How to Deep Fry a Turkey

Let’s cover how to deep fry a turkey. It may seem daunting, scary and unsafe. While there are parts where you need to exercise caution, that goes for cooking anywhere. My husband started deep frying our turkeys in 2015 and it quickly became a family tradition. When he started researching how to deep fry a turkey all he came across were fail videos. I can understand how that would turn people off! Now that we have some experience we thought it would be nice to share our method to show it is safe. Our video is not going to go viral because we set a tree on fire or have flames coming out of the pot. We hope this video and description below is very informative and a great tool to give you the confidence to give it a try.

I can’t wait until our little one is old enough to get excited about the process. The hope is one day she would like to continue the tradition with her family and will reflect on the fond memories we had together while making new ones.

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Equipment to Deep Fry a Turkey

Before we can dive into deep frying the turkey we need to cover the equipment needed because otherwise… you can’t fry! Here is a list of essentials.

Let’s Break Down the Equipment

A 32 quart pot will be large enough for most turkeys.

The thermometer allows us to monitor the temperature at all times. Temperature for the oil needs to be at 350 degrees F before the turkey is added. Once turkey is added the temperature should be between 300 degrees – 325 degrees F.

A hook is needed in order to lower and raise the spick and turkey into and out of the pot.

Propane is the fuel for the fry. A gauge is helpful because this is a long fry, about 30 – 40 minutes to heat up the oil and approximately 3.5 minutes per pound of turkey for the fry. It is not unheard of to use a quarter of a tank of propane when we deep fry a turkey.

We highly recommend a torch instead of a lighter or match. When you deep fry the turkey outside a torch can hold up to the wind unlike a lighter or match.

The high pressure cooker houses the flame and therefore is our heat source.

Let’s Talk About Oil for a Minute

We use peanut oil because we like the taste but also because it has a high smoke point of 450 degrees F. You will be bringing the oil to 350 degrees F so choose an oil that can withstand the heat.

SAFETY TIP: Use an oil that doesn’t smoke right at or around 350 degrees F. Give yourself a buffer just in case you accidently raise the temperature too high.

If you use an oil that cannot take on the heat you expose your fry to a couple things:

  1. Acrid flavor and aroma- When oil is heated past its smoke point the fat breaks down. A substance called acrolein starts to form which is the chemical that gives burnt foods their acrid flavor and aroma.
  2. Flash point- As the oil breaks down it gets closer to its flash point, producing ignitable gases that for safety sake should not be by a flame. A simultaneous combustion won’t happen but you should pay attention to your heat and take the oil off the flame if you do reach the smoke point.

Serious Eats has a great article, What’s a Smoke Point and Why Does it Matter, covering this topic along with a list of oils/fats and their smoke points.

Back to the Rest of the Equipment

An oven mitt protects you from the splashing oil when putting in and taking out the turkey.

After the fry is done you do not have to discard the oil. You can use oil 3 – 4 times or until murky. If oil is rancid don’t use it. Use a funnel and strainer to safely pour the oil back into the container. Store the container in a cool, dark place to be used another time.

You will need tape or a sticky note in order to mark your oil level.

Propane, flame, and bubbling oil should trigger the need for safety.

SAFETY TIP: Find yourself a safe place to complete the fry. We are typically outdoors with no overhanging trees, plants, pergolas, etc…. We have used garage space to deep fry a turkey and made sure there were no objects in close proximity.

Those are the tools; let’s move on to preparing the turkey!

Prepping the Turkey

Unwrap the turkey from its packaging. Inspect the turkey for the turkey neck (which you can save for homemade turkey stock) and bag of kidneys, heart and liver; remove both those items. Open up the turkey cavity as much as possible to create room for the spick. Cut off the neck bone if necessary. Sometimes there is a plastic hook in various places of the turkey so search for it to make sure if there is one it is removed. Once the turkey is prepped put it head down on the spick.

Time to Measure the Displacement

In order to know how much oil you will need we can measure the displacement with water. Put the turkey and spick in the pot and fill the pot with cold water as to not cook the turkey. Fill the water half an inch past the top of the turkey. Shift the turkey a bit to make sure it fills all the nooks and crannies with water. Once you have all the water you need take the turkey and spick out slowly allowing the water to drain. The leftover water in the pot is how much oil we will need. Mark the top of the water line by drying an inside section of the pot then placing tape or a sticky note.

SUSTAINABILITY TIP: We no longer need the water. You can boil the water and reuse it to water your plants and garden!

If you are prepping the turkey the day before or days before (if you are doing a brine) measure from the bottom of the pot to the bottom of your tape or sticky note. Make note of the height so you can replace the tape or sticky note when you are ready to fill the pot with oil. Clean the pot until it is time to use again.

If you are prepping the turkey and frying the same day you do not need to measure or clean the pot.

So How Much Oil Do You Need?

We will use the formula for volume and use centimeters for units instead of inches because centimeters converts to liters which converts to gallons. In this post we have a (R) radius of 17 cm and a (H) height of 24 cm. Let’s do the math so we know how much oil we need to have on hand.

There you have it we need 5.75 gallons of oil.

Seasoning the Turkey

Now that the water displacement has been measured you can proceed with seasoning your turkey. For this post and video we did a dry rub. We have done brines before and fried the turkey; either seasoning method works. So season your turkey as you like!

Let’s Deep Fry a Turkey

That’s why you are here, right?! To deep fry a turkey, let’s make it happen!

First things first, make sure you are in a safe environment away from any objects that can get near to your fry station. Being outdoors is ideal but we have used open garage space as well; all free from objects and have plenty of room.

Get out your equipment:

If you cleaned your pot since marking the water displacement it is time to re-measure the height in the pot where the oil needs to come to. Pour the oil into the pot on the floor or a solid flat surface. We do not suggest placing the pot on the pressure cooker then adding the oil because the oil can cause the pot to shift and you may be in for a big mess.

If you are reusing your oil add as much oil as you can and need without adding any oil with sediment. The sediment will add unwanted flavor to the oil and turkey once frying. You want clean oil for the best flavor.

Attach the propane to the hose of the high pressure cooker stand. Turn on the propane to release a little bit of gas. Using the torch light the gas being emitted at the stand.

SAFETY TIP: Use caution when lighting the gas; extend your arm towards the bottom of the stand and keep your face and body away from the gas and the top of the stand.

Turn the flame down at the propane container as much as possible so it easier to put the pot on the stand.

Once the pot is on the stand add the thermometer, turn up the flame if needed and allow the oil to heat up to 350 degrees F. Check it often and always keep an eye on the set up. It should take approximately 30 minutes to come to temperature.

Putting the Turkey In

Once the oil has come to temperature it is time to put in the turkey. Please make sure the turkey is thawed before proceeding.

SAFETY TIP: First things first, turn OFF the gas completely. You can’t burn a house down if there is no ignition source.

With your gloved hand grab your turkey on the spick with a hook. Slowly lower the turkey in the oil so you don’t cause a big splash or overspill. That would be disastrous! Also remember you got a cold turkey going in piping hot oil, those two temperatures don’t play nice.

SAFETY TIP: By slowly introducing the cold turkey you reduce the intensity of the oil splashing and therefore unnecessary injury or damage to people and the surrounding area.

Once the turkey is fully submerged allow it to settle for a minute before lighting the flame again. This allows the cold turkey to acclimate to the oil and by waiting a couple minutes reduces the risk of any safety issues. After a minute or two, turn on the gas and relight the flame with the torch.

The temperature of the oil will dip down to about 300 degrees to 325 degrees F and that is OK. The turkey will cook at that temperature for approximately 3 1/2 minutes per pound. Try to keep the heat consistent and adjust the gas as needed. We used a 10 pound turkey so we allowed it to fry for 35 minutes then checked the internal temperature.

So what do you do when the turkey is ready to come out? Let’s cover that next!

Taking the Turkey Out

Turkey is all done, so we think. What do we do next?

Turn off the flame completely, have a platter nearby, and with your gloved hand remove the thermometer. Attach the hook to the spick and slowly remove the turkey from the oil allowing the oil to drain back into the pot. Place the turkey on the platter and with a meat thermometer check the internal temperature at the thickest parts of the turkey at the breast and inner most part of thigh and wing. You want the temperature to read between 150 – 160 degree F. The turkey will need to rest covered with foil for about 20 minutes and will hit an internal temperature of 165 degrees F; that is when it is ready to eat!  Don’t carve the turkey right away; it will lose it’s moisture and be dry.

Yay! Your turkey is ready to be plated; rest the turkey on it’s belly and use tongs to help hold the turkey in place as you remove the spick. Carve and serve!

Deep Fry a Turkey Clean Up

Your job is not over; it’s time to clean up! The clean up is pretty straight forward but we want to cover how to take care of the oil. But before that make sure the propane tank is unhooked and safely put away. Do that as soon as the turkey is resting.

The oil will be so freaking hot; it will need to cool off before you can do anything. So cover the oil with the lid of the pot and allow the oil to sit for as long as needed. We let the oil sit overnight and drain it the next day. With that being said make sure no one; drunk adults, rambunctious kids or curious animals can get to the fry area.

SAFETY TIP: When you set up your fry area keep it out of a high traffic zone or area you know critters will invade. Sometimes frying is a lonely game but people will check in on the show, trust me!

When the oil has cooled have the oil container, funnel, and strainer ready. Shovel a bit of oil at a time with a large measuring cup or pour it directly from the pot into the strainer/funnel combo. The strainer will filter out any tidbits you don’t want to leave in the oil. You want the oil to be as clean as possible so it can be reused.

SUSTAINABILITY TIP: The last inch or so of oil we recycle because it is too murky and unusable; it will make your next fry taste old, stale, just plain not good. Pour the murky oil into a container that can be taken to your nearest hazardous waste recycling center.

Tightly seal the container full of clean oil and store it in a cool, dark place until you are ready to use it again.

All done! A safe, not scary, rendition of how to deep fry a turkey. Have fun and be safe!

Recipes that Pair Well with Deep Fried Turkey

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