How to Deep-Fry a Turkey

Juicy meat, crispy skin, and lightning-fast cooking. These are just three major reasons to deep-fry your turkey this year. Of course, since you're dealing with gallons of boiling-hot oil, deep-frying a turkey requires special care and equipment. Here's what you'll need to do it right.

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How to Make Deep-Fried Turkey

Safety tips: Deep-frying a whole turkey can be messy and presents some unique hazards. For these reasons, it should always be done outdoors on a flat, non-flammable surface — not on the deck, not inside the garage, and not on a sloping driveway. Set up your deep-fryer at least 20 feet away from any other structure. Wear long sleeves and long pants, and be sure to use oven mitts and eye protection. Keep pets and kids far, far away. We also recommend that you don't attempt this without the right deep-frying equipment.

What You'll Need to Deep-Fry a Turkey

  • Heavy-duty portable propane burner.
  • Large stockpot (26- to 40-quart capacity) or a custom-made turkey-frying pot.
  • A heavy-duty cooking thermometer
  • A tool that will allow you to safely lower the turkey into a vat of boiling oil, and remove it once the turkey is done.
Turkey Deep Fryer and accessories

You can buy a turkey-fryer kit that comes with everything you'll need, like this top-rated kit from Bayou Classic ($168.00 on Amazon). There are also many online resources for buying turkey-frying equipment if you can't find it at your local hardware or kitchen store.

Q & A: How to Prep a Turkey for Deep-Frying

What's the best size of turkey for deep-frying? Choose a Thanksgiving turkey between 10 and 15 pounds. If you have a lot of people to feed, prepare two turkeys rather than a single huge one. (If you make more than one turkey, be sure to prepare them separately.) The turkey should either be fresh or completely thawed and patted dry with paper towels before cooking. Don't forget to remove the neck and giblets. Set them aside to make turkey gravy.

How much oil do I need to deep-fry a turkey? Before you deep-fry the turkey, do a test to see how much oil you'll need. To test, place the bird in the pot you intend to use for frying. Pour in cold water until the turkey is covered by a couple of inches. There should still be several inches between the surface of the water and the top of the pot. ( If the water comes to the top of the pot, the pot is too small and the hot oil will bubble over when you put the turkey in.) Measure the water: this is how much oil you'll need. Dry the pot completely before pouring in the oil.

What's the best oil for deep-frying turkey? Use peanut oil for frying the bird. Peanut oil gives the best flavor and has a high smoke point. You can also use half peanut, and half vegetable oil.

How do I season a deep-fried turkey? Deep-fried turkeys are traditionally injected with a liquid seasoning blend (like this Deep-Fried Turkey Marinade), then rubbed with a dry seasoning blend, such as this homemade Creole seasoning. For a less spicy flavor, try this recipe for Erick's Deep-Fried Rosemary Turkey.

To properly season your turkey, place it in a pan and load your marinade into a hypodermic meat injector (available at kitchen supply stores and some supermarkets):

  • Inject the marinade into the meat in several places on the turkey by carefully lifting up the skin, rather than poking the needle through the skin.
  • Gently loosen the membrane under the turkey skin. Apply a dry rub under the skin of the bird and all around the cavity.
  • This can be done as much as 36 hours in advance, but you should allow at least 12 hours to give the flavors time to penetrate the meat while it's kept in the refrigerator.

How long to deep-fry a turkey? A deep-fried turkey will take about 3½ minutes per pound to fry at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). A 12-pound turkey will take about 42 minutes to deep-fry. The thickest part of the thigh should be about 180 degrees F (82 degrees C).

Deep-Frying Turkey

So the turkey is all prepped and ready, you've measured the right amount of oil, and you're following all the safety precautions outlined at the top of this article. Here's how to deep-fry the turkey..

  1. Heat the oil to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. Before submerging the turkey in hot oil, be sure it is patted dry with paper towels to cut down on splattering.
  3. Place the turkey in the drain basket or on the turkey rack neck-end first. Using a heavy-duty hook, slowly lower the basket into the hot oil until the turkey is completely covered.
  4. Maintain the oil temperature at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), and cook turkey for 3 1/2 minutes per pound.
  5. Have a large platter layered with paper towels ready to hold the turkey when you pull it out of the hot oil. Let the turkey rest for 10 to 15 minutes before transferring it to a cutting board to carve. Let the oil cool in the pot before disposing of it. Some home cooks like to filter the oil and reuse it.

More Inspiration

Check out our collection of Deep-Fried Turkey Recipes.

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