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How To Deep Fry Turkey; A Deep Fried Delicacy

Washington, D.C. – Deep-fried turkey, a concept that started in the south, has risen in popularity nationwide. It’s a perfect twist for barbecues, block parties and holiday feasts. To get you started, we have turkey frying tips for both outdoor and indoor turkey fryers plus several deep-fried turkey recipes. For a deep frying turkey experience that is fun and produces delicious results follow these guidelines.

The Turkey – Size Matters

Uncooked Turkey

Smaller turkeys, 8 pounds to 10 pounds and turkey parts, such as breast, wings, drumsticks and thighs, are best for frying. Size does matter as a 12 pound to 14 pound turkey is the maximum size bird that should be successfully deep fried. In addition to the obvious safety concern of lowering and lifting a big turkey into a vessel of boiling oil, larger birds simply cook longer. The extra cooking time may result in over exposure to the skin, which could be over cooked.

If a larger bird (over 15-pounds) has been purchased, follow these steps for the best results. Detach the dark meat (leg and thigh portions) from the breast and fry the two turkey parts separately. Fry the leg/thigh sections first in oil that has been preheated to the desired temperature (see chart below). Cook to an internal temperature of 175°F to 180°F. Remove the dark sections and reheat the oil. Then fry the turkey breast to an internal temperature of 165°F to 170°F.

Amount of Oil

Many turkey fryers feature a “fill line” indicating the suitable level of oil to add to the pot, but if that feature is absent from your fryer, follow these guidelines before marinating the turkey:

  • Place the thawed turkey in the fryer basket and place in the empty pot. The minimum oil level should be 3 inches to 5 inches from the top of the fryer. Add water until the top of the turkey is covered. Remove the turkey, allowing the water to drain from the turkey. Note the water level, using a ruler to measure the distance from the top of the pot to the surface of the water.
  • Drain or pour out the water and dry the pot thoroughly. If the fryer has a drain valve, be sure there isn’t any excess water in the spigot. Open the valve to drain the water and remember to close the valve before adding oil.

There are turkey fryers that don’t require oil. New outdoor, oil-less turkey fryers use infrared heat – a technology popular in gas grills – to cook and the result is a juicy, tender bird with crispy skin.

Cooking Preparation

  1. Remove the turkey from the wrapper. Be sure to save the label that indicates the weight of the turkey. Use the turkey’s weight to compute the total frying time.
  2. Thaw the turkey completely. Remove the neck and giblets from the two body cavities.
  3. Heat the oil to the desired temperature shown on the chart below.
  4. While the oil is heating, prepare the turkey as desired. If injecting a marinade into the turkey, puree ingredients so they will pass through the needle. Even so, you may have to strain the mixture to remove larger portions.
  5. For whole turkeys, inject 60 percent marinade deep into the breast muscles, 30 percent into the leg and thigh muscles and 10 percent into the meaty wing section. Do not inject the marinade just under the skin as a water-based marinade will result in the hot oil popping and splattering.
  6. Remove any excess fat around the neck to allow the oil to flow through the turkey.
  7. Remove the wire or plastic truss that holds the legs in place (if applicable). Cut off the wing tips up to the first joint and cut off the tail.
  8. Remove the pop-up timer from the breast (if applicable).
  9. Do not stuff turkeys for deep frying.
  10. To reduce spattering, thoroughly dry the interior and exterior of the bird.
  11. After adding marinades and/or seasonings, place the turkey in a clean roasting pan on the countertop for no more than 30 minutes to 45 minutes. This allows the marinades and seasonings to permeate the turkey and raises the turkey’s internal temperature so as to create less splatter during the frying process.
Outdoor Propane Turkey Fryer Indoor Electric Turkey Fryer
Typically, a 30 quart to 40 quart vessel with lid, basket, lifting hook and burner. Typically, a 22 quart to 28 quart vessel with glass lid, adjustable digital temperature control and timer.
Supplies Needed
Propane gas tank.Thermometer to measure the oil temperature.Food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of
the bird.Injector for marinades and seasonings.

Fire extinguisher, oven mitts and pot holders.

Food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of the bird.Injector for marinades and seasonings.Fire extinguisher, oven mitts and pot holders.
Must be used outdoors.Place on level dirt or a grassy area.Never fry a turkey using a propane unit indoors, in a garage or other structure attached to a building.Avoid frying on wood decks, which could catch fire, and concrete, which can be stained by the oil. May be used indoors.May be placed on a countertop that is a safe distance from overhead cabinets.May be used on sheltered porches, patios, garages or outdoors close to an electrical outlet. 
Whole turkeys up to 14-pounds or turkey parts (breast, thighs, legs). Whole turkeys up to 14-pounds or turkey parts (breast, thighs, legs).
Amount of Oil Add oil to the fill line using up to 3 gallons to 5 gallons.See additional notes using the water displacement method. Add oil to the fill line or just under 3 gallons.See additional notes using the water displacement method.
Preheat oil to 375°F. Preheat oil to 400°F.
the Turkey into the Oil
Just prior to lowering the turkey into the oil, turn off the burner.As soon as the turkey is safely in the pot, immediately turn on the burner.To prevent excess splattering, slowly lower the turkey into the oil. To prevent excess splattering, slowly lower the turkey into the oil.
For whole turkeys, allow 3 minutes to 4 minutes per pound.For turkey parts, allow 4 minutes to 5 minutes per pound.Oil temperature may fluctuate based on outdoor temperature and wind conditions.Maintain the oil’s temperature at 350°F. For whole turkeys, allow 3 minutes per pound plus an extra 5 minutes.For bone-in turkey breast, allow 7 minutes per pound.For turkey legs and thighs, allow a total fry time of 16 minutes to 18 minutes for 6 to 8 turkey pieces.
Remove bird from hot oil and drain on paper towels. Let rest for 15 minutes. Remove bird from hot oil and drain on paper towels. Let rest for 15 minutes.

Test for Doneness – Turkey’s Internal Temperature

Remove the turkey and check the internal temperature with a food thermometer. The internal temperature should be 165°F to 170°F in the breast and 175°F to 180°F in the thigh.

Additional Safety Tips

  • Never leave the turkey fryer unattended during the heating, cooking and cooling process.
  • Keep children and pets away from the cooking area at all times.
  • Allow the oil to cool completely before disposing or storing.
  • Immediately wash hands, utensils, equipment and surfaces that have come in contact with raw turkey.
  • Turkey should be consumed immediately and leftovers stored in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking.

Oil Selection

Only oils that have high smoke points should be used. Such oils include peanut, refined canola, corn oil, rice oil and sunflower. Canola oil is low in saturated fats and would be appropriate to combine with peanut oil if fat and cholesterol are a concern.

For more information on deep frying turkey with peanut oil, visit www.louana.com and www.crisco.com.

Oil Filtering

These high smoke-point oils allow reusing the oil with proper filtration. Depending on the recipe used, remember to filter the oil…not just strain it. Allow the oil to cool overnight in the covered pot. The first step is to strain the cooled oil through a fine strainer. If a breading, spice or herb rub are used in the preparation of the turkey, it will be necessary to further filter the oil through fine cheesecloth.

Oil Storage

Oil should be covered and refrigerated to prevent it from becoming rancid. Peanut oil is more perishable than other oils and must be stored in the refrigerator if kept longer than one month. Peanut oil may even be frozen. The oil will thicken when it is chilled, but will return to its original consistency when reheated.

The oil will also develop a cloudy appearance that may remain when brought back to room temperature and will only clear up temporarily while heated. The oil may remain in the refrigerator for several months or until signs of deterioration begin.

Oil Shelf Life

According to the Texas Peanut Producers Board, peanut oil may be used three or four times to fry turkeys before signs of deterioration begin. Such indications include foaming, darkening or smoking excessively, indicating the oil must be discarded. Other signs of deteriorated oil include a rancid smell and/or failure to bubble when food is added.

A Few of Our Favorite Deep-Fried Turkey Recipes

About the NTF

The National Turkey Federation is the national advocate for all segments of the turkey industry, providing services and conducting activities which increase demand for its members’ products by protecting and enhancing their ability to profitably provide wholesome, high-quality, nutritious products.


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