Are you in the mood to try something different this year with your Thanksgiving turkey? Why not try deep frying it this year? Some say a fried turkey is the juiciest, most flavorful, crispy-on-the-outside, delicious bit of poultry ever to cross their lips. This project is packed with thermal critical control points that will determine the safety of the cook and the quality of the finished product—and we have all the tips you need.
We’ll be using the new ThermoWorks® Smoke™ 2-Channel Alarm Thermometer with an additional 12″ Pro-Series® High Temp Probe so we can measure both the turkey meat and the critical oil temperature on the same device. You can order your Smoke Thermometer now and it will arrive in plenty of time for the big day (Smoke will officially start shipping on October 20th).
It’s Quick and Frees Your Oven!
Deep frying your holiday bird will take less time than roasting does. Most turkeys take about 3 minutes per pound to fry. For example, a 14-pound turkey will take about 42 minutes to cook. While your turkey is cooking outside, the oven will be available for baking rolls, pies, and side dishes.
⚠️ Safety First
Frying a whole turkey in hot oil can be dangerous, and caution must be observed. Thousands of fires and injuries occur every year due to turkey fryer fires. Hot oil is highly combustible, and the pot of hot oil will be sitting directly over an open flame. Follow these important tips to ensure the safety of your cook.
- Keep a dry-powder, multipurpose fire extinguisher handy at all times. Never use water to put out a grease fire, it will cause the hot oil to spatter, thereby spreading the fire rapidly.
- Take it outside. Set up the turkey fryer more than 10 feet away from your home, covered patio, roof overhangs, and any other building.
- Set up the burner on stable ground, concrete, or asphalt. Not a wood deck.
- Keep fryer away from children and pets.
- Never leave the setup unattended. Stay within a 10-foot perimeter of the hot oil at all times.
- Don’t drink and fry. The process requires full, focused attention.
- Use a thermometer. Temperature control is crucial. Do not allow the oil to exceed 350°F (177°C).
- Thaw turkey completely. The dramatic temperature difference between a frozen turkey and the hot oil will cause furious bubbling and spillage. If oil spills over the pot it can start a fire, cause an explosion, and result in injury and property damage.
- Pat the turkey completely dry with paper towels. Water on the surface will splatter when lowering the turkey. Splatters cause grease fires.
- Turn off the gas completely when filling the pot with oil, lowering the turkey into the hot oil, lifting the turkey out of the oil, or when removing the pot full of oil from the burner.
- Wear an apron or chef jacket, safety goggles, and use heavy duty elbow-length gloves.
How Much Oil Will I Need?
➤ Water Displacement for Oil Level
Too much oil in the pot will cause the oil to bubble and spill over the sides of the pot when the turkey is lowered in—and this is a dangerous fire hazard. Using enough oil and not any more is an important safety precaution.
To measure the proper amount of oil needed:
Place the turkey (set on the stand if using) into the empty pot and fill with water until the turkey is covered. Remove the turkey and measure with a ruler the distance from the top level of the pot to the top level of the water. This will be the mark to which the pot needs to be filled with oil.
What Type of Oil?
An oil with mild flavor and a high smoke point is needed for this deep-frying project, and peanut oil fits the bill perfectly. Its flavor is very neutral and has a smoke point of about 450°F (232°C).
If you or any guests have a peanut allergy, corn, safflower, and sunflower oil are options with high smoke points as well.
Start the Oil Temperature Low
Turkey frying becomes dangerous if the oil spills over the side of the pot, and that happens when there is too much oil in the pot, or if it bubbles too violently. If you’ve used water displacement to accurately measure the amount of oil needed, that safety variable is taken out of the equation.
So what causes bubbling? 3 things: 1) a bird that’s too cold (be sure to thaw it completely), 2) water (pat the bird completely dry), and 3) oil temperature that’s too high when lowering the turkey into the pot. Start with oil heated to 250°F (121°C), slowly lower the bird, then increase the oil temperature to 325-350°F (163-177°C)—do not exceed 350°F (177°C).
Seasoning a Deep-Fried Turkey
Aromatic vegetables and fresh herbs contribute flavor and moisture when roasting a turkey. But they can’t be used for flavor when deep-frying. For rich flavor and moisture, inject the turkey with a brine, broth, or melted butter. We injected our turkey with melted butter.
- 1 12-14 pound turkey, fully thawed
- Salt and pepper
- Vegetable oil
- Kitchen twine
For the Injection
- 1 pound butter, melted
- 4 oz. any mixture of fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme
- 1 tbsp salt
- Dash of ground pepper
Turkey Fryer Setup:
- Fryer kit: pot with lid, turkey stand, hook for lifting, burner, and fuel hose
- Propane tank
- 3-5 gallons peanut oil, depending on the size of your pot and the size of your bird
- Multipurpose fire extinguisher
- Dual-channel alarm thermometer, like Smoke™
- Instant read thermometer, like the Thermapen® Mk4
- Heavy duty, elbow length gloves
- Safety goggles
- Clean pan to place finished turkey in
- Lawn chair for you to sit and monitor the cook
- Remove the neck, giblets, pop-up timer (if your turkey has one), and trim away excess fat and skin from the neck cavity so the bubbling oil is able to flow freely through the turkey during the cook.
- Use the water displacement method as described above to properly gauge how far to fill the pot with oil. Take note of that measurement.
- Pat thawed turkey completely dry with paper towels.
- Draw up melted butter into meat injector and inject meat in several places throughout the breasts, legs, and the meaty part of the wings.
- Separate the skin from the breast meat. Rub the outside of the turkey with oil and season with salt and pepper (the oil helps the salt and pepper to stick).
- Turkey stand or basket:
- Turkey Stand: Fit turkey over stand or skewer provided in your kit. Tie wings back and truss legs securely with kitchen twine.
- Fryer Basket: Or, truss the legs and secure the wings with twine, and place the seasoned bird in the fryer basket.
- Place a Pro Series high temp penetration probe into the deepest part of the breast, avoiding bone. Set Smoke’s high alarm for the channel that will be used for monitoring the meat’s internal temperature to the turkey’s pull temp of 157°F (69°C).
- Set up fryer burner outside on a flat surface at least 10 feet away from any buildings. Connect hose to the propane tank.
- Place fryer pot on top of the burner. With the gas and burner OFF, fill the pot with oil to the level as measured from water displacement done earlier.
- Using a pot clip, secure a 12″ probe to the side of the pot. Set the oil channel’s high alarm to 250°F (121°C).
- Connect the probe to Smoke.
- Using the burner’s instructions, turn the gas on and light the burner.
- When the alarm sounds, turn off the gas and very slowly lower the turkey into the fryer (wearing an apron, safety goggles, and gloves). Attach the meat’s probe to Smoke.
- Set Smoke’s oil channel high alarm to 350°F (177°C), and the low alarm to 320°F (160°C). Turn on the gas and ignite the burner. Adjust the gas level to maintain the oil’s temperature in this range.
- Kick back in your lawn chair and watch your turkey cook. Most 12-14 pound turkeys will cook in 30-45 minutes. Turkeys larger than 14 pounds will take longer to cook, and the outer area of the meat will be overcooked by the time the internal pull temperature is reached. We used a TimeStick® and counted up the time to keep an eye on the length of our cook. It took our turkey 35 minutes to reach its final pull temperature of 157°F (69°C).
- Don’t Walk Away! Even though Smoke has a very handy wireless receiver, stay right by your fryer’s side through the entire cook. Grab a magazine or a good book and wait for your turkey’s high alarm to go off.
- When the meat’s high alarm sounds, turn the gas off completely. Very slowly and carefully lift the turkey out of the oil and set into a clean roasting pan. Spot-check the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer like a Thermapen to verify that the tracked temperature is the lowest found.
- If a lower temperature is found, replace the probe into the lowest temperature area in the meat, and return the turkey to the oil. Turn the burner back on and allow to cook until the pull temperature of 157°F (69°C) is reached.
- Allow the turkey to rest for about 15-20 minutes. In that time carryover cooking will increase the internal temperature to a safe 165°F (74°C).
- While wearing gloves, remove the turkey from the fryer basket or turkey stand and place onto a carving board. Carve your turkey and serve!
- Allow the oil to cool entirely before pouring it out of the pot and either straining and storing for later use, or disposing of appropriately.
Frying your Thanksgiving turkey is a fun method to try if you haven’t before, and the results are fantastic: golden brown crispy skin with moist and flavorful meat. And did we mention crispy skin? If you can’t get enough of salty, crisp skin, a deep-fried turkey is for you!
The safety of this project and quality of the bird hinge on so many temperature control components. Temperature affects the type of oil used, the need to pat the bird completely dry, the temperature of the oil when lowering the turkey, oil cooking temperature, and the pull temperature of the meat.