With Thanksgiving just around the corner, you’re probably thinking about what you’re going to prepare for the Occasion. Some people love to experiment with things like Pumpkin Soup. Some stick to the family traditions like Green Bean Casserole.
But usually- NO ONE messes with the Bird.
But in the past few years, Deep-Frying Turkeys has gone from a backwoods tradition many scoff at, to a truly respected –and delicious! – form of Turkey Cooking. The bird comes out of the oil crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, and takes a fraction of the time an oven-roasted bird takes. And if you are a person who likes to try new things, the chance to deep-fry all manner of foods and desserts after the Turkey-Frying affair can make Turkey Frying a new Family tradition!
Having made Deep-Fried Turkey before –for Thanksgiving and for regular dinners- I can help you figure out if you want to try frying up your own bird this season. It can be dangerous, but with a bit of thinking and a lot of patience, you’ll be just fine!
1) Getting your Supplies
Peanut Oil is the oil of choice for frying birds. It’s expensive, but it’s the quintessential flavor and is much healthier than other oils. There’s no such thing as buying too much.
You also need a pot to hold the oil, a stand you’ll put the turkey on when it goes into the oil, and the Burner to heat the oil. Sometimes all three of these items will be sold together as a Turkey Frying Kit ( Bayou Classic comes to mind) at specialty stores or online.
Some people use electric burners, others use propane. Propane is more dangerous- open flame, chance of oil spillage causing a flare-up, whereas others scoff at the cost and safety of an electric burner.
Finally, you want TWO thermometers, a Long Fryer Thermometer– one whose end can be near the bottom of the pot and that you can safely read from a distance- and a short meat thermometer to monitor the temperature inside the bird.
2) Picking the Bird
If this is your first Bird Frying, you want to make sure you have a backup bird in the oven. It sounds like a chore, but some people aren’t keen on Deep-Fried Turkey, and others don’t like their traditions messed with. Better safe than sorry.
You’re going to want to pick a bird on the smaller side of the scale- around 12-15 lbs. You want to make sure your bird fits in your fryer pot, and that it cooks quickly. It’s on average, 3 minutes in the fryer for every lb of bird.
3) Thawing the Bird
Thaw the bird in the refrigerator if you can. If you can’t, place the bagged bird in an ice chest with ice and let it thaw that way, checking on the ice and thaw every 12 hours. Thawing in the ice chest actually takes a bit longer than in the refrigerator- all the ice so close to the bird slows down the process. This is unfortunately, a process you shouldn’t shortcut.
4) Preparing the Work Area:
This is going to be more important than the bird itself, as Thanksgiving won’t be so nice if your home catches fire or someone winds up in the ER. You want to pick a level place OUTDOORS, away from flammable areas. Lawns and driveways work, as do cement patios. DO NOT cook on wood decks, under awnings or roofs, or near doorways. It’s also good to keep children and pets away when cooking. Have a fire extinguisher nearby and hardy pot holders. It’s always a good idea to have a second pair of hands available if you need assistance. I also recommend a pair of tongs.
5) Using the Displacement Method to Calculate your Oil:
This handy trick helps you decide EXACTLY how much oil you need to cover the bird before the pressure’s on. Fill your fryer pot with water and place your bird in the water- it’s best to do with a thawed bird on the stand, but whenever you get the chance. Pour out or add water to bring the level to around 2 inches above the top of the bird. Remove the bird from the pot, and note the level of the water after the bird has been removed- THIS will be the line you will fill your oil to.
6) Prepping your Bird:
Once thawed, you have a choice of how to prep your bird. Rubs and surface prepping don’t work well, as it will all come off in the frying process. Some people don’t do anything to the bird – the peanut oil imparts enough flavors. Some people do Brines, which is similar to marinating your meats- the only hard part with a turkey brine is finding a large enough container to brine in. Injections are (in my opinion) the best way to add flavor to a deep-fried turkey. Injections use a needle to insert marinade into the muscle of the bird, allowing flavor to penetrate deep into the meat. You can use an Injection on each breast, each thigh and each drumstick.
SAFETY NOTE: Be sure Bird is completely Thawed and free of moisture on the surface before placing in oil. Pat bird dry completely before placing in fryer. Water will cause the oil to dance, and a Wet or Frozen Bird is the cause of many Deep Frying mishaps. If you haven’t done the “Displacement Method to Calculate your Oil” listed above, PLEASE DO IT NOW.
7) Cooking the Bird:
Using the fryer thermometer, make sure your oil has risen to 350-375 degrees. Be prepared to adjust the flame higher once you insert the bird, as the cold bird will drop the temperature of the oil and could make cooking take longer. Place your prepared, thawed and dry bird on the Turkey Stand, and lower it into the oil. You want to do this at a steady, but relatively quick pace. Be sure your hands are protected from dancing oils with potholders and long sleeves. Once the bird is in, keep the temperature at a consistent level, and calculate around 3 minutes for every lb of bird. Check the temperature occasionally to be sure the bird is cooking thoroughly at the main muscle areas- above 170 degrees.
8 ) Extracting the Bird:
When your bird has reached the proper internal temperature, turn off the gas to the flames, and remove the bird from the oil using the stand- turning off the flames when removing the bird will reduce a flare-up if the oil drips on the flame. Set the bird and its rack on a flat surface, such as a patio or picnic table. Keep the bird on the rack, and bring your serving platter to the bird. Lay the platter on the back of the bird. Using a pair of tongs or a clean towel, turn the bird and plate until the cooked bird is lying on its back on the plate, all on the table. Then you can use a pair of potholders or tongs to extract the rack.
And there you have it! Deep-Fried Turkey, and no disasters!