How to Fry a Turkey This Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving thinking cap is on. Menu planning is simmering and the desire for classics is strong, with a side of the craving for new recipes to try. Perhaps there is an air of adventure and an urge to try something different. It comes with roast turkey. You’ve heard rave reviews about how juicy the meat is and how crispy the skin turns out. You’ve also heard of the endeavor as a cautionary tale.

There’s no other way to put it: roast turkey is a project, but when done right (and carefully), it’s worth tackling. Roast turkey is a divine gift on Thanksgiving. The meat is juicy and tender, the skin incredibly crispy. The result is one that the oven alone simply cannot replicate. It takes work and setup, but once you’ve mastered the knowledge, tools, and tips, it will be anything but intimidating. It will be exciting.

Roast turkey’s rise to fame began in the early 2000s, despite the company posing a fire risk. However, it is said that before that, in the 1970s to 1980s, Cajun cooks published recipes, provided cooking demonstrations, and fried turkeys on television. Reviews were mixed, but it wasn’t long before this Southern turkey twist was making the rounds and even Martha Stewart gave fried turkey a try. Roast turkey quickly went from a Southern icon to an all-American Thanksgiving delicacy.

Curious to put it on your table this Thanksgiving? Be prepared to buy a handful of essentials. A lot of oil is needed, we’re talking up to 5 gallons of peanut oil. You’ll also need a turkey fryer, a propane tank, a long oil thermometer, and protective gear.


The size of the turkey is also important. Avoid buying a turkey over 12 pounds. A bird between 8 and 10 pounds is ideal for roasting. And don’t forget that you have enough oil to fry several birds in a day. Prepare the next bird while you roast one. Turkey should always be completely thawed, patted dry (inside and out) as thoroughly as possible, and offal and neck removed before frying. The turkey can be pickled wet or dry ahead of time. If using a wet brine, follow the rule of thoroughly drying the bird before cooking.

Roasting a turkey outdoors is the most common, but there are two other ways to reach roast turkey heaven that might feel a little less adventurous. There are indoor fryers that don’t require a propane tank and are easy to plug in, requiring less setup and therefore more convenient. Look for brands that offer an automatic shut-off if the oil is too hot and have a built-in thermostat to regulate the temperature. There are also oil-free turkey fryers, which is a well-known concept in the land of air fryers. Hot air is circulated to cook the turkey, and the result is crispy skin and tender meat, but not on the level of an oil-roasted turkey. However, oilless fryers still require a propane tank and the cooking time is longer. Because of the propane tank, oil-free fryers are still restricted to outdoor and outdoor use only. The benefits are less clean up and not having to figure out how to dispose of all that oil.

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Fried turkey recipe

Follow this step-by-step recipe and essential cooking tips below to prepare roast turkey.

You will need:

  • Protective gear: pants, long-sleeved shirt, apron, closed-toe shoes, long pot holders or gloves, and safety goggles
  • propane tank
  • Turkey fryer with grate
  • Extra long candy/frying thermometer for oil
  • Instant read turkey thermometer

For an outdoor propane turkey fryer:

  • 1 turkey, 8 to 12 pounds, thawed, offal and neck removed, patted dry
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 gallons of peanut oil

  1. Place the turkey in the empty frypot according to the manufacturer’s instructions, with the turkey drumsticks facing down. Add water, measuring or marking the water level on the outside of the pot as you go, until the turkey is just submerged. This indicates how much oil you need. Make sure there is between 3 and 5 inches between this mark and the top of the pot so the oil doesn’t boil over. remove turkey; dry thoroughly with paper towels, including the cavity (this is very important). discard water. Thoroughly dry the frying pan.
  2. Set up the turkey fryer on level ground according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Attach an extra long candy/fry thermometer to the inside of the fryer pot. Fill in an appropriate amount of oil. Preheat oil to 350°F according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Season the turkey generously inside and out with salt and pepper. Place the turkey breast side up and legs down on a rack with hooks (this tool will help place the turkey in the oil and remove it after cooking).
  4. Turn off the gas completely. Using the rack/lifting hook handle, slowly lower the turkey into the hot oil. (Allow about 1 minute to minimize oil splatter.) Once the turkey is fully submerged, relight the fryer and maintain the oil temperature at 350°F.
  5. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 155°F, about 30 minutes for an 8-pound turkey and up to 40 to 42 minutes for a 12-pound turkey or 3 to 4 minutes per pound . The temperature rises when the bird is resting, they look for a safe internal temperature of 165°F in the chest and 180°F in the thickest part of the thigh. Using the grate/lifting hook handle, carefully lift the turkey out of the oil, allowing excess oil to drip off. Transfer to a baking sheet or cutting board and allow the turkey to rest, loosely covered with foil, for at least 20 minutes. Remove the turkey from the grill and carve.
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For an indoor electric turkey fryer:

  • 3 gallons of peanut oil
  • 1 turkey, 8 to 12 pounds, thawed, offal and neck removed, patted dry
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Add oil to the fryer but do not exceed the maximum fill line. Preheat oil in fryer to 350°F according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Season the turkey generously inside and out with salt and pepper.
  3. Place the basket in the fryer for 30 seconds. Remove the basket from the oil, place the turkey in the basket and slowly lower the turkey into the fryer. Fry according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 155°F, about 30 minutes for an 8-pound turkey and up to 40 to 42 minutes for a 12-pound turkey or 3 to 4 minutes per pound . The temperature rises when the bird is resting, they look for a safe internal temperature of 165°F in the chest and 180°F in the thickest part of the thigh. Carefully lift the turkey out of the oil and drain excess oil. Place on a baking sheet or cutting board and allow the turkey to rest, loosely covered with foil, for at least 20 minutes before carving.

Cooking tips for fried turkey

Keep these pointers for a successful and safe journey to the best roast turkey. Most of these tips apply to roasting turkey outdoors. However, when using an indoor electric deep fryer you still have to be careful of hot oil, so keep these tips in mind.


Thaw the turkey thoroughly

First and foremost, make sure the turkey is completely thawed. If you have time, thaw the turkey in the refrigerator. A good rule of thumb: It takes one day for every 4 pounds of frozen turkey to thaw in a refrigerator set at 40F or below. If turkey day is coming up and you’re running out of time, use the cold water thawing method and place the turkey in cold water and let it thaw for about 30 minutes per pound, changing the water every 30 minutes. Use this handy chart to learn how long to defrost a turkey.




Remove excess turkey parts

After defrosting, remove excess fat and of course the offal and neck. Don’t forget the offal packet inside the turkey. Then dry the turkey thoroughly inside and out with kitchen paper to prevent splattering and flare-ups.





Don’t fill the turkey

If you’re someone who likes to fill up (who doesn’t?), keep it separate. Do not stuff the turkey while frying. Make the filling yourself instead, and better yet, go wild and try two different filling recipes. This is also not the time to fill the cavity with flavors like lemon and herbs, leave that to a classic oven-roasted turkey. The same goes for marinating. Brining is fair game; Just make sure to dry the turkey well.



Be careful outdoors

For outdoor fryers, prepare an outdoor area (aka a large backyard, not on or near a deck) on level ground, away from the house and anything that can catch fire, at least 10 feet from any structure. Rain or snow in sight? Skip the roast. Don’t try to do this indoors. It requires a lot more oil and it’s a big bird. Put on pants, a long-sleeved shirt, an apron, shoes, and use long oven mitts to be extra safe. Safety glasses are also never a bad idea.



Turn off the burner at the right time

Turn off the burner before placing the turkey in the fryer. Once the bird is fully submerged in the oil, turn up the heat and keep an eye on the temperature of the oil.



Look out for smoke

Turn off the fryer when the oil is smoking. Most oils can catch fire above 400°F.



Dispose of the cooking oil carefully

There should be at least 2 feet of space between the tank and the burner of a propane turkey fryer. When the party is over, let the oil cool overnight before discarding. (And not down the drain!).



Have a fire extinguisher ready

Keep a fire extinguisher nearby. You already have one in your kitchen, don’t you…? So bring it outside. Better safe than sorry. Do not use flour or water to fight an oil fire.



Pay attention!

Roasting a turkey is not like roasting a turkey. It requires constant attention. Under no circumstances should you leave it unattended.



Keep children and pets far away

Finally, at no time should children or pets be near the fryer.


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