The idea of frying Thanksgiving turkeys is gratifying on so many levels: holiday revelry, fried food and the dramatic possibility of fire or explosion, just for starters. Like fireworks, only legal everywhere and you can eat them. Really, if frying something as small and simple as a sliver of potato works so well, why not think really big and fry a gigantic piece of poultry? Will frying scale up without some scary complication?
Is it something you should try? Is it difficult? Dangerous? Expensive? What does it involve? Well, there are two basic ways to go about it – over a propane tank and burner in the backyard or with a dedicated electric turkey fryer in the kitchen. Both methods seem to involve having a fire extinguisher close by, but that’s always a good idea.
Our choice was easy, since we don’t have a backyard, but getting an electric fryer and using it outside on the deck seemed like a good compromise. The one everybody buys is the Butterball – available for about $100 from Amazon or Home Depot. After that the instructions seemed simple enough: get the right size turkey — we got the XL fryer, costs more but large enough for a 20 lb. bird — brine it for most of a day (or get a pre-brined one, see photo above, for a few dollars extra), inject it with marinade, and then drop it into A LOT (about 3 gallons) of sizzling oil for 3 minutes or so per pound, plus five minutes.
How does it compare to the traditional oven roasting method? Well, I never tried the old way (ask Daisy), but here are the pros and cons we came up with:
- Cooks much faster — Instead of spending three or four hours in the oven, a deep-fried turkey cooks in about an hour or less.
- Moist turkey — Probably because it isn’t in the oven for several hours, a deep-fried turkey is much more moist and succulent than a roast turkey. Of course, that succulence may also be the result of the injected marinades recommended by most fried turkey recipes.
- Frees up the oven — Turkey is probably not the only part of your Thanksgiving meal that ordinarily is cooked in the oven. Deep frying your bird frees up your oven for sweet potatoes, hot dinner rolls, and pie. Yum!
- It’s fried! What could be bad about that?
- Need to get a frier — You probably don’t have one sitting around. Once you get one, though, your annual turkey preparation will be much simpler.
- Need to store a frier 364 days a year — unless you want to fry chicken, shrimp, doughnuts or Milky Way bars all year ’round.
- Need lots of oil — Really, have you ever picked up a 3-gallon jug of oil? The good news is that the oil will be reusable.
- Oil gets VERY hot — see need for fire extinguisher, above
Given everyone’s dread of a dry turkey and the amount of time one devotes to cooking it, a turkey fryer seems like a good investment. If you like it, you will be ready to fry your Christmas turkey in it, too.