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How to deep fry a turkey

deep frying a turkey

We know, deep-fried turkey sounds delicious. Additionally, deep-frying is one of the best ways to get a bird with extra-crispy skin and juicy meat without taking too much time. But the problem is that a turkey is a very large bird—and that makes deep-frying difficult and potentially dangerous. If you want to do it, you have to be prepared. Here’s what you need to know.

(When we say dangerous, we mean it. Be very careful when deep-frying a turkey. Take precautions, never drink while frying, and keep everyone else (especially kids and pets) well away from the process.)

Indoors or outdoors?

There are both and turkey fryers. If you are frying a small bird indoors, you also have the option to use a , although this will be more difficult—but much less expensive if you don’t already have a fryer.

The advantage to doing this outside (weather permitting) is that you can use a larger fryer for bigger birds and get better results. You also avoid taking up too much space in the kitchen, or damaging any nearby materials with hot oil.

Gather all your supplies

  • The turkey: Smaller turkeys are ideal for deep-frying. Try to choose a 10-13 pound bird for this project, and don’t go over 15-16 pounds if you can help it.
  • Your favorite seasoning or turkey rub
  • Peanut oil: Other oils work, peanut oil is considered to provide the best results and flavor. Corn and sunflower oils may be used as well. You’re probably going to need , so stocking up is putting it lightly.
  • A frying grab hook, hanger or rack: Make sure your fryer has a way to safely lower and lift the turkey while frying.
  • A : This type of thermometer measuring the temperature of the oil itself. Some fryers have this ability built in, but if not, you’ll need one.
  • : Heating pads probably aren’t enough for this job.
  • Fire extinguisher: Safety first!
  • Fuel: Propane is often needed for deep fryers, especially the outdoor versions.
  • A meat thermometer: You may want to take the turkey out of the fryer and (very carefully) check the internal temperature to make sure it’s truly done. You’ll need your own separate thermometer for this, not a pop-up version.

Prep the turkey

Turkey Prep
Seymour Johnson AFB
  1. Explore the cavities. Remove giblets and all wrapping, leg locks, and built-in timers. Pay close attention for any ice chunks, even small ones. When melted into water, these create mini explosions in the deep fryer that can have you spending Thanksgiving in the emergency room.
  2. Thaw it out. Either store it in the fridge for a few days or thaw it in cold water.
  3. Wash and rub the bird. Before you apply the rub, make sure you thoroughly pat the turkey dry. Remember, no water pockets. Don’t stuff the turkey.
  4. Make sure the turkey is at room temperature. This may take some extra patience.

Clean everything and heat the oil

Thoroughly clean your hanger/hook and fryer. Then thoroughly dry it—make sure no droplets of water remain.

Your deep fryer will have a maximum fill line for oil. Fill it up only to this line or below. Stock pots also tend to have a maximum fill line that you can use. If your pot doesn’t have a fill line, you will have to be very careful when measuring and pouring, so we suggest finding a pot that does. As a general rule, don’t fill a traditional stock pot more than half full of oil.

Now start your heating source and measure the oil’s temperature. The oil will be ready when it reaches 350 degrees Fahrenheit. For larger birds and fryers, 375 degrees Fahrenheit is a good target.

Note: Remember to be careful when positioning the fryer. Outdoor fryers should not be used on wood or grass.

Lower the turkey and cook away

Lowering Fried Turkey

When the oil reaches the correct temperature, insert your hook/hanger through the turkey, make sure it has a solid grip, and lower the bird into the oil. Use your gloves for this, keep your face well away, and try not to have any skin showing. You can expect a bit of froth and hot oil spitting. For extra care, shut off the burner before you lower the turkey in to give the oil a chance to calm down a little, then turn the burner back on afterward. If a bit of the turkey shows above the oil, that’s fine.

Now set a timer. The general rule of thumb is 3 minutes per pound, plus 5 minutes overall. If the oil temperature rises beyond 375 during this time, turn off the burner and let it cool down a little, or shorten your cooking time.

Because deep fryers cook turkeys very fast, it’s all right to take the turkey out a little early to see if it’s done. This is where that meat thermometer can come in handy: As a rule of thumb, dark meat should be at 180 degrees F, and white meat at 170 degrees.

Remove the turkey for final prep

When the turkey is done, turn the burner off and carefully lift the turkey up. It’s smart to have a pre-prepared area to place the turkey. Hot oil will be dripping off the turkey, and the best way to deal with this is a lot of paper towels and a nearby trash can.

Leave the turkey to cool down for around 20 minutes before trying to carve it. Some people cover the turkey with foil during this time to help keep it from drying out and cooling off. When you’re ready, make the first slices and try a taste test.

Not sure if you have the time for all of this? You can try cooking Thanksgiving dinner in an Instant Pot. Or you can even order out a Thanksgiving meal kit to make things easier.

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