Although I've eaten plenty of fried turkey in my time, this was my first time frying. We wanted to fry up a turkey the weekend before Thanksgiving for a small gathering of friends who would be scattered across the country visiting family for Thanksgiving Day.
To fry the turkey we needed a large pot and an outdoor burner. Here in Cajun Country, with all of the crawfish, crab and shrimp boils, a 30-quart pot, and 170,000 BTU cast iron burner are easy to get your hands on (Thanks Scott). To get the turkey in and out of the pot we used a turkey stand (came with pot) and a hook on a metal pole to stay clear of the hot oil.
We also needed 3-5 gallons of oil, a thermometer, and an injector to fry the turkey. For my first turkey, I chose a 10-pound bird and peanut oil. Larger turkeys take a little more patience. You can fry it in vegetable oil, but you must be very careful with the heat. You don't want to start a fire in your yard.
If you are using frozen turkey, you will need a few days (following the package instructions) to thaw the turkey. Make sure it is completely thawed before frying. Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey. Cut away any excess skin at the neck opening and make sure there are no obstructions.
Before we started to inject and season the turkey, we mounted the turkey on the turkey stand and submerged it in water in the pot covered about an inch or so. We then removed the turkey and marked the water level as the fill line for the oil. This is much better than a rough guess of how much oil. Remove the water and clean the pot. Make sure you wash your hands and the equipment to avoid contamination.
For our turkey marinade, I used one bottle of Zatarans Crab and Crawfish Boil, a very popular seafood boil. We injected the turkey getting plenty of the marinade into the meaty parts and let it marinate for 24 hours. The morning of the fry, we rubbed the turkey with a dry spice rub inside and out. Allow your turkey to warm up to room temperature before frying. This will minimize the cooling of your oil. I've seen recommendations to boil the turkey with seafood boil for 20 minutes before frying to remove excess fat and cut down on the frying time. But, we skipped this step for our turkey.
Make sure you dry the turkey before immersion into the hot oil.
Remember that oil is flammable; you should never fry a turkey indoors. Place the fryer outdoors on a level surface. Avoid frying on wooden decks, which could catch fire. We fried our turkey on our concrete patio. Next time I'll cover the ground under and around the fryer with aluminum foil to avoid the oil stains. Make sure you are a safe distance from houses, overhangs, trees, leaves, or any other flammable objects.
We filled the pot to our mark with oil. Next, we started up the burner. Using a high flame, I got my oil up to 375 degrees in about 20 minutes. It is recommended you fry small turkeys (10-13lbs) at 350 degrees, and larger turkeys (14-20lbs) at 325 degrees. Larger turkeys will need lower temperatures and longer cooking times. The temperature will drop once you add the cooler turkey to the pot.
Save your containers for the oil. You can filter and save the oil for up-to 3 months and fry with it up to 3 times. Make sure the oil has completely cooled before you attempt to return it to the containers.
While waiting for the oil to heat up, we mounted the turkey on our turkey stand. After frying my turkey, I learned the best way to mount the turkey is with its legs in the air.
The cooking time is 3 to 3.5 minutes per pound. For a 10-pound turkey (3min/lb), that's about 30 minutes. For a 12-pound turkey (3.5min/lb) that's 42 minutes. The most accurate way to determine if your turkey is done is to use a meat thermometer. Stick it deep into the breast and thigh. An internal temperature of 180-190 degrees is recommended to be sure of eliminating bacteria.
Using the pole and hook, we slowly lowered our turkey into the boiling oil. Splattering will occur when lowering the turkey into the hot oil. You may want to use protective gloves, wear a long sleeved shirt and safety eyewear while frying. While frying, hot oil will spew through the turkey cavity like a fountain.
Lowering the turkey into the hot oil will cool the oil. Increase the heat slowly to keep the temperature to 325-350 degrees. Weather can make holding the temperature more difficult. Remember cooking oil can burn or ignite if overheated or if the oil boils over onto the burner. If you start a fire, cover the pot with the lid to extinguish a flame in the pot. Do not use water on a grease fire. I had my fire extinguisher handy.
Using our hook on a pole, we removed the turkey after about 30 minutes of frying. It was an awesome golden brown turkey. It was delicious.
I think this is enough to get you started with your turkey. Overall, frying a turkey is fun and the turkey is awesome. Surprise your guests with a fried turkey. They are great any time of year.
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