How to Make Fried Turkey for Thanksgiving
Give your Thanksgiving a Southern edge this year and fry your turkey. The frying process creates a ridiculously crisp exterior while allowing the juices to stay inside the bird. The end result? Every bite is incredibly moist and tender.
How to Deep-Fry a Turkey
There are plenty of reasons to deep-fry a turkey for Thanksgiving. Frying the bird frees up the oven, allowing more room for baking the sides and pies. Secondly, it cooks in a fraction of the time. And lastly, the flavor you get from a fried turkey is unbeatable.
Step 1: Choose Your Turkey
A turkey that is going to be fried should never be larger than 14 pounds. It is important that the bird fits comfortably into the pot and is easy to lift. Also, the increased time needed for cooking a bird larger than 14 pounds would risk burning its skin. If you are feeding a crowd, fry two smaller turkeys. Serve the first turkey for snacking before the meal and carve the second carefully at the table for the meal.
Step 2: Designate a Safe Area for Frying
This should be a level outdoor area, such as a driveway or patio. Place a plywood board underneath the burner if desired (to catch any oil splatters) and remove any flammable items from nearby. Set up a prep table in the vicinity, if possible, and have all necessary equipment in place and ready to go.
Step 3: Determine the Amount of Peanut Oil Needed
This is imperative since too much oil can be more difficult to maintain at an even temperature, and is much more likely to boil over. If using a pre-packaged frozen turkey, place the bird in its packaging into the empty fryer. Add water to barely cover it. Remove the bird. Using the thermometer as "tape," adjust the length of the bottom point of the thermometer so you have a marker for the top of the water line. That will be how much oil you will need to put into the fryer when you are ready to cook. Empty the water and dry the pot thoroughly.
Step 4: Thaw the Turkey Completely
If it is not completely defrosted, any residual ice/water inside the turkey will cause an unwanted explosion. Remove the giblets and neck from the inside cavity and reserve for the gravy. Wash the thawed bird and thoroughly pat dry inside and out.
Step 5: Prepare the Marinade
Pour the marinade through a strainer set over a deep, narrow bowl or pitcher. Dispose of sediments and herbs. Place the needle of the fully closed syringe into the marinade and slowly pull the plunger back to fill. (Note: If the syringe is a little tight, add a bit of cooking oil or Pam to the rubber end to help it glide easier.)
Step 6: Marinate the Turkey
With the turkey lying on its back (breast side facing up), insert the needle into the meatiest part of the breast. Push in the plunger to release about 1 inch of marinade, then carefully pull the needle back BUT NOT OUT. Shift the needle about 45 degrees and release more marinade. The goal is to inject the marinade in a starburst pattern, from about 5 different angles.
Using the same process as in Step 7, continue injecting the marinade into the other breast, thighs, legs and wings. Place the bird on the turkey stand, head end facing down and rear end pointing up. The turkey should be marinated a few hours prior to cooking but preferably the night before.
When the syringe has been emptied into the first breast, place your index finger from your free hand over the injection point as you withdraw the needle. Gently massage this spot for a few seconds to incorporate the marinade into the turkey and to prevent any from spraying out.
Step 7: Prepare the Fryer
When ready to fry the turkey, clip the thermometer back on the side of the pot and fill oil to the designated height from Step 3. Turn the flame on and heat the oil to 375 degrees F. Keep a close watch on the thermometer, as it is very important not to exceed this temperature since the oil can smoke or catch on fire.
Step 8: Slowly Lower Turkey Into Fryer
Use the metal hook to slowly lower the marinated turkey into the fryer. The temperature of the oil will decrease to approximately 350 degrees F, which is the temperature you need to maintain throughout the frying process. Monitor and adjust the heat as necessary to hold this temperature.
Step 9: Fry the Bird
Cook the bird until it is crisp and deep golden-brown, about 3 - 3 1/2 minutes per pound, which should take 40 to 50 minutes, depending on the size of the bird. The turkey is ready to remove from the oil when a meat thermometer registers 155 degrees F.
Step 10: Remove the Bird
Remove the fried bird to a large flat pan or tray covered in clean newspaper or paper bags.
Step 11: Allow the Bird to Rest
Allow the turkey to rest for 20 - 30 minutes before carving. The internal temperature should increase to approximately 165 degrees F during this time. If cooking another turkey, allow the oil temperature to increase back to 375 degrees F. Repeat above process with the second turkey.
Step 12: Dispose of the Oil
When finished cooking, allow the used oil to cool completely (overnight is best). The oil can then be filtered and pumped back into its original plastic containers and stored for up to 6 months in a cool, dry place. If disposing of the oil, check with your local waste management department and follow designated protocol.