How to Deep Fry a Turkey – Part Two

Last week we posted some basic instructions on how to fry a turkey using a propane turkey fryer. We got some feedback from one of our awesome readers that gives a LOT more information (THANKS KENT!). We love hearing from people who have more experience than us in these things and we thought you would like to hear his tips too. (To see our “basic” instructions and pics visit this post.)

Tips on Deep Frying a Turkey (or other meat)

First, you can actually do this with any piece of meat (cooking times will vary–I recommend using a probe thermometer to determine when your food is done). The key is to make sure your oil is at the right temperature. If it’s not 350-375, oil will seep into your food. The heat from the oil gets into the food and boils the water in the food, forcing it out. This action causes enough pressure to keep oil from saturating your food, provided it’s kept hot enough. (Note–This is why fried foods in a restaurant are typically greasy. They’re running such large batches, the oil doesn’t really have time to recover its temperature to keep it from getting greasy.)

Second, you can’t stress thoroughly thawing and drying the turkey enough. The fires you hear about every Thanksgiving are because people aren’t heeding this simple step. If the turkey has ice or water in or on it (especially in the cavity), the water flash boils when it hits the oil, overflowing the pot and putting oil on the burner, causing the fire. This is not something to be ignored!

Third, along with the thawing and drying, you need to make sure you have the right amount of oil in the pot. The best way to determine this is to put the turkey in the pot without any liquid in it. Fill the pot with water until it is about 1″ over the turkey. Remove the turkey and mark the water’s new level (again, without the turkey in the pot) on the inside. Take out the turkey and dry it, dump out the water and dry the pot. Fill up to the line you drew with the oil and then start the fryer. This way, you won’t overflow the pot when you put in the turkey. This is a much safer method than guesstimating, because all turkey frying pots are different.

Fourth, you have a wonderful opportunity to improve the flavor of your turkey by basting it. My favorite basting liquid recipe is the one done on the TV show “Good Eats” by Alton Brown. I substitute cranberry juice for the orange juice, and it’s awesome. It also makes the meat really juicy and provides extra liquid to force out of the turkey during the cooking process. There’s also a restaurant which makes up a mixture of butter, brown sugar, and pecans and puts it under and on the skin of the turkey and inside the cavity, which crisps up the skin and makes it taste really great. Finally, you can put spices around the inside of the cavity and under the skin and have them season the meat.

Fifth, if you’re leery of dropping the turkey in by hand, Alton Brown did another “Good Eats” episode where he made a turkey frying rig from about $30 in parts to make it as safe as possible. You can find it at his website (www.altonbrown.com).

The nicest thing about having a turkey fryer is that you can also use it to cook with a wok (right on the burner at high heat!) for quick and easy meals and cook with a dutch oven (you can turn the heat down really low, put the oven on top, then put some coals on top of the oven). I also use mine for casting bullets from scrap lead (I have a dutch oven for nothing but melting
lead)!

Hope that helps! It definitely helped me feel a lot more confident about doing this myself in the future.


  • Sarah Lee

    My uncle always fries his turkey for Thanksgiving. And it was okay, but turkey’s just dry, you know? I love my mom’s method a lot better, which I’ve improved upon. A few days before eating it, I rub down the turkey with salt, pepper, and spices, then I bake my turkey in a baking bag, let it cool down, (saving the juices in a container in the fridge), and then debone the whole bird. That’s right! I keep all the meat in another container in the fridge until the morning that we’re going to eat it. Then I remove the solidified fat from the juices and chuck the juices and almost all the turkey meat into my crockpot. (sometimes the meat doesn’t all fit.) Then I let it cook all day on low. It makes the most amazing, juicy turkey and you never have to worry about timing!