Deep-Fried Turkey: Essential Equipment and Safety Tips

I have a Thanksgiving confession and it's a big one: I don't actually like turkey. I adore gravy, I'm obsessed with stuffing, but turkey, the centerpiece of the meal, has almost no appeal for me. In fact, if the turkey weren't necessary for making the gravy and (at least in my house) holding the stuffing, I would skip it altogether. As is I barely eat any and what I do consume is swimming in that luscious gravy.

There is one exception and that's deep-fried turkey. I know; it's easy to like almost anything that's been deep-fried. But the truth is, I believe fried turkey has several key advantages over the roasted kind. First of all, cooking turkey in 350°F oil seals the skin, ensuring moist, juicy meat, which is not something you can always say about roast turkey. A second advantage is speed. A deep-fried turkey takes three to four minutes per pound so a 10-pound turkey is ready in under an hour; roast turkey takes several hours. That leads to a third benefit, fun. Letting a turkey roast in the oven for four or five hours is, well, pretty boring (even if you baste, how thrilling is that?) but lowering a turkey into a pot of boiling hot oil is pretty exciting. Not to mention, deep-frying is done outdoors, and if you're lucky, you live somewhere that's still pretty temperate in late November.

Assuming I've convinced you that frying is the way to go this Thanksgiving, here is a terrific and highly rated recipe for deep-fried turkey from Aricka Westbrooks of Jive Turkey, a fried turkey restaurant in Brooklyn, New York. And, because there are some rather important equipment and safety notes to keep in mind, we've put together guidelines for both.

Essential Equipment for Turkey Frying

The easiest way to get equipped for your first turkey-frying adventure is to buy a complete kit like those made by Bayou Classic. Alternately, you can purchase all the gear we list below separately. Turkey Fryers Online sells the equipment and accessories as well as complete kits. (Target and Home Depot also sell frying kits.) And, if you don't have outdoor space or are anxious about propane frying, indoor, oil-less turkey fryers are also available.

• A 32- to 60-gallon stainless-steel pot (The larger the pot, the more room you'll have between the extremely hot oil and the top of the pot.)

• An upright turkey stand with a lifting hook (Some pots come with a basket, which can be used to fry the turkey, but we recommend using a stand, because it keeps the turkey in the center of the pot, preventing sticking and allowing oil to circulate evenly.)

• A 12-inch stainless-steel long-stem thermometer to measure the oil temperature and an instant-read meat thermometer to test the turkey for doneness

• A burner stand large enough to accommodate your pot, about 15- by 15-inches (Look for a four-legged burner stand with a low center of gravity to create the sturdiest base for the pot.)

• A hose with an adjustable temperature control valve, which is essential, as overheated oil can ignite

• A propane tank

• Long stainless steel tongs and a cooking fork

• A metal or stainless-steel bowl and a long metal ladle

• A stainless-steel sheet pan

• A fire extinguisher appropriate for grease fires

• Heavy fireproof gloves or oven mitts

• Heavy closed-toe shoes

• A long-sleeved shirt (preferably a chef's jacket) and long pants

Safety Precautions for Turkey Frying

The combustible potential of a vat of boiling-hot oil should never be underestimated. Here are guidelines to help you deep-fry safely.

• Before you begin, learn and follow safety advice for proper use and storage of propane from the Propane Education and Resource Council.

• Never fry indoors or in a covered area like a garage. The best place to fry is on level dirt or concrete (to avoid tipping) that is out of the wind and far from any buildings or plants. Make sure you're not too close to your house, on a wooden deck, or on or near dry grass and/or leaves.

• Place the propane tank downwind and as far as possible from the cooking flame without creating a tripping hazard or stressing the line.

• Test your equipment for leaks before lighting the flame. Rub some soapy water over the hose connections and turn on the valves to let propane flow. If you see any bubbles, you have a leak and need to tighten your connections.

• Use the water displacement method to measure the amount of oil needed for frying. If your oil overflows onto the flame, it will ignite and engulf the entire pot in fire. Needless to say, a fire extinguisher must be kept near the pot at all times.

• Keep a metal or stainless-steel bowl and metal ladle nearby. If your oil level appears too high, carefully ladle some of the oil out into the bowl.

• Don't fry a turkey that weighs more than 12 pounds. Larger turkeys are difficult to lower and lift into the boiling oil. Plus, a turkey that's too large will burn on the outside before the inside is thoroughly cooked. Cooking for a large crowd? Fry a second turkey while the first sits for the required 20 to 30 minutes. Just make sure you bring the oil back up to the proper temperature before frying the second bird.

• Never fry a stuffed turkey. Also, remove the giblets from the cavity, any plastic trussing (cotton butcher's twine is fine), and, if included, the plastic piece that pops up to indicate doneness.

• Make sure the turkey is completely thawed before frying. Never submerge a partially frozen turkey, as the moisture will cause the oil to pop dangerously.

• Similarly, make sure both the turkey and the frying pot are thoroughly dry before filling with oil, especially after checking for oil levels with water.

• Lower the turkey into the hot oil very, very slowly, pointing the turkey away from you. Even though the turkey is fully thawed, the temperature difference will cause the oil to bubble and spatter. If you lower the turkey into the oil too quickly, it will bubble over and catch fire.

• Never leave the pot unattended or allow children or pets in the area, even when the frying is done, as the oil remains blisteringly hot for hours afterwards.

• When removing the turkey, do so very slowly. Hold the bird over the pot for a moment to allow the hot oil to drain. Move the turkey to a metal sheet pan and let cool for 20 to 30 minutes.

• Any oil that spills or splatters onto concrete will stain. Place kitty litter on spills to absorb oil, and let sit for a week before sweeping up.

By Lauren Salkeld

Additional reporting by Jolene Bouchon


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