You know that most of the time when we are looking to cook something delicious, we are going to head straight for our smoker. But a few years back, one of our friends invited us over for deep-fried turkey seasoned with the Bearded Butcher Blend Original seasoning. It was one of the best turkeys we had ever tried. The skin was perfectly crispy and the meat was juicy and cooked all the way through. It had the most amazing flavor from the hot oil, the excellent bird, and of course, the great seasoning.
Deep frying a turkey at home isn't a small and simple operation. It requires a few pieces of special equipment and a whole lot of care to prevent serious injuries, fires, and general disasters. But, ever since that fried turkey years ago, we'd say it's worth the hassle.
Today, we will go through the entire process of preparing the turkey, setting up the fryer, and cooking the best fried turkey you've ever had.
Deep-Fried Turkey Ingredients
The first thing that you'll need is a turkey fryer. These are typically large metal frames with a burner that connects to a propane tank. A large aluminum pot rests on top of the frame. Good stand designs have a provision to secure the pot so that it is less likely to tip over. The pot will need to be large enough that the entire turkey can be lowered into the pot without it touching the sides. Always buy your turkey after you have a pot (this way you know what size to get).
The next thing you'll need is lots and lots of oil. Peanut oil is the superior choice for deep-frying turkeys. It has an incredibly high smoke point and adds a wonderful, clean flavor to deep-fried foods. You'll likely need three to five gallons of oil depending on the size of your pot and your turkey. Always buy a little extra and save the containers. When you are done frying the turkey and the oil has cooled off, you can strain the oil back into the containers and reuse it.
You'll also want to have a thermometer that is capable of taking an accurate temperature of the oil. The oil temperature will need to be at 325 degrees for the entire cook, so you'll want to measure your oil temp separately from the internal temperature of your bird.
That also means you'll need a meat thermometer for your bird. We use both a constant thermometer to monitor our internal temperature and an instant-read thermometer for checking temperatures of different areas as we are frying the turkey.
A handy thing to have that isn't 100 percent essential is a turkey basket that fits into the pot. This device makes it much simpler and safer to raise and lower the bird into the hot oil. Alternatively, you can use twine to secure the legs and body and use a metal hook to raise and lower the turkey. Either way, a pair of heat-resistant gloves are also an excellent idea.
Choosing a Turkey for Frying
Choosing the right turkey is just as important as having the right setup. When you are frying a turkey, you don't want the most massive bird you can find. While we all agree that there is something special about cooking a 30-pound turkey, this isn't the right way to do it. Look for a turkey that weighs less than 16 pounds for the best results.
If possible, find a turkey that doesn't have added water or solution injected. This can be a challenge since most birds these days that are commercially processed are injected, but non-injected turkeys really are better. Key things to try and spot when looking at turkey, duck, or chicken are a yellow pallor to the skin. This indicates fat deposits and a fattier bird is going to be juicier and taste better.
Don't forget to remove the gizzards and neck from the body cavity of the turkey. These parts are often packaged in plastic and will ruin a turkey. Many turkeys are also bound at the processing plant with plastic stringers on the legs that hold the body cavity together. You'll need to remove this before you start cooking the turkey.
Brining a Turkey for Deep Frying
A brine is a simple solution of water and salt that you'll soak the turkey in before frying. Mix one cup of kosher salt per gallon of warm water, making enough solution to completely submerge the turkey. Add herbs and spices that you like to the brine to help add flavor. Good choices are bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, oregano, garlic, and black pepper.
You can also make a marinade by adding apple cider vinegar and olive oil to the saltwater mixture. This mixture will improve the texture and flavor of the meat. Don't hold back on seasonings because the brine or marinade only penetrates slightly below the surface of the meat. It's pretty hard to overdo it.
Should You Inject a Turkey Before Deep Frying?
You can inject a solution of saltwater and marinade into the meat of the turkey before frying it, but you should wait to inject it until after the turkey is removed from the brine. Injecting a turkey helps to increase the flavor throughout the bird and can improve the juiciness.
When the turkey has brined for the appropriate amount of time, you'll want to remove the bird from the brine and let it drip dry on a rack in the refrigerator. Pat dry with paper towels to remove the majority of the moisture – you don't want to set a dripping wet bird into the hot oil.
Will a Dry Rub Help When Frying?
A dry rub is a fantastic way to add tons of flavor and enhance the crispiness of the skin. We love using our Bearded Butcher Original for fried turkey because it has the perfect balance of sweet, spicy, and salty flavors that bring out the deliciousness of a turkey. Our Chipotle blend also works really well and makes for some amazing turkey taco leftovers.
You can also use dried herbs and spices, finely ground to rub onto the turkey. Don't forget to rub the inside of the cavity and the hole where the neck was along with the areas under the wings and between the thighs.
Deep-Fried Turkey Temperature
Temperature for frying a turkey properly is essential. That's one of the reasons that we recommend having multiple thermometers for the process. The proper temperature for the oil will need to be between 325 degrees and 350 degrees.
The internal temperature of the turkey measured at the breast and thigh needs to be at least 165 degrees. We've found that we get really good results by letting the internal temperature of the turkey thigh hit 172 degrees before we remove the turkey from the fryer.
How Long to Deep Fry a Turkey
You'll deep fry a turkey for about three to four minutes per pound of turkey. It is important that you also measure the internal temperature of the turkey in the thigh and breast to make sure the bird is fully cooked. Always err on the side of caution when it comes to frying turkey. The chance that your bird will dry out is much lower than when smoking or roasting and there is nothing worse than spending the time, money, and effort to fry a turkey only to have half-cooked meat.
Words of Caution
Deep frying turkey is an inherently dangerous task. you are dealing with a large, heavy bird and several gallons of very hot oil. Always take extra safety precautions when frying a turkey.
- Choose a place where you can set the fryer up that is flat and stable, something like a concrete driveway or patio. Do not fry a turkey on wooden decks. Always make sure that you are not near any air inlets to your home's cooling system, as you'll end up blowing fryer oil smell all over the house and it takes a long time to go away. Ask us how we know.
- Avoid setting the fryer up where there are likely to be lots of people walking around, kids playing, dogs running about, and similar things. Many people are severely injured every year because they tip a fryer full of hot oil over by accident. In addition to potentially causing someone lots of suffering, cleaning up all that oil isn't fun.
- Wear proper clothing. There is a good likelihood of hot oil popping out of the fryer and it will cause severe burns on your skin. We recommend wearing long sleeves and using heat-resistant gloves when frying turkey.
- Make sure that you can safely raise and lower the turkey without having to press on the sides of the pot or lean against anything. You don't want to accidentally knock the pot over or drop the turkey back into the hot oil when it is partially lifted out of the pot.
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