheat / boil over / catch fire...
Step 2: Preparation
Select a turkey that is large enough for your gathering but not larger than the maximum size recommended for your fryer. Don't be tempted to get one bigger than recommended as it will either not cook correctly or cause the oil to boil over.
Most of the year you will only be able to buy a frozen turkey. Ensure that you start defrosting the turkey a couple of days in advance of the day that you are going to fry. Removing the neck and giblets as soon as possible will speed up the defrosting process.
WARNING - The turkey MUST be completely defrozen. Any frozen flesh will increase the chance of a oil boilover and subsequent fire.
If the turkey isn't completely defrosted you can speed the process up by immersing it in water. Change the water as required to continue the process. I used a large bucket to maximise the thermal mass available.
Once the turkey is defrosted follow the following steps:
- Remove the neck and the giblets from inside the turkey.
- Determine the amount of oil needed, see below for details
- Dry the turkey, both inside and out, with paper towels. All moisture must be removed to reduce the chance of the oil boiling over.
- Rub a mixture of salt and pepper into the skin of the turkey.
- Place the turkey onto the stand that comes with the fryer. Do not stuff the turkey, the cavity must be empty.
- Place the turkey into the empty fryer and fill with water until covered. I have found that some of the turkey can be above the liquid level and still cook to perfection; however, there is a limit to how much can be exposed.
- Remove the turkey. You will need to dry the turkey again with paper towels if you had already done this. The bird must be dry both inside and out prior to frying.
- Take note of the water level, then empty and dry the fryer
- Fill the fryer with oil up to the level noted. There will be a maximum fill line, ensure that this is not exceeded.
Step 3: Cook
Note: Ensure that appropriate clothing is worn when using a propane deep fryer. Long trousers, closed shoes and leather gloves are the minimum items required.
Place the deep fryer outside on a non flammable surface. If things go wrong, the flames could be significant so also ensure that you do not place it under the eaves of a house or a tree.
Place the oil filled fryer onto the propane burner and light it. Each burner will have a different method, use the instructions that came with your unit.
Heat the oil until it reaches 325° F, ensure that it does not exceed 350°. Leaving the lid on the pot while the oil is heating up to speed the process up. Allow approximately 40mins for the oil to come upto the correct temperature.
Turn the burner off and lower the turkey slowly into the oil using the hook that comes with the fryer. The oil will likely boil up and splatter a bit. Wearing gloves will minimise the chance of burning your hands.
DO NOT replace the lid at this point. The lid must remain off the oil whilst cooking.
Relight the propane burner and use the regulator to keep the oil at a temperature of approx 325 degrees F, again, ensure that it does not exceed 350°.
Cook the turkey for about three minutes per pound. Use a meat thermometer to ensure the meat in the thickest part of the turkey has reached 180° F.
Remove the turkey and cover with tin foil. Let it stand for approximately 20 minutes before carving and serving. Remember to turn off the burner when removing the turkey from the burner to minimise the chance of dripping oil onto the open flame.
Now is the perfect time to place some peeled and cube potatoes into the fryer whilst letting the turkey rest!
Note: The fryer should be monitored at all times while you are heating and cooking the turkey. It may be tempting to have a beer or wine while doing this but I recommend that you avoid drinking and frying.
Step 4: Carve and Serve
After the turkey has rested for 20 minute, carve and serve.
It is up to you what is best to serve with the meat. I prefer salads and a dinner roll but you can always go traditional with cooked veges or completely relaxed with some hamburger buns or panini so your guests can make sandwiches.
I hope that you enjoy this as much as my family and I do. Please remember to stay safe and the precautions that I listed may not cover all situations. Ensure that you do your own research and make your own decisions on how to stay safe and cook delicious turkey!
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