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Deep Frying your Turkey

Thanksgiving is a holiday full of traditions and eating turkey is one of them. However, throughout the past decade, a new method of cooking that prized Thanksgiving turkey has become increasingly popular – deep frying! Originating in the Southern United States, this cooking method has received lots of “thumb downs” from health food fanatics and can be dangerous if not done correctly, but those who’ve tasted this deep fried delicacy maintain that there’s nothing like it.

Many people fear that deep fried turkey will be greasy and soggy. Not so, say the experts and those who favor this method for their Thanksgiving bird. Deep frying makes the skin crispy and the meat moist and tender and the process cuts cooking time down drastically. Furthermore, it’s not as unhealthy as it sounds, especially if you use oil that’s low in saturated fats.

What You’ll Need

There are lots of deep fryers made especially for turkeys. They’ve been available for at least 10 years now and will often appear in stores a month or so before Thanksgiving. (You can buy them any time of the year but they are indeed easier to find in the fall.)

Be warned, however, that turkey fryers can be dangerous, especially when used incorrectly. As a matter of fact, Underwriter Laboratories (UL) refuses to list ANY turkey fryers as safe for use. Nonetheless, there are many individuals that use them safely and swear this is the only way they’ll ever cook their Thanksgiving turkey from this point on! However, it’s important to be aware that these devices can indeed overheat and this vat of boiling 350 degree oil can indeed cause serious burns if not handled properly.

That said, if you’re bent on trying this method, purchase a turkey fryer kit that includes all the equipment you’ll need. It should be about 25-30 quarts in size and the pieces in the kit should include the pot, a turkey stand, a vented lid, a lift hook, and a fry thermometer.  Available in a variety of price ranges, they run on propane, though there are electric turkey deep fryers available that you can use indoors. (Die-hard deep fry fans say they’re not as good.)

You’ll also need about 4-5 gallons of oil for your fryer, depending on its size. Most aficionados of this method of cooking use peanut oil because it’s healthier than many other types and it has what is known as a high flash point, which means it is less likely to start a fire. You may also want to have some seasoning on hand so that you can flavor the turkey as you wish. A meat thermometer is a good idea as well, to test the doneness of the bird.

Another must is a pair of very heat-resistant oven mitts, an apron, a long-sleeve shirt, and anything else you might need to protect yourself from splashes or other things that might cause injuries.

The Process

You’ll need to prep the turkey before it goes into the oil. Be sure it is totally thawed, remove any giblets or other “innards”, and – at this point – you may want to inject the bird with some liquid marinade. Many kits come with a sample injector or you can purchase them separately. The marinade will keep the turkey from drying out during frying. It’s best to do this several hours prior to or the night before you’ll be cooking the bird.

Heat the oil to 350 degrees (this takes about 15-20 minutes), be sure the turkey is totally dry (including inside the cavity), and place it on the stand with the drumsticks towards the bottom.  Lower the turkey SLOWLY into the hot oil. You may have to re-adjust the heat after the turkey goes in but be sure to monitor it constantly so it doesn’t rise much above 350. Anything close to 450 degrees may cause a fire!

It should take the bird about 3 minutes per pound to cook; therefore, a 15-pound turkey will take 45-50 minutes to reach an internal temperature of about 160 degrees. When you think it’s done, put on your oven mitts, lift it out slowly, and let the excess oil drip into the pot. Test the internal temperature at the thickest part – usually the breast – and if it’s done, transfer it to a cutting board where you can cover it with foil and let it rest before cutting.


It can’t be said too often that the deep frying method of cooking turkey can indeed be dangerous. ALWAYS do this outside – even in the cold weather – and keep all children and pets away from the fryer before, during, and after the cooking is complete. Nothing ruins Thanksgiving faster than a tragic accident.