The subject of deep-fried turkey came up here a few months ago - and yes, the stuff does exist. In the New Yorker the method was described. It involves 6 GALLONS of lard or peanut oil into which the turkey is placed for 45 minutes. (I HOPE it isn't stuffed first.) Supposed to be absolutely delicious, but they recommend performing this operation out of doors or in a car port, since that much hot oil presents some safety problems.
A deep-fried turkey.At the other extreme was a recipe  presented in that other great source for recipes - the Wall Street Journal. This involved cooking the bird overnight at 200 degrees. (Them's REAL degrees, and not those phony Celsius things.) We tried this method and the results were wonderful. Next time, however, we will preheat the oven to 450, put the turkey in and IMMEDIATELY reduce the temperature to 200 (for browning), then, when the internal temperature reaches 170 or so, increase the heat to 325 until done.


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The following excerpts, from various sources,
 pertain to the subject of frying turkey.†

Included among the excerpts are recipes and commentary.

Deep-fried Turkey Fryer. Deep Fried Turkey Tips: Use water to measure the amount of oil that will be needed if you are unsure of the capacity of your deep fryer.* A heavy wire coat hanger hooked to the wire band that secures the turkey's legs will help when lowering and lifting the turkey into the hot fat. Or use a sturdy cooking spoon, tongs, or a large fork for extra support. Do not rely solely on the wire band too lift a heavy turkey as it can loosen during the cooking process. Before removing the pot from the burner, let the oil cool for at least one hour after the turkey has been removed and fire turned off. You can inject strained bottled Italians salad dressing for the marinade or use the cajun Injector which is a kit that includes a sixteen ounce jar of marinade and a syringe type injector. Use about 1 ounce of marinade per pound of turkey. It is better to buy a fresh turkey than a prebasted type because the prebasted ones are saltier. Marinades can be injected in a whole turkey in about five minutes. Most experts recommend choosing a turkey no larger than twelve pounds. Remove the giblets from cavities, wash cavities and pat dry. Inject marinade into turkey thighs, legs, and breast. Heat oil to 350 degrees in a 40 quart cooker, such as a propane or butane cooker with a steamer basket and a cover. Sprinkle Cajun seasoning (Zatarains is a good one) all over the entire bird and inside cavity. Carefully lower the turkey into oil and deep fry for 3 1/2 minutes per pound, maintaining oil at 350 degrees. Remove turkey carefully and let oil cool. Makes 12-15 servings.

*Dave disagrees with the method of using water to figure out how much oil you need to fry your turkey. Dave had the following to say...

"The section on how to find the oil level is dead wrong and dangerous (and why most fryer fires happen) DO NOT USE WATER to find your oil level. USE OIL. Just do it the same way but use the oil and then you dont need to dry off the bird or the pot. Also, if you do this inside you deserve to burn your house down."


†4 oz. liquid garlic 4 oz. liquid onion 4 oz. liquid celery 1 Tbsp. red pepper 2 Tbsp. salt 2 Tbsp. tabasco 1 oz. liquid crab boil or 1 Tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning 1 poultry or meat injector 1 defrosted 10-12 pound turkey 5 gallons Peanut oil Saute first seven ingredients until salt and pepper are dissolved. Fill the injector and inject turkey at breast, wings, drumsticks, thighs and back. Allow to marinate 24 hours in refrigerator or ice chest. Use a 10 gallon pot for frying. Bring peanut oil to 350 degree temperature and fry turkey for 38-42 minutes. Turkey should float to surface after 35 minutes and you should cook an additional 5-7 minutes. ***You may want to tie turkey legs with 1/2" cotton ropes to be able to remove from frying pot when done*** Precaution: The cooking of fried turkey should be done outdoors. Extreme caution should be taken when placing cold turkey into hot oil.

There are two tenets of Southern male cooking. It has to be done outside, and the results should be bad for you....

The following was written by Beverly Bundy of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Every year about this time, the calls start coming. It's always a man on the other end of the phone, and it's usually on Monday morning. "Hey, could you tell me how to deep-fry one of those turkeys?"

I immediately know what he was doing the previous Sunday. Instead of helping his wife with the laundry, taking his kids to the zoo or separating the irises, he was parked on the Barca, watching John Madden draw arrows and circles and comment on some behemoths.

(I know what he has been doing because I'm the football sinner in my house.)

And what the caller has seen on NFL Sunday is some football fan deep-frying a turkey at a stadium tailgating party.

†Frying whole turkeys is sort of the Southern version of making fondue. You have a lot of your friends over, you poke around in a pot of hot oil with some sticks and then you pull out your dinner.

Justin Wilson, he of Cajun fame, recalls first seeing a turkey fry in Louisiana in the 1930s. Most recently, John Martin Taylor, another Southern boy and promoter of Southern cooking as Hoppin' John, has been touring the country to promote his `The Fearless Frying Cookbook' (Workman, $10.95). In the process of demonstrating the joys of frying, Hoppin' John often drops a turkey into a bubbling caldron. (see recipe below)

What this yields is a turkey that is incredibly moist with a crispy, fragrant crust. It is truly a turkey of dreams. Is the mess of spattered oil and a greasy carport worth this transcendental turkey? Only the person in charge of cleanup can make that decision.

If it's Thanksgiving and you're a one-oven household, frying frees up the oven for the rolls, the dressing, the marshmallow-encrusted yams. However, Thanksgiving means a lot of keyed-up children, so there are safety issues to consider.

The remarkable thing about the whole process is that if done properly, fried turkey is not the dietary no-no it would appear. Here's how frying works:

The high heat of the oil causes the interior moisture of the turkey to rush to the skin, where it steams. (That's the noise you hear.) As more water from the turkey moves out to replace the moisture it has lost, pressure keeps the oil out of the bird. All this steam action cools the surface enough to prevent the skin from burning, while the center of the turkey has time to cook.

Deep-Fried Turkey

Serves 20

4 to 5 gallons peanut oil

12- to 15-pound whole turkey, at room temperature

Cayenne pepper, optional

Begin heating the oil outdoors in a 10-gallon pot over a very hot propane flame. Don't set the burner to its highest setting, as you may need to increase the heat after you've added the turkey. It will take about 20 minutes for the oil to heat. Use a candy/deep-fry thermometer clamped to the side of the pot to determine the temperature of the oil.

Meanwhile, rinse the turkey well, pat it dry inside and out and set it on end in a sink to drain.

When the oil reaches 375 degrees, pat the turkey dry again and sprinkle with cayenne, if desired. If your cooker has a basket insert, place turkey in the basket and set it over a baking sheet; if not, set an oven rack over a large baking sheet, place the turkey on it and take them outside to the cooker.

Check temperature of the oil. When oil reaches 390 degrees, carefully and slowly lower the basket with the turkey into the oil; or lower it by holding it by its legs or by a long, heavy tool such as a clean fireplace poker inserted into its cavity. (Or, pull a length of cotton twine through the flesh loop that is holding the legs in place. Double the cotton and tie securely, fashioning a handle for dropping and lifting.) Immediately check the oil temperature and adjust the flame so that the temperature does not dip below 340 degrees. You want to maintain the temperature at 365 degrees. As it cooks, occasionally move the bird around in the oil so that it doesn't scorch. The oil near the heat source will be hotter.

A whole turkey takes only 3-4 minutes per pound to fry to perfection. Small ones, around 12 pounds, will take about 35 minutes; large ones, around 15 pounds, will take about 1 hour. When the turkey is done, it will float to the surface with a perfectly crispy, brown skin. If you are unsure, you can test the meat for doneness at the hip joint, or insert a meat thermometer into the breast; it should register 180 degrees.

Using the basket insert if there is one, or by again inserting a long, heavy tool such as a clean fireplace poker into its cavity, carefully remove the turkey from the oil and hold it over the pot for a moment to allow any excess oil to drain back into the pot. Then lay the bird on the oven rack. Allow it to rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Very approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 415 calories, 27 grams fat, 0 carbohydrates, 40 grams protein, 116 milligrams cholesterol, 96 milligrams sodium, 60 percent of calories from fat.

-- The Fearless Frying Cookbook'

by Hoppin' John Martin Taylor






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Yes, my first experience is that it was extremely delicious!

However, Iíd be very careful about recommending that anyone try to fry a turkey in a car port. If itís raining, they either need to get wet, or wait until it stops raining. If a fire breaks out in a car port, you could expect the car port to burn down. If itís attached to a house, expect the house to go with it. Itís just not worth the risk to do it under a cover.

Commonly recommended is to do it outside, away from anything combustible. I just did one on my driveway in the drizzling rain. I didnít get soaked, but I stayed out there with the cooker the entire 45 minutes during cooking. Depending on the design of the cooker, they are safe appliances, but accidents do happen. Iíd rather have a fire happen on my driveway than under a car port.

Just my opinion based on the research that Iíve done (informal) on the internet and talking to owners.

Ben Bushong
Clarksville, TN

Thanks, Ben, for the input.

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