Of course, an idea like fried turkey originated in the south, the frying capital of the United States, but it is gaining popularity nationwide. In fact, a recent block party I attended in South Central Los Angeles had three fried turkeys going. Several groups of neighbors had gotten together and split the cost of the oil and special equipment needed to make this dish. Needless to say, their tables were some of the most popular.
You Will Need
In addition to a turkey, you'll need a 40 or 60 quart pot with basket or turkey frying hardware, plus a propane gas tank and burner, a candy/deep fry thermometer, a meat thermometer and lots of oil. Use oils that have a high smoke point, such as corn, peanut or canola oils.
You should also keep a fire extinguisher and plenty of heavy duty pot holders nearby. An injector to add marinades and seasonings to the meat is also good to have, although you can make a plain turkey without it.
As far as the turkey itself goes, smaller birds work better for frying. Try not to go over 15 pounds.
For the most flavorful birds, Before cooking you can inject the turkey with your favorite marinade (see below) and/or rub it with a dry spice rub. You will also need about 3 1/2 - 5 gallons of oil in which to fry the turkey (see "How To Fry" Below).
Where to Fry
Because so much oil is flammable, you should never fry a turkey indoors. Place the fryer, outdoors, on a level dirt or grassy area. Avoid frying on wood decks, which could catch fire. You will also want to avoid concrete surfaces, unless you don't mind oil stains. Always keep a fire extinguisher nearby.
Before You Fry
Before beginning, (and before you even season or marinate your turkey) determine the amount of oil you'll need by placing the turkey in the basket (or on the hanger, depending on the type of fryer you are using) and putting it in the pot. Add water until it reaches about two inches above the turkey. Remove the turkey and note the water level by using a ruler to measure the distance from the top of the pot to the surface of the water. Remove the water and thoroughly dry the pot. Now add enough oil to equal what the water level was without the turkey in the pot.
How to Fry
Using the candy thermometer to determine temperature, heat the oil to about 325°F and no higher than 350°F. This usually takes between 20 to 30 minutes. Once the oil is hot enough, place the turkey in the basket or on the turkey hanger (follow instructions that came with your turkey frying kit) and slowly lower it into the pot.
Not let her fry. With whole turkeys, you can estimate on about three minutes per pound to cook. Remove turkey and check the temperature with a meat thermometer. The temperature should reach 170° F. in the breast and 180° F. in the thigh.
Using an Injector to Marinade Your Turkey
An injector, which resembles a large hypodermic needle, allows you to inject a marinade directly into the meat. While you can make a fried turkey without this step and get a moist bird, it won't be as flavorful as if you take the time to inject your bird with marinade about a half hour or so before frying.
While we tried many of the injector needles on the market, the plastic models are our favorite. We found that the metal needles break easily and these tend to be more flexible. We found ours at a dollar store.
Fill your syringe with marinade and inject it into both sides of the breast, the legs and the thighs of the turkey. Don't be afraid to move the needle around to get the marinade into the whole bird. Sometimes it's easier to get the thighs from the inside of the cavity.
There are a plethora of commercial jarred injectable marinades available at the supermarket or gourmet shops, but why buy something that's so easy to make yourself?
We've come up with some terrific injectable marinade recipes (see related links below), but it's easy to come up with your own too. Just remember, the injector needles are small so you must use ingredients that dissolve or that are puréed so finely they won't clog the needle. As such, garlic and onion powder work better than their fresh counterparts. Also look for concentrated liquid spices in gourmet shops or like those sold by Watkins. Watkins also makes an incredible barbecue sauce concentrate that I use in one of the recipes below. These potent sauce concentrates make great flavor bases for barbecue flavored fried turkeys and they are always a huge hit with crowds.
Click here to purchase Turkey Fryers at Amazon.com.
Tips & Troubleshooting
- Do not stuff turkeys you plan on frying, it just doesn't work and food safety issues come into play..
- Be sure to measure for the amount of oil you'll need BEFORE you marinate or bread the turkey.
- Immediately wash hands, utensils, equipment and surfaces that have come in contact with raw turkey to avoid cross contamination.
- Keep an eye on the time, fried turkeys cook quickly. It only takes about 3 minutes per pound. Overcooking is one of the biggest mistakes beginners make. We should know, we cooked our first turkey so much the outside was charred completely black. Surprisingly, the meat inside the burnt shell was still delicious, so know that if you make this mistake, all may not be lost.
- Consume cooked turkey immediately and store leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking.
- Never leave the hot oil unattended.
- Don't allow children or pets near the cooking area.
- Allow oil to cool completely before disposing or storing it.