It’s the greatest artery-clogging hit since turducken, but just because you can flip a burger doesn’t mean you know how to deep fry a turkey. Going about it the wrong way can not only ruin your Thanksgiving, it can also lead to serious—and seriously embarrassing—injury. Thankfully, Made Man’s experts gave us plenty of dos and don’ts. Here’s how and how not to deep fry turkey like a pro.
Our Expert Panel
Clint Cantwell once deep fried 107 turkeys in a single day. He’s appeared on Nightline, CNN and The Food Network to share his expertise in the fine art of pigging out.
Tom Douglas is the corporate chef at Henny Penny, the leading name in commercial deep fryers.
Mary Clingman is the director of the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line. She holds a bachelor’s degree in home economics from Simpson College and trained at Butterball University.
Deep Fried Turkey Dos
1. Season Right. Apply your rub—we Made Men favor Cajun!—the night before to allow it to sink in. Otherwise it will come right off. If you feel the turkey needs a little something extra, mix white wine with turkey seasoning and use an injector needle to distribute the juice in the meatiest portions of turkey.
2. Be Safe. Don’t deep-fry anywhere near your house or even a wood deck or shed. Wear shoes, pants and a long-sleeved shirt to protect yourself from the oil. Have mitts, the deep fryer’s lid and a fire extinguisher nearby in case of a grease fire. And don’t try to put out a grease fire with water, which will only make it worse.
3. Use the Best Oil. Our panel of experts recommends peanut oil as the best and most flavorful deep-fried turkey option. Corn oil is a popular alternative, but avoid canola oil or other oils with a low smoke point.
4. Remember Displacement. It’s basic physics: when you put a turkey in oil, the oil level rises. To prevent overflow, Cantwell advises putting the bird in the fryer, filling the fryer with water, removing the bird and marking the level with a permanent marker. Then thoroughly dry the fryer and pour the oil to below that level.
5. Heat Properly. Heat the oil to between 325 and 375 degrees. Then lower the bird in and cook it for three to four minutes per pound. In other words, a 15-pound turkey will take 45 minutes to an hour. Use a remote thermometer to check the bird’s temperature, which will reach 170 when it’s properly done. Get the thigh meat a little more tender by going a little hotter, to around 175.
Deep Fried Turkey Don’ts
1. Cook the Turkey Cold: Unless you are filming an episode of Jackass, make sure your turkey is completely defrosted. Pat the turkey dry, because remember, gents: oil and water do not mix.
2. Stuff the Bird: You might love stuffing, but it has no place in a deep fryer. The neck and giblets should also be removed.
3. Drop the Turkey in the Fryer: This will cause grease to splash around, which is potentially very dangerous. Use a welder’s glove to protect your hand while you lower the turkey slowly into the oil with a hooked rod and rack. Do turn off the heat source while you lower the turkey. This prevents a grease fire from any displaced oil that goes over the edge.
4. Leave the Fryer Alone: Have someone monitor the deep fryer to make sure the heat is steady and it’s not launching the turkey down the driveway. Ideally, this person is a) relatively sober and b) older than 7.
5. Eat the Bird Right Away: You want to give your turkey time after it’s cooked. Ignore your friends and family clamoring for food. Let the bird sit for 10 to 20 minutes before serving. This allows the succulent juices to redistribute evenly throughout the bird. And makes you the high-flying, deep-frying Thanksgiving hero once again.