By: JAY EIDELMAN
I know, I know, you're supposed to avoid deep fried foods, but deep fried turkey is entirely too tempting to pass up. Imagine the most luxuriously mouthwatering turkey you ever tasted. The skin is perfectly crisp and the meat just melts in your mouth. Once an exclusively southern thing (thang?), deep fried turkey has gained wide appeal. These days you can even buy electric countertop turkey fryers but outdoor propane cookers, sometimes called "Cajun Rigs," are more common and more affordable. Since turkey frying is mostly an outdoor sport, like grilling, it usually falls to the men. Sure, the ladies can handle french fries and doughnuts but when it comes to frying an entire animal, apparently you need a fella'.
Now that I've thrown down the gauntlet, here's the step-by-step for deep-fried Thanksgiving heaven.
What You'll Need
Electric or propane deep fryer (most kits comes with a deep fry thermometer to monitor oil temp and a long-handled basket or rack used to immerse the turkey)
3-5 gallons of peanut or Canola oil
Pair of long kitchen tongs
Instant-read meat thermometer
Protective clothing & silicon oven mits
Safe location for fryer
Fresh or fully thawed frozen turkey, no bigger than 12 pounds, at room tempertaure (if you can't find a small enough bird, fry the turkey in parts)
Preparing the Turkey
Many cooks brine their turkeys prior to cooking to help flavor the meat and keep it juicy. Because kosher meat is soaked and salted, kosher turkeys are pre-brined. (That's one of the reasons consumers love juicy and flavorful kosher turkeys.) If you do decide to brine your kosher turkey, lower the salt content and keep the brine time short, no more than a couple of hours. Adding liquid flavorings like hot sauce or liquid smoke to brines works better than dry ingredients like herbs. Hot oil and water don't mix, so make sure you've thoroughly dried your turkey before dropping it into the oil.
Some cooks inject marinades into their turkeys using syringes. This can add flavor and moisture. Others think that injecting anything into the meat changes the texture and consistency. There are many commercially available marinades designed for injecting but again, watch the salt.
Whether you choose to brine or inject, dry rubbing your kosher turkey with a spice rub is a must. Your turkey should be rubbed about 4 hours prior to frying. Hot and spicy Cajun spice rubs are traditional but use your imagination. There are also many no-salt spice combos if salt is a consideration. Whatever spice rub you choose, make sure it has no sugar in it. Dry rubs for turkey frying don't have any sugar in them because the sugars will burn almost instantly on contact with the oil.
Ready, Set, Fry
Turkey frying can be dangerous. Proceed with extreme caution:
- Locate your propane fryer outdoors, on level ground away from children, pets and your house. Never place the fryer on a wooden deck or other flammable structure. Leave at least 2 feet between the fryer and the propane tank.
-If you are using an indoor fryer, make sure it is designed for frying turkeys—a standard deep fryer will not work—and follow the manufaturer's directions as to placement, oil quantity, frying temp and cooking times.
- Wear long sleeve and long pants so that any splatters won't burn your skin, and have a fire extinguisher at the ready just in case.
- Fill the fryer with oil to the appropriate fill line as inducated by the manufacturer's directions.
- Don't fry in the rain or in windy conditions.
- Get your oil to 375 degrees F safely; never leave the oil unattended and do not overheat the oil.
- Never touch the pot or attempt to move the oil while hot. You will get burned!
- Make sure that your turkey is dry and at room temperature. Anything colder will lower the temperature of the oil and your turkey will be greasy.
-Never stuff a turkey for deep frying; serve a dressing, baked in the oven, instead.
- Never fry a frozen turkey. The water in the ice crystals will cause the oil to overflow, which will result in an explosion when the oil hits the proane burner!
- Check out FireSafety.gov for even more fire safety advice.
Next, place your appropriately spiced, dry, room-termperature turkey in the basket or rack provided with your fryer. When the oil has reached 375 degrees F, turn off the burner and slowly lower the turkey into the fryer. This prevents any splattering oil from being ignited by the burner and setting you and your turkey on fire. Once the turkey is safely in the oil, turn the burner back on. Try to maintain a cooking temperature of 350 degrees F.
To check if your turkey is done, remove it from the oil. Insert an instant read thermometer into the deepest part of the thigh without hitting the bone. If it registers 165 degrees F or higher, the turkey is ready. Let your turkey rest for at least 20 minutes before carving. As a rule of thumb, whole turkeys need 3-4 minutes per pound and turkey parts need 4-5 minutes per pound.
When you are done, let the oil cool completely before transfering it to containers and disposing of it in accordance with local regulations.
Oil is expensive, try frying hush puppies, fritters, or pastrami-wrapped hot dogs before you drop your turkey. You can serve these as sides, snacks or appetizers. (If you decide to fry the turkey first, anything else you fry will take on some of the flavor of the turkey.)
Serve your deep-fried delight with any or all of the following: