The leaves have changed. The air is cool. Your house is full. The game is on, and you can smell apple pie. This can only mean one thing. It’s time for Thanksgiving!
Everyone has their own Thanksgiving traditions whether it’s getting together to watch the Macy’s Day Parade or planning for a full night of shopping, but the biggest tradition is the turkey. Turkey is the staple of every Thanksgiving meal. The National Turkey Federation estimates that Americans eat approximately 46 million turkeys every Thanksgiving. The traditional method of preparing turkey is to bake it in the oven, but more and more families are ditching the oven and deep frying their birds.
Deep frying a turkey is a delicious alternative to oven baked and takes less time to cook. Before you go off and drop a frozen turkey into a fryer there are some specific safety steps you need to follow. We’ll go over everything you’ll need to know to make your foray into frying as foolproof as possible.
There are a few key things that you will need. First and most important is the turkey. It is recommended that for every guest you should make about 1.5 lbs of turkey. Be prepared, my guest list tends to grow significantly when family hears that we are deep frying our turkey. Next you need something to cook in. Many stores sell kits that have everything you need, but the essentials are a large pot, a basket to hold the bird in the pot, a rod for lowering the basket, a burner, a thermometer, and a propane tank to fuel the burner.
Next up is the oil. Peanut oil is the standard as it tends to stay clear the longest and can cook hotter than other oils. If you aren’t able to use peanut oil, vegetable or cotton seed oil work as well. Make sure to also have a pair of thick oven mitts, a jacket with heavy sleeves to protect your arms, and a fire extinguisher just to be safe.
Now that you have all of your supplies you’ll want to find the perfect spot for cooking. Never attempt to fry a turkey inside your home or enclosed space. The perfect spot will have clear spaces above and around you. Make sure that the spot you pick is on level ground, you do not want your pot to tip over. Lastly you’ll want to pick a spot that’s not in the middle of the action. With all of the commotion it could be easy for the turkey to get knocked over.
Once you get home with your turkey you’ll want to prepare it for it’s oil bird bath. Make sure that you remove all of the giblets, plastic pieces and leg holders. If you’ve bought a frozen turkey you’ll need to give it ample time to thaw out in the refrigerator. NEVER put a frozen turkey in the frier.
In order to know exactly how much oil you’ll need fill your frying pot with water and place the turkey in the water. This will give you an idea of how high the oil will rise once you place the turkey inside. Pour out or add water so that the turkey is completely submerged and there are about 3-4 inches of space for the oil to bubble. Remove the turkey and mark the spot. Now you will know exactly how much oil to add. Dump out the water and dry the pot thoroughly. Finish your turkey prep by seasoning or injecting your turkey with any flavorings that you want and thoroughly patting it dry.
Lets get frying! Fill the pot with oil to the spot that you previously measured, and turn the burner on. Once the burner is on never leave the oil unattended. You’ll want to heat the oil to about 360 degrees. With the oil at a consistent temperature, turn the burner off and get ready to put the turkey in. Put on your jacket and mitts, and place the turkey in the basket so that the cavity is facing the ground. With the rod slowly lower the turkey into the pot. This is one of the most dangerous points so be sure to remain calm and whatever you do don’t drop the turkey into the oil. Once the turkey is completely submerged in the oil, turn the burner back on. Note that the temperature will drop considerably when you first put the turkey in the pot. Monitor the oil temperature closely to keep it as close to 350 degrees as possible.
Cooking time will vary, but as a rule of thumb for every pound of turkey you should add 3 minutes of cook time. Use your meat thermometer inserted under the thigh to check for doneness. Once the meat has reached 160 degrees turn off the burner and slowly remove the turkey from the pot. Place the basket into a large pan to prevent oil from dripping and bring your beautiful fried bird into the kitchen. Carve and serve, just watch out for squirting juices.
This table serves as a guideline, always make sure to properly check the temperature of the turkey before serving
The turkey may be done, but the job’s not over yet. There’s still about 3 gallons of hot oil to deal with. The best thing to do is keep the pot in a safe place so it can cool completely. This can take a while, potentially overnight. Once cooled, the first thing you should do is transfer the frying pot to a safe area like a steel storage building. If you plan on reusing the oil then you'll need to filter out any residual turkey. This can get a bit messy so it's easiest to do it in a place that's easy to clean. You can also reach out to local restaurants or mechanic shops as they will typically have a container for properly disposing of used oil. Most counties will have guidelines on how to dispose of food oil, and many will actually turn your leftover oil into biofuels for public transportation.
Once you’ve dealt with the oil you’ll need to clean out the frying pot. Chances are there is still some lingering oil left in the pot. Don’t try to clean the pot in your kitchen sink as the leftover oil can cause blockage in your pipes. Because cooking oils are biodegradable you can rinse out any residual oil with a hose and then leave your pot to air dry in your steel building.
Congratulations you’ve fried your first turkey! Now sit back and enjoy the time with friends and family. Hopefully you’ve made enough turkey to enjoy my favorite part of the holiday, leftover turkey sandwiches.