How To Deep-Fry A Turkey Rants-Style
I suppose if I gushed about it often enough in glowing terms, eventually the traffic would catch up and folks would just need to know: How in the hell do you deep-fry an entire turkey? Comment traffic here indicates that nine out of ten readers want to know, and that the tenth one was busy checking a turkey roasting in the oven.
Up front, one key item you can’t do this without is a deep fryer made to handle a dead bird the size of a turkey. Improvising one could result in less than optimal results in many ways. An associated item you’ll need is a tank of propane, but I figure most folks have those for one reason or another, so not too burdensome there. My deep fryer might have cost about $45 on sale.
As with many things, preparation is key. Before getting involved deeply, you’ll also have to invest in some peanut oil, a turkey (duh), and some “fixings” depending on your taste. “Fixings” include bacon, beer, potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic. More on that later. Peanut oil you’ll want a minimum of a gallon of, and I keep three half-gallon jugs around. The oil may be reused several times, by the way, and that offsets the cost.
Going into the cooking day, you’ll want to put the turkey into the pot with the cooking basket and then fill the pot with water until the turkey’s covered. Remove the wet turkey, and observe the water level. This is how much oil you will need. The irony of physics dictates that the smaller the bird, the more oil you’ll need up to a certain tipping point. Locate a flat, open area not under cover to fry. Do not use your wood porch unless your spouse will be completely cool with you burning the house down.
Now here are two key steps you cannot avoid or skip with out serious risk of injury: One – empty and dry the deep fry pot. Oil and water don’t mix, and steam and boiling oil together are more exciting than you likely want. Two – ensure the turkey is not only dry as well, but is completely thawed. Unless you want to be the first human on the moon delivered by sizzling turkey, make sure the fucker is thawed. I know Erickson is now plotting to build frozen turkey cannons out of old Yugos, but so be it.
Plan ahead and know the weather. The colder the day, the longer it will take to heat your oil. Follow the instructions (men: the folded booklet of paper with black squiggles and pictures we are genetically programmed to avoid) for your cooker. Once you get the oil in the 300°-325° (F) range, you’re ready. You’re looking at about three minutes per pound of turkey, and add ten minutes at the end. A meat thermometer comes in handy here.
Back to the “fixings.” So if you want to add some flavor, one thing I always do is put an entire pound of bacon in the oil first and let it cook completely. I remove it (so I can eat it later) to prevent it becoming carbon. You can also throw in carrots, onions, garlic and potatoes depending on your taste in how you like side dishes prepared. Keep in mind these will turn to charcoal if cooked too long in the oil. Onions turn out particularly awesome if timed correctly. Potatoes are great but of course suck up a lot of oil. Bottom line: try the bacon flavoring of the oil. Two words: fucking. awesome. Oh – the beer, you ask? That’s for drinking as you do the prep and cooking.
Once done, cleanup is a bitch – admittedly – but it’s worth having oil all over everything for an hour or so.