Fried turkey: do’s and don’ts

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I mean why wouldn’t you, right? Other than spending your holiday at the burn center and hoping insurance will cover your house that burned down, fried turkey is a GREAT idea that tastes even better! Let’s be smart about this, though, because there are definitely some do’s and don’ts to frying turkeys.

DO brine the turkey. The very least you need to do is create a 3% solution by weight of salt in water. We’ve been over this before, but let’s try again. I know we use the English system of weights and measures (which makes little sense) so bear with me when i go metric. 4 liters of water is about a gallon or so. Fortunately for us, 1 liter of water weighs 1 kg or 1000 gm. 3% of this is 120 gm. Easy as that. Add whatever else to the brine like peppercorns, bay, other soluble aromatics.
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DO refrigerate while brining. Don’t make fried salmonella.

DON’T fry a frozen turkey. Water and oil don’t mix, and under normal ambient temperatures this isn’t a big deal. At frying temperature water boils and splatters oil everywhere. If it gets on you, it hurts until it’s a full thickness burn. Less pain, more serious.

DO test the displacement of the bird in your frying container before you heat it up. To do this you place the whole bird in the fryer then fill with oil to whatever level your planning on using. The more oil the better because the temperature drop will be less pronounced, giving you a crispier bird. Always the goal, right?

DO measure the temperature of the oil. You’re looking for about 340-350. This can be measured directly with a candy thermometer or with an infrared thermometer. Adjust after the bird is in the oil because it will drop after you put it in. Obviously the drop will be greater with a bird straight out of the fridge than one that came to room temperature.

DO be careful about how you lower the bird into the oil. You don’t have to do like Alton Brown and use a pulley system from behind a firewall. The main thing is to do it slowly and don’t let the oil splash on you.
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DON’T wear excessively loose clothing while you’re dealing with the hot oil. This is not the time to wear a snuggie or Jedi tunic.

DO use peanut oil or something with a higher smoke point than not. Don’t think you’re saving yourself with canola oil. It has a lower smoke point making you more likely to burn yourself.

DO cook for about 5 minutes per pound plus another 10 minutes or so. Finishing temperature 160-170. Remember that the meat temperature will continue to rise after you take it off heat. Make sure to rest for at least 10 minutes.
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DON’T use birds bigger than 15 pounds. Bigger isn’t always better, I don’t care what she says.


One thought on “Fried turkey: do’s and don’ts

  1. I used to smoke turkeys till I found out the family gatherings MUCH preferred the fried versions. Fried is much tastier, much easier, and just all around fun (FIRE! FIRE!)

    Couple of things to add.

    1. Crank the oil up to 380 or so before putting the bird in. It will drop to 350 and hopefully hold.

    2. I season my birds with Tony Catcheres after putting on the wire “stand”. I let sit for a good 10 minutes to form a little bit of a pedicle (sp?) that will stay adhered once I get it in the oil.

    3. If you’re not going to brine it don’t waste your time frying it. 12 hours minimum, 24 ideal. I’ve gone as long as 48. Easy to use a cooler, cover with water, guestimate salt needs, and put a bag of ice in the cooler to maintain <40 degree temp.

    4. I only fry the breasts now. Got tired of wondering about dark meat/light meat, differing temp points, etc. Just went to breasts only and I'm good to go. I buy 7lb ones and go 32 minutes each.

    5. Can't overemphasize the rest. If you cut immediately you will have undone meat in the middle of the breast. I usually do 3-4 breasts in a row and will wrap in foil and place in a cooler. The longer rest ensures the meat is done. You lose the crispiness of the skin as it steams but overall it's a much better end product.

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