When frying a turkey, the name of the game is safety. To be sure that you avoid any unnecessary accidents, spills, or boil overs you’ll need to take the proper precautions and get the right equipment.
We love the approach taken by Alton Brown in his Serious Eats Videos. He lays out everything you need to build a turkey derrick to safely lower and raise your turkey from the hot oil, as well as important safety steps to take while frying your turkey.
Here are a few things you’re going to need to build a safe and effective frying derrick:
- 8-step Ladder
- Cleat Hook
- Swivel Pulley
- Zip Ties
- Utility Pulley
- Snap Hook
To build your frying derrick, start with an eight-step ladder. You’ll need a cleat hook mounted to the side of the ladder to tie down your rope and one swivel pulley attached to the step with zip ties. Run the rope through another 3-inch utility pulley and tie off the other end on the support beam opposite the step. Attach a snap hook to hold your lifting rack and position the rack so it’s centered over the frying pot and burner stand.
Before you fill the pot with oil, perform a quick displacement test to ensure you avoid adding too much oil and risk hot oil boiling over onto the open flame. Lower your turkey into the pot with the lifting rack and fill the pot with water. Add enough water to cover the turkey. Remove the bird, leaving the water in the pot and mark where the water level settles. Discard the water and wipe the pot dry. When it’s time to add oil, fill to the mark and you’re good to go.
Prep the Turkey
As with all cooking recipes, make sure that your meat has been properly thawed in the refrigerator prior to cooking. This step is especially important when frying because the introduction of ice and water to hot oil can be dangerous. When water (or ice) is introduced to hot oil – at temperatures in excess of 300°F – the water turns to steam very quickly. And, when water becomes steam it expands to nearly 1,700 times its original volume. That expansion causes the oil to be pushed out of the pot and creates tiny droplets that increase the overall surface area of the oil and creates an explosion of fire and hot oil.
To avoid a Thanksgiving apocalypse, make sure that your bird has been allowed to sit in the fridge (below 41°F) until it’s internal temperature reaches 37-41°F. A great way to test whether or not your bird is sufficiently thawed is by probing the raw flesh with your Super-Fast Thermapen. If the Thermapen reads inside of your target temperature range of 37-41°F you’ll know it’s safe to introduce it to the oil.
Monitor the temperature of the oil using the DOT alarm thermometer and a 12” Pro-Series Probe. Attach the probe to the side of the pot with a pot clip. This probe will give you accurate oil temps to within 1.8°F. Set DOT to sound when the oil has reached 250°F. Simply press the “up” button until you’ve reached your desired alarm temp and it’s set. The magnetic back allows us to mount it securely to the metal ladder support.
With the frying derrick in place and the probe securely mounted to the pot, crank up the propane and light your burner.
It’s Time to Fry!
While the oil is coming to temperature, mount the turkey to the lifting rack. Using the ChefAlarm and another 12” Pro-Series probe, monitor the internal temperature of the bird as it fries. Insert the probe into the deepest part of the breast making sure to stay away from bone.
Plug the probe into your meter and set the high alarm to sound when you’ve reached your ideal internal temperature (157°F). If that sounds too low, consider that during the rest residual heat will carry the temperature up to the USDA recommended 165°F.
Once the oil temperature has reached 250°F it’s time to lower the turkey into the oil. Slowly lower the bird until the lifting rack rests gently on the bottom of the pot and then tie the rope to the cleat to secure the pulleys.
With the turkey in place, increase the heat of the oil and adjust the DOT alarm to read 350°F. Introducing the turkey to the oil at a lower temperature reduces the risk of flare ups and boil overs. With the bird in place, it’s safe to crank up at the heat.
Allow the bird to fry until your alarm thermometer alerts you that your internal temperature has been reached. Depending on the size of your bird and the amount of oil used, there is a chance your oil will have not come up to 350°F before the bird is finished cooking. That’s ok.
Gently raise it out of the oil making sure to keep the line taut and tied down. Spot check the meat with the Super-Fast Thermapen. Probe in areas in and around the thickest part of the breast. Check the meat behind the wings and thighs, too. The thighs (dark meat) are safe to eat at 165°F, but will be better at temperatures closer to 175°F, or higher.
Dark meat has more connective tissue and will break down better at higher temps. When the breast hits 160°F your thighs will probably be closer to 175°F.
Once you’ve verified your temperatures, kill the heat and put a lid on the oil. Let the turkey cool for a moment before attempting to remove the lifting rack and carry it into the house. Let the turkey rest for at least 25-30 minutes before you attempt to carve. Doing so will allow the meat to relax and retain moisture.
After an appropriate rest you’ll be left with a golden brown, crispy turkey that’s both moist and delicious. Don’t let your guests mistake the moist, juicy breast meat for underdone turkey. Chances are they’ll have never tasted something so good. Just remember, you’ve tracked the entire cook from beginning to end and have verified your temperatures using the best, most professional temperature tools available to the home chef. Enjoy!
Watch Thermal Secrets to Simple Turkey – In the Fryer on YouTube, here!