The Deep Fried Turkey
November 17, 1999. Detroit Free Press.
Deep-frying a whole turkey requires cooking it outdoors in a tall pot with plenty of oil. It's quick, taking just 3 1/2 minutes per pound to cook a whole bird, but the equipment investment is greater than with other methods. Deep-frying sears the turkey, locking in the juices. But there are drawbacks -- you can't cook the stuffing in the turkey and there are no pan drippings for gravy. Rob Eastman, founder of Eastman Outdoors in Flushing, which makes outdoor leisure products, says sales of the company's deep-fryers have doubled in two years: "It's a very hot trend right now," he says. "We started off in specialty stores such as Dunham's and Gander Mountain and now find ourselves in Sears and JCPenney catalogs."
HOW TO DEEP FRY A TURKEY: Before you start, read the manufacturer's instructions for the deep-fryer thoroughly. Set it up outdoors on the driveway or other hard surface and attach the propane tank. It's wise to protect yourself with long pants, long-sleeved shirt, heavy apron and long, heavy-duty oven mitts. You may want to wear safety goggles, and if your hair is long, pull it back. Rinse the turkey and pat it dry inside and out. (Remember: Hot oil and water don't mix.) If you have a turkey with a pop-up timer, remove it. You'll need a lot of oil. Following the manufacturer's instructions, we poured about 4 gallons of peanut oil into the pot. Peanut oil is recommended because it less likely to burn or smoke at a high temperature. Afterward, we thought we could have used a little less oil than we did. Heating the oil on a windy day was tricky. The burner flame blew out twice and it took a long time -- 45 to 50 minutes -- to bring the oil up to 350 degrees. Normally, it should take about 20 to 25 minutes, according to the manufacturer. Then we followed instructions to dunk the turkey a few times into the hot oil, using the hanger that comes with the fryer. This sears the skin and gets rid of excess moisture. Each time we dunked the bird, the oil bubbled and splattered, which was a little nerve-racking. After lowering the turkey into the pot the final time, we marked the time and cooked it for about 3 1/2 minutes per pound. As the turkey fried, the pot rumbled and shook a little, so we turned down the heat. Then it took a while to bring the temperature back up. This probably wouldn't be a problem on a less windy day. During frying, a little fountain of hot oil bubbled up through the turkey's cavity. After 40 or so minutes, we pulled out the bird. It was crisp and golden brown. We used an instant-read thermometer to check for doneness: 170 degrees in the thickest part of the breast and 180-185 in the thickest part of the thigh.
WHAT WE FOUND: Dealing with a huge pot of bubbling oil is kind of intimidating, but the finished bird was quite moist and not greasy-tasting. The skin didn't get as crisp as we thought it would, but that could have been because of the fluctuation in oil temperature. The quickness and novelty of this method is the attraction. It also frees up oven space for other holiday dishes. But you have to be careful dealing with such a large amount of hot oil.
COOK'S NOTE: To add flavor before deep-frying the turkey, you can inject the turkey with a marinade or rub a seasoning mixture under the skin.