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A Deep Fried Delicacy: The How-To on Deep Frying Turkey

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Deep-fried turkey, a concept that started in the south, is gradually rising in popularity nationwide. It's a perfect twist for barbecues, block parties and holiday feasts. In fact, since deep frying turkey requires special equipment and lots of oil, families and groups of neighbors often get together to share the costs and the feast. To get you started, we have several deep-fried turkey recipes for you. For a deep frying turkey experience that is fun and produces delicious results follow these guidelines:

You'll need a 30 quart to 40 quart heavy pot with lid and basket, burner and propane gas tank, a candy thermometer to measure oil temperature and a food thermometer to determine doneness of the turkey. For added safety, have a fire extinguisher, oven mitts and pot holders nearby. To add flavor with different marinades and seasonings, you may want to purchase an injector.

Place the fryer on level dirt or a grassy area. Never fry a turkey indoors, in a garage or in any other structure attached to a building. Avoid frying on wood decks, which could catch fire, and concrete, which can be stained by the oil.

The Turkey - Size Matters
Smaller turkeys, 8 pounds to 10 pounds and turkey parts, such as breast, wings, drumsticks and thighs, are best for frying. Size does matter as a 12 pound to 14 pound turkey is the maximum size bird that can be successfully deep fried. In addition to the obvious safety concern of lowering and lifting a big turkey into a vessel of boiling oil, larger birds simply cook longer. The extra cooking time results in over exposure to the skin, which will likely be over cooked.

If a larger bird (over 15-pounds) has been purchased, follow these steps for the best results. Detach the dark meat (leg and thigh portions) from the breast and fry the two turkey parts separately. Fry the leg/thigh sections first in oil that has been preheated to 365 degrees F-375 degrees F. Cook to an internal temperature of 180 degrees F. Remove the dark sections and reheat the oil to 365 degrees F-375 degrees F. Then fry the turkey breast to an internal temperature of 170 degrees F. The internal temperature should reach at least 165 degrees F, but preferable 170 degrees F in the breast and 180 degrees F in the thigh.
Other Ingredients
You'll need approximately 5 gallons or less if using an electric fryer of a high-smoke point oil; more for larger turkeys. The turkey may be injected with a marinade or seasoned with a rub. Check our list of recipes:
Cajun Deep Fried Turkey
Ginger & Rosemary Deep Fried Turkey
Southern Deep Fried Turkey
Louisiana Fried Turkey Breast
Asian Style Deep-Fried Turkey
Bayou Deep Fried Turkey

Cooking Preparation

To determine the correct amount of oil, place the turkey in the fryer basket and place in the pot. The minimum oil level should be 3 inches to 5 inches from the top of the fryer. Add water until it reaches 1 inch to 2 inches above the turkey. Remove the turkey and note the water level, using a ruler to measure the distance from the top of the pot to the surface of the water.
Drain or pour out the water and dry the pot thoroughly. If the fryer has a drain value, be sure there isn't any excess water in the spigot. Open the value to drain the water and remember to close the value before adding oil. Be sure to measure for oil before marinating the turkey.
Thaw the turkey completely. Remove the neck and giblets from the two body cavities.
Heat the oil to 365 degrees F-375 degrees F. Depending on the amount of oil used, this usually takes between 45 minutes to 1 hour.
While the oil is heating, prepare the turkey as desired. If injecting a marinade into the turkey, puree ingredients so that they will pass through the needle. Even so, you may have to strain the mixture to remove larger portions.
For whole turkeys, inject 60 percent marinade deep into the breast muscles, 30 percent into the leg and thigh muscles and 10 percent into the meaty wing section. Do not inject the marinade just under the skin as a water-based marinade will result in the hot oil popping and splattering.
Remove any excess fat around the neck to allow the oil to flow through the turkey.
Remove the wire or plastic truss that holds the legs in place (if applicable). Cut off the wing tips up to the first joint and cut off the tail.
Remove the pop-up timer from the breast (If applicable).
Do not stuff turkeys for deep frying.
To reduce spattering, thoroughly dry the interior and exterior of the bird.
Frying the Turkey

Once the oil has come to temperature, place the turkey in the basket, turn off the burner and very slowly lower into the pot. As soon as the turkey is safely in the oil, immediately turn on the burner. This extra precaution reduces risk as the turkey is lowered in to the vessel.
Whole turkeys require approximately 3 minutes to 4 minutes per pound to cook. The range between 3 minutes to 4 minutes is based on the ability to maintain the desired oil temperature of 350 degrees F. The oil temperature may fluctuate based on outdoor temperature, temperature of the bird when it is lowered into the fat and the capability to maintain the desired oil temperature, etc. Should the oil temperature rise to 375 degrees F, reduce the cooking time OR if the temperature drops below 350 degrees F, increase the heat and add a little extra time.
Remove the turkey and check the internal temperature with the meat thermometer. The temperature should be at least 165 degrees F, but preferable 170 degrees F in the breast and 180 degrees F in the thigh.
Turkey parts such as breast, wings and thighs require approximately 4 minutes to 5 minutes per pound to come to temperature.

Additional Safety Tips

Never leave the hot oil unattended and don't allow children or pets near the cooking area.
Allow the oil to cool completely before disposing or storing.
Immediately wash hands, utensils, equipment and surfaces that have come in contact with raw turkey.
Turkey should be consumed immediately and leftovers stored in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking.

The oils used to fry turkey are critical to the success of the product.

Oil Selection
Only oils that have high smoke points should be used. Such oils include peanut, refined canola, corn oil and sunflower. Canola oil is low in saturated fats and would be appropriate to combine with peanut oil if fat and cholesterol are a concern.
Oil Filtering
These high smoke-point oils allow reusing the oil with proper filtration. Depending on the recipe used, remember to filter the oil...not just strain it. Allow the oil to cool overnight in the covered pot. The first step is to strain the cooled oil through a fine strainer. If a breading, spice or herb rub are used in the preparation of the turkey, it will be necessary to further filter the oil through fine cheesecloth.

Oil Storage
Oil should be covered and refrigerated to prevent it from becoming rancid. Peanut oil is more perishable than other oils and must be stored in the refrigerator if kept longer than one month. Peanut oil may even be frozen. The oil will thicken when it is chilled, but will return to its original consistency when reheated. The oil will also develop a cloudy appearance that may remain when brought back to room temperature and will only clear up temporarily while heated. The oil may remain in the refrigerator for several months or until signs of deterioration begin.

Oil Shelf Life
According to the Texas Peanut Producers Board, peanut oil may be used three or four times to fry turkeys before signs of deterioration begin. Such indications include foaming, darkening or smoking excessively, indicating the oil must be discarded. Other signs of deteriorated oil include a rancid smell and/or failure to bubble when food is added.

For more information on deep frying turkey with peanut oil, visit www.louana.com.

© 2004 National Turkey Federation
1225 New York Avenue NW • Suite 400 • Washington, D.C. 20005
EMAIL: info@turkeyfed.org • TEL: 202.898.0100 • FAX: 202.898.0203



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Last updated December 20, 2013