Every Thanksgiving, we get together at Jane and Mark's place and cook a big feast. It's usually an East meets West affair, with a combination of traditional turkey day favorites along with a variety of Asian dishes. Over the years, we've had roasted turkeys the conventional way, brined and even a Peking turkey, which is a turkey prepared Peking duck style. Several years ago, we deep-fried a turkey and it was spectacular. Now it's our preferred turkey cooking method.
Most of us are dark meat people and think white meat is dry when roasted in the oven. The white meat of a deep-fried turkey is the juiciest white meat we've ever had, and it's not greasy at all. Even better, you don't have to slave over the oven for a couple of hours. It takes less than 50 minutes (3.5 minutes per pound) to fry a 14 lb turkey. There's no way we would go back to roasting a turkey in the oven again.
If you are apprehensive about deep-frying a turkey, it's most likely due to health concerns and/or the potential fire danger. Prior to having deep-fried turkey, I thought the meat would be on the greasy side, which is not the case at all. From an article previously on Epicurious...
Today, though everyone from Martha to Emeril has gotten in the act, fried turkey is still a foreign concept to many, who think of it as a comically large, batter-fried, dripping-with-grease bird. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. When dropped in a vat of boiling peanut oil, the turkey becomes a crispy amber beacon of juicy deliciousness — to put it in technical terms. "The hot oil has a flash-frying effect on the turkey, which seals the skin and all the moisture in it," says Aricka Westbrooks, owner of Jive Turkey, a fried turkey restaurant and distributor in Brooklyn, New York, of all places. Since the high temperature of the oil seals the skin, the result is moist, juicy meat with what Westbrooks describes as a velvety texture.
The high temperature keeps it from absorbing much oil — some studies claim a whole turkey absorbs less than a tablespoon. The key is to keep the oil above 340°F. According to the National Turkey Federation, a 5.9-ounce serving of fried turkey prepared with a dry rub has approximately 383 calories and 21 grams of fat. Compare that to roast turkey's 362 calories and 16 grams of fat. (Calories and fat grams of roast turkey vary according to preparation.)
High oil temperature is the key in preventing greasy turkey meat. Most recipes call for an oil temp of 350 degrees F. From an oil 101 article...
Maintain a frying temperature of 190 degrees C (375 degrees F). The batter-coated or breaded surface will quickly form a protective shield, preventing the oil from penetrating the cooled food and making it greasy. The food will cook by conduction or indirect heat.
If the oil is not hot enough, oil will reach the food before the coating cooks enough to form the protective layer. The result is greasy food. If the oil is too hot, the coating will burn from the direct heat of the oil before the food has had time to cook.
Safety is probably the biggest issue with deep-frying a turkey. Nobody wants to burn their house down. Deep-frying anything can be dangerous because of the bubbling vat of hot oil. It's even more hazardous when a big bird is involved. I'm sure you've seen videos of oil splattering over the stock pot and igniting. I won't deny it is dangerous to deep-fry a turkey, but if you take some safety precautions, you can minimize the danger.
I highly recommend reading and following these safety tips from UL.com. A few other tips to highlight are:
- Use a large stock pot - get the largest stock pot possible to prevent overflow of oil.
- Buy smaller turkeys - for first timers, smaller turkeys (10 - 11 lbs) are going to be easier to handle than larger birds. I would generally recommend 12 lb turkeys or smaller to avoid any oil overflow. Additionally, bigger turkeys don't fry as evenly, as the outside maybe overdone and the inside underdone. It's better to deep-fry two smaller birds, than risk the fire danger of frying a large bird.
- Submerge your bird - dunk your turkey in the pot filled with water and mark the water line to determine the appropriate amount of oil. Make sure you dry the turkey afterwards.
I've used a traditional propane turkey fryer, which consists of a large stainless steel pot and an outdoor gas-burner stove/stand, and an electric deep fryer. The oil heats up faster using the gas-burner type. Additionally, you'll be able to fry, boil or steam larger amounts of food using the gas-burner models, but the electric fryers are safer because there's no open flame to ignite the oil.
I've made delicious deep-fried turkey using both an electric deep fryer and a gas-burner model. But I prefer the electric deep fryer for safety reasons, and an adjustable thermostat makes it easer to maintain oil temperature. Electric deep fryers are more expensive, but worth the extra money for the safety.
When performed with care, deep-frying a turkey can be safe and will produce the best turkey you'll ever have. Give it a try this year and save some time in the kitchen. You'll love deep-fried turkey.
Deep-Fried Turkey Resources
- Cooking Tips: Deep-Fried Turkey (Barbecues Galore)
- Southern Fried Turkey Instructions (Don Drane)
- A Deep Fried Delicacy: How to & Rubs (Eatturkey.com)
- Paula Deen Recipe (Food Network)
- Oil 101 (Whole Harvest)
- Deep-Fried Turkey Videos (YouTube)
- Deep Fryer Safety Tips (UL.com)
[tags]deep fried, fried, turkey, thanksgiving, dry rub, deep fryer, tips, holiday[/tags]