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How to deep fry turkey

If you’ve heard about the deliciousness of deep-fried turkey, you may also have wondered how to deep fry turkey at home. Frying is messy and it can also be dangerous, so what’s the safest way to go about it?

Deep-fried turkey on platter on Thanksgiving table

Deep frying turkey

Deep fried turkey is a Cajun-style dish that’s become popular in recent years. It’s nothing like fried chicken – there’s no breading (just nicely crispy skin) and it’s not greasy. It’s just moist and delicious in a way that oven roasted turkey usually isn’t, unless you cook it exactly right, which is notoriously difficult to do.

Deep frying turkey is also less time-consuming than roasting it. But there are a couple of points to consider: you need to either do it outside in a well-ventilated area or indoors with an indoor turkey fryer. Either way, you will need some particular equipment which is a bit of an investment, but well worth it if you enjoy turkey cooked this way. Plus, you can cook any other types of large meat cuts with it, too.

Turkey fryer options

You’re going to need some kind of specialty fryer.

Some fryers don’t use oil: infrared turkey fryers cook the turkey with infrared heat. The result is that same juicy meat and crispy skin, but no oil to buy or dispose of. So it saves you money and cleanup time. It also makes deep frying safer, since you don’t have to worry about anyone getting scalded by a splash of hot oil.

If you prefer to use oil, get an oil turkey fryer. Some include absolutely everything you need, while with other models you may need to buy some additional pieces (such as meat thermometers or propane tanks) separately. Check with friends and read online reviews to get a sense which one is best for your needs and your budget. You don’t want to spend any more than you have to, but on the other hand, you don’t want to buy the cheapest machine only to find out it doesn’t really work as advertised and ends up sitting around not being used.

How to deep fry turkey

The basics of the how-to will depend on your individual fryer. It will come with instructions so you know how much oil to use (if any), and when to do what. Beyond that, here are some tips to help you make the best tasting fried turkey.

  • No matter how big your fryer is, you will get the best results with a bird about 8-12 pounds. Larger turkeys take longer to fry, which means the outside could get overcooked by the time the inside is done.
  • Make sure the turkey is completely thawed before lowering it into oil, or else the oil might pop and splatter.
  • If your fryer uses oil, peanut oil is the traditional Cajun choice. It has a wonderful flavor and can take cooking at higher temperatures than most other oils. But don’t use it if anyone is allergic to peanuts.
  • Some people recommend avoiding fryer models with tripod bases because they can tip easily, which is dangerous with all that hot oil.
  • Outdoor cookers should be placed on grass or bare ground, and nowhere near a building, deck or anything combustible.

Marinade tips

You’ll need to marinate the turkey at least 12 hours ahead of cooking time – up to 36 hours. For this step, you’ll use a liquid marinade injected under the skin and a dry rub. To inject liquid marinade, get a hypodermic meat injector from a kitchen supply store and lift the skin up gently to inject under it (rather than poking holes through the skin). Apply the dry rub under the turkey skin.

You can really marinate it with any flavoring you like, using commercial marinades or your own recipe. There are a lot of recipes available online (just search for “fried turkey marinade recipe”). Check out the classic Cajun marinade, a garlic lemon marinade, and a recipe that uses orange juice, cayenne and garlic. Ditto on the dry rub: there are commercial rubs you can buy, or you can make your own (search for “fried turkey rub recipe) from online recipes like this one with basil and thyme, this dry mustard and paprika blend from Chow, or this flavorful mix from the Food Network website.

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