How to Fry a Turkey




Introduction: How to Fry a Turkey

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Why fry a turkey? Because it's delicious. And fast. Now that I've fried a turkey for Thanksgiving, I'm not sure if I could go back. Not only is it extremely tender and flavorful with perfectly crisp skin, but we were able to prepare a Thanksgiving meal for 15 in less than two hours start to finish. When cooking a traditional Thanksgiving feast there are often traffic jams for oven time, so being able to free up your oven is one of the biggest advantages to frying. Plus, it's fun!

Step 1: Safety

Safety, who needs that? Safety third! But seriously, people burn down their houses every year from doing something dumb with a turkey fryer. As long as you follow basic safety concepts regarding frying oil over an open flame, you're gonna be fine.

Safety Tips:
• Fry your turkey outside, away from anything flammable. As in, not on your wooden deck, inside your garage, in your kitchen, or anywhere that overflowing flaming oil would be catastrophic to your home. Read: concrete, dirt, gravel away from everything, on level ground. Put the propane tank as far away from the fryer as possible.

• Make sure your turkey is thawed and dry. A frozen turkey can explode, and a wet turkey will make the oil bubble to the point of overflowing when lowing in the turkey.

• Do not use too much oil. If the oil overflows, you've got potential for an oil fire. Most turkey fryers will have an oil line to save you the trouble, but when in doubt, put your turkey in the fryer, fill with water until turkey is covered, take out the turkey, and mark the water line so you know exactly how much oil to use.

• Don't leave the fryer unattended. Once the flame is on, keep an eye on the turkey and the temperature. If the oil starts smoking, turn down your heat. You want to cook at a steady 350 degrees.

• Lower turkey into the fryer slowly to avoid oil overflowing. You can turn off the burner during this process so if oil does spill it doesn't catch fire, then turn it back on once the turkey is in.

• Keep a fire extinguisher handy. Oil catches on fire if it exceeds a certain temperature. First it will smoke, so if you see the oil start to smoke turn down your heat. If there is a fire, it is an oil fire so do not use water to extinguish. If there is a fire, kill the flame and cover the pot if it's safe to do so, and if not call the fire department immediately.

Image courtesy of this site, which has further reading on safety guidelines.

Step 2: What You Need

You will need:
• Turkey fry pot and accessories
• Propane burner designed for large pots
• Propane
• A turkey!
• Refined peanut oil (higher smoke point than unrefined)
• Optional: whatever rub, flavor injection, brine or special preparation ingredients you would like to flavor your turkey. See next step for suggestions.

Most turkey fryer kits will come with a basket, thermometer, hook and all the basic things you will need to fry your turkey. Some also come with the propane burner. If you don't have a large propane burner already, it is going to be best to get a kit that comes with everything. Home Depot carries a full kit that's cheap. This one is a little nicer, but doesn't include a basket, so that would need to be purchased separately.

Step 3: Prepare the Fryer

Fill your fryer with oil to the line you either marked using the water method in the safety section, or to the line they suggest on the pot which is usually pretty spot on. Hold onto your oil containers so you can save your oil. Oil keeps for a few months and can be used several times before getting icky.

Attach your propane tank, turn on the heat, and get your oil going. Some say not to cover it because of safety reasons, but as long as you keep an eye on it, this speeds up the process. You want to cook the bird at 350 degrees. Because the bird is cold and will lower the cooking temperature once you lower it in, we heated the oil closer to 400 degrees to accommodate for this, which is well below the smoking point of peanut oil (~450 degrees). This exceeds the temperature regulator on some turkey fryers, so take note that this was done by a veteran turkey fryer who knew what he was doing :) Always keep an eye out for smoking oil, as this can lead to fire.

Step 4: Prepare the Turkey

While your oil is heating up, take that time to prepare your turkey. Most importantly, you want your turkey to be completely thawed out completely before frying. If you buy it frozen, this will take a few days in the fridge, about a day per 5 pounds. An unthawed turkey can explode in the fryer.

The next step is to remove the neck and giblets inside the bird. They make great gravy, so you might want to hold onto them. You can keep the flap of neck skin, it's really delicious fried! Once all the cavities are clear and all plastic pieces have been removed, tuck the neck flap inside so you don't have a pocket of air or fluid, which can react with the oil.

Once you have a clean bird, now the options of preparation begin! Some people swear by brining for a day in a salt bath, others do a rub and stuff sage leaves under the skin, and still others inject marinade into the flesh. If you choose to inject marinade, be careful that you really get it into the skin, as again, fluid outside the bird will react with the oil.

For our turkey, we just rubbed it down with salt, pepper and garlic seasoning.

Once it was ready to go, we hung it from the hook provided by our turkey fry kit, as it was a little too big for the basket.

Step 5: Fry Your Turkey!

Now to lower in the turkey! First, make sure it is DRY. Second, turn off the burner to be safe, as this is the step where it's easy for oil to overflow. With your turkey hanging (or in a basket), lower in very slowly, allowing the moisture to fry off inch by inch as you lower it down. The oil will get bubble a lot during this process and lowering the turkey too fast can cause the oil to overflow, so take your time. Also be mindful of the position of the cavities, they can create a fountain of bubbling oil so direct the cavity away from you.

Once the turkey is in the fryer, turn the burner back on, and make sure your temperature is set to 350 degrees. The temperature will dip as soon as you drop in the bird, but should rise back up soon. Keep an eye on the bird for the duration of the frying time, and make sure the temperature is at 350 during cooking. Leave it uncovered.

You should fry your turkey for 3-4 minutes per pound. For a 15 pound turkey, about 45 minutes. If you want to get fancy, you can use the thermometer to check when it is done. Dark meat should be at an internal temperature of 175° F to 180° F and all white meat at an internal temperature of 165° F to 170° F.

Crack a beer, and relax for a bit. This is also a good time to prep all the other things you want to fry after the turkey is done: sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, brussel sprouts, you name it. Fry all the things!

Step 6: Let It Cool, and Enjoy!

Once your turkey is done, kill the flame, remove it from the oil, and let it cool for a half hour or so. Once it's cool, pull out the hook, and carve your turkey! Make sure to enjoy all the tasty bits on the hook!

Once your oil cools, put it back in your containers for the next round of frying. Frying a round of potatoes after your turkey makes the oil better for next time.

Enjoy your crispy, delicious deep fried turkey!



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    16 Discussions

    Been hooked on 'em for years.Every Thanksgiving,Christmas,and at least 2 during the middle of the year.I prefer the water method as opposed to the line on the pot,'cuz I always look for a fatter bird than they recommend.I also inject them with Cajun Butter,and dry rub from our local Rural King.I'm sure Menards,etc.,have similar.I strain the oil through coffee filter after it cools,and store in a cool,dry place,and usually get 2-3 birds before I change it.I also shut off gas when lowering.GREAT safety advise.I want turkey fried not me,lol.I also fry lots of fish in mine.DON'T fry Turkey in used fish fry oil(Don't ask why.....)

    Nice tips, never fried a turkey before, how long do you fry it for, say a 15 pound turkey? Thanks.

    1 reply

    Around 45 minutes. See step 5 for more information. Good luck!

    by the way your fryer is not just for turkey! i have pulled all kinds of goodies out of mine

    1 reply

    Yep! We cooked our whole dinner in the fryer in under 2 hours. It's the best.

    Look it very delecious.

    ive read that to fast thought it said how to fly a turkey. saw this manytimes before and theres always a ball of fire

    If you are using a propane cooker, make sure your gas lines are clear. Seems like spiders like these lines and leave their silk to clog the lines. Otherwise, you will get a sooty, yellow flame that won't get hot enough, and the soot will mix with any oil that splashes out of your pot, and will make an asphalt-like coating on the outside of your pot. Which will probably further insulate your pot. I bought one of those electric fryers and it works great for this. I've heard the infra-red oilless fryers work well, but I haven't tried one.

    be sure to wear GOOD leather gloves when lowering bird in oil, bird will act like old faithful if you lower to fast and oil hurts like h311 when it gets you.

    My sister and BIL (a firefighter) set up a turkey fry assembly line every year to serve the whole neighborhood. Get more out of the oil. They have two people and a long 2x4 for lifting. I used Alton Brown's Turkey Derrick.

    I already had the ladder, so it only cost a few dollars for the extra parts.

    Since I'm safety conscious (or paranoid), we lower the turkey into the oil by using a broom stick through the handle and one person holds each side of the stick and we lower the bird in that way. This keeps you away from the top of the fryer. I like the tip on turning off the burner.

    I've done about 6 or 7 now. I really like that you mentioned turning off the burner while adding the bird. I think its the best safety tip around, and my manual didn't mention it. I discovered it myself on my third attempt which was a bit oversize and could have been bad if we weren't paying attention.

    Duck is sublime, goose is still goose (not a fan of goose cooked in any way). I like to fry spam while the bird cooks ( I use a long hot dog fork) to help fend off the teenager appetites...they got hooked on spam a few years back on a camping trip!

    nice,I have been deep frying birds for over 15 years.IMO it is the only way to do turkeys or even chicken(never tried a duck or goose).I use an empty beer keg and 5 gallons of peanut oil, the bottom of the keg fits snugly on the rim of the burner so no chance of it falling off.I have cooked a 23 lb turkey in it and had plenty of room.Also I have never used a basket just have a round stainless steel rack on the bottom to keep the bird from contacting the keg,works great.

    1 reply

    Thanks for the tip. Seems like any method to keep the bird from having direct contact with the bottom will work, good suggestion.