Deep-frying a turkey is an exciting spin on the traditional Thanksgiving meal. The meat can be extremely delicious and tender when using this method, but it’s a more dangerous process. To fry such a large bird, you need to heat gallons of oil with propane, carefully lower the turkey in the fryer, and then pull it out safely. It’s important to follow strict safety precautions when taking on this recipe, so that nobody gets hurt.
Unlike cooking a turkey in the oven, deep-frying is a more forgiving option when it comes to keeping the bird juicy. It’s pretty easy to overcook a turkey when roasting it, but if you overshoot the internal temperature when frying it, the bird will probably still be moist. Deep-frying takes time to set up, heat the oil, and clean up, so it’s more of a project than other methods. However, even if you’re frying a huge bird, it won’t take more than an hour to cook. It’s a fun alternative for restaurants and at-home cooks that don’t mind that fry-oil smell permeating the room.
In this walkthrough, we’ve shared how to deep fry a turkey safely, whether you’re working in a commercial kitchen using a commercial deep fryer or attempting it at home. Follow our safety guidelines, be smart, and you should have an unforgettable turkey dinner in no time.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of commercial frying, we need to make a disclaimer for anyone performing this dangerous activity. Keep children, pets, and intoxicated people far away from your deep fryer! They shouldn’t even be in the same room. It’s not a good idea.
Some chefs might think it’s overkill to wear goggles and gloves when deep frying a turkey, but hot oil can easily spill or combust. Don’t take that risk. To prevent accidents, here are a few more safety tips:
- Don’t stuff the turkey before frying it.
- Thaw the turkey completely before frying it, or the melting ice could cause oil to spill. As a general rule, set aside 24 hours for every five pounds to fully thaw the turkey.
- Don’t overfill the fryer, or you may spill hot oil everywhere.
- Oil should be kept around 350°F. Don’t overheat the oil!
- Set up your fryer on a flat surface, away from anything that’s potentially flammable.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk turkey. Before using your deep fryer for such a massive undertaking, we highly recommend reading the instruction manual from cover to cover. If there is a specific safety warning or precaution on your machine, follow it closely! Of course, you should never use an outdoor fryer indoors or in a covered space (and vice versa). There should always be someone watching the fryer carefully, so have a colleague on the sidelines that you can tag in when you need a bathroom break.
Here’s a list of all the items you’ll need to safely deep fry an entire turkey:
- Oil with a smoke point greater than 425°F (i.e. peanut oil, refined corn oil, refined safflower oil)
- Commercial fryer with a large enough stock pot, propane tank, rack, probe thermometer, skewers, and injector
- Deep fry thermometer
- Marinade/dry rub
- Kitchen shears
- Fire extinguisher, goggles, gloves, protective clothing, and paper towels
Once you’ve gotten your ingredients, kitchen equipment, and safety gear in order, it’s time to start frying. Here’s how to deep fry a turkey in a commercial setting:
- First, fill the pot with oil and set it on top of the burner. Make sure that the flame is low until you’ve set up the pot, and then slowly turn up the heat.
- Keep your oil thermometer attached to the side of the pot, so that you know when the oil is preheated to 350°F. The thermometer can’t be touching the pot, and the probe needs to be submerged to get an accurate reading.
- Pat down the turkey with paper towels. Then, cut off the excess fat with kitchen shears, and make a slit on each leg.
- Season the turkey with your marinade, dry rub, or a combination of the two.
- Set your turkey on the lifter. Attach the hook, so that the turkey can’t move. Take out the oil thermometer, and slowly lower the turkey into the oil. Then, re-attach the oil thermometer so you can keep checking on the temperature.
- Cook your turkey in the oil for around 3 ½ to 4 minutes per pound. When it’s time to check the turkey’s internal temperature, slowly lift it from the fryer and wait for the oil to drip off. Check the bird with a probe thermometer, and keep cooking it until the temperature is 165°F or more.
- Once the turkey is cooked through, carefully lift it out of the oil with the lifter. Set the turkey in a pan and let it rest for around 30 to 40 minutes. This will ensure that the meat is juicy and tender.
At Home Frying
The idea of deep-frying a turkey at home might sound daunting, but it’s definitely doable, and you can even fry it indoors. Using a large countertop fryer with a built-in rotisserie, you can spin a turkey continuously in hot oil and get the same result as a giant outdoor setup. This method uses less oil, so there’s less risk of spillage. Here’s how to do it:
- First, thaw out your turkey completely if it’s frozen. Unwrap the turkey, and remove the giblets and neck.
- Fill the countertop fryer with oil, but make sure it’s below the fill line. Preheat the fryer to 375°F.
- As the oil preheats, pat down the turkey with paper towels, and then rub it with dry rubs and marinades. Then, skewer it on the rotisserie, so that it goes through the turkey breast and exits near the thighs, right under the wishbone. Truss the turkey tightly to the rotisserie according to your fryer’s instructions, so that it doesn’t jam while spinning in the fryer.
- When the oil reaches 375°F, carefully lower the turkey in the oil. If you’re using a rotisserie, the turkey will probably not be submerged, which may cause part of the breast to look white. Turn on the rotisserie, and the turkey will start spinning.
- Knowing the original weight of your turkey, set a timer for 3 to 4 minutes per pound. The white meat should reach an internal temperature of 165°F to 170°F, and dark meat should reach 175°F to 180°F. Check it with your probe thermometer.
- Throughout the cooking process, keep an eye on the oil temperature. Lowering the turkey in a countertop fryer will lower the oil temperature significantly. If you see it going below 300°F, take out the turkey and let the oil heat up to your target temperature before resuming cooking. You may need to do this multiple times throughout the process.
- When the turkey is fully cooked, lift it carefully from the fryer and set it on a pan for at least 20 minutes. This will allow time for the juices to drain. Now you’re ready to carve and serve the bird.