One does not simply deep-fry a turkey. It's an intricate process that requires careful preparation, intense focus and just a bit of luck lest your holiday feast become a Christmas Day tragedy they use at the end of the news. Here's how to cook that bird without getting fire engines involved.
First off, gather your supplies and ensure that the equipment is in proper working order.
You will need:
- 1 turkey
- 1 big pot (25-55 litres)
- 1 fry basket or turkey fryer hook
- 1 propane gas tank and burner
- 1 deep-fry thermometer
- 1 standard meat thermometer
- Protective clothing — long-sleeve everything, heavy-duty oven mitts and eye protection
- Fire extinguisher
- Marinade syringe
- Enough vegetable oil to fill the pot (approximately 10-20 litres). It's important that you only use oils with a smoke point above 200C — corn, peanut or canola oil are good options.
Smaller birds weighing 3.5-5.5kg are ideal for deep frying, both fresh and frozen varieties. They're not only easier to handle than bigger birds, they cook faster and more evenly as well. Turkeys that weigh 15kg or more will still work, but you'll need to remove the dark meat and cook it separately, otherwise the extra fry time needed to cook all that meat will end up burning the skin (which is the best part).
Once you've settled on a suitably sized gobbler, you'll need to prep it. Remove the wrapper, note the listed weight, extricate any included giblets from the body cavity, and thaw the bird completely. This is essential as dunking even a mostly thawed turkey into boiling hot oil will result in an explosive boil-over and could start a fire.
To be safe in case the flames do flare up, locate your cooking station on a sturdy, level surface safely away from structures, children, pets and flammable ground (i.e. wooden verandahs) — preferably on concrete. If you're worried about staining the driveway with overflowing oil, you can always place an aluminium trap pan under the burner as a grease catcher.
Once the turkey has been thoroughly de-iced, do a test run to check the vessel. Trim off any extraneous fat and lower the bird into the unheated pot using the fry basket. Add enough tap water to cover the carcass. The water line should be three inches from the lip — if you don't have at least that much room to spare, you'll need to find a bigger cooking vessel. But if it's big enough, remove the turkey and mark the water line on the fryer. Pour out the water and dry the pot thoroughly.
You're ready for the oil, now. Fill the fryer to the line and pre-heat it to 250C. Check the oil as it heats up using the deep fryer thermometer. While you wait, use your marinade syringe to inject the flavourful fluid at least an inch into turkey's breast, wings and thighs. Make sure you pump it deep into the muscle mass, because if the injection is too shallow the marinade will leak out under the skin and cause a boil-over when it reacts with the oil. Finally, pat the carcass dry both inside and out with paper towels to remove any lingering surface moisture.
When the oil holds steady at 250C, we're finally ready to start cooking. Don your safety gear, set the turkey in its fry basket and prepare to lower the crucible into the hot oil bath. The safest way to do this is to run a bit of light gauge wire between the drumsticks, connect a fryer hook to a suitably long pole, and use that to put the bird in its pot. Set it in the oil this slowly. The oil will immediately begin roiling heavily when it comes in contact with the meat. If it boils over into the burner, it will combust. You don't want that to happen.
Whole turkeys only need about seven or eight minutes per kilogram to fully cook (and 4.5 minutes for the separated dark meat). Use the listed weight from the turkey wrapper to estimate the cooking time. Don't go wandering off — in fact, don't take your eyes off the pot while the bird is cooking — and keep that fire extinguisher within arm's reach. The oil temperature should be kept as close to 250C as weather conditions allow. But if you notice it beginning to smoke, immediately reduce the heat to avoid it flaring up or scorching.
Once enough time has elapsed for your bird's weight, gently lift the fry basket to remove the turkey from the oil. Allow it to drip over the grease-catching pan. Before undoing the frying rig, Have a helper stick the meat thermometer into the thighs and breast, which should register 80C and 70C respectively, if its properly cooked. Let the cooked turkey cool a bit, then soak up the excess oil with some paper towels. Finally, allow the bird to rest for 15 minutes before carving and serving.
Picture: Jeff Lueders / Shutterstock