How to Safely Fry a Turkey
Just like family football games in the backyard or a cheerful toast before dinner, frying turkey has become one of the most popular Thanksgiving traditions. This cooking method quickly produces crispy and tender results with little risk of overcooking, making it a great alternative to roasted turkey. But part of what makes fried turkey so delicious is that it’s cooked in hot oil, which can harm you and others if you don’t take the proper precautions. For your convenience, we’ve put together a list of warnings and safety tips to help you cook your bird without getting burned.
Set Up Your Turkey Fryer Safely
Because fire and hot oil are the biggest concerns when frying a turkey, arranging a proper setup is one of the best ways to avoid danger. Your burner must be placed outdoors on a solid, level surface that’s at least 10 feet away from anything flammable, including trees. Once you’ve safely positioned your burner, make sure the propane tank is at least 2 feet away. We’ll outline how to keep your oil under control and in the pot, but you should still have a grease-rated fire extinguisher nearby for extra safety.
Remember that old saying about how oil and water don’t mix? It’s especially true with hot oil, which will splatter when introduced to water (or in this case, ice). That’s why you should make sure your turkey is completely defrosted and patted dry before putting it in boiling oil. The chart below shows just how much time your turkey needs to thaw.
Refrigerator Thawing Times:
(Allow 24 hours for every 5 pounds)
- 8-12 pounds.......1-2 days
- 12-16 pounds......2-3 days
- 16-20 pounds......3-4 days
- 20-24 pounds......4-5 days
Cold Water Thawing Times:
(Allow 30 minutes per pound)
- 8-12 pounds.......4-6 hours
- 12-16 pounds......6-8 hours
- 16-20 pounds......8-10 hours
- 20-24 pounds......10-12 hours
Overfilling the fryer with oil is another huge concern, but it’s one you can avoid with just a few easy steps. The size of your turkey determines how much oil you need, so simply place it in the empty pot and add water until the bird is covered. From there, just take the turkey out and make note of the water level to see the amount of oil you’ll need. Before adding the oil, though, make sure to completely dry the fry pot with a clean towel. Oil and water go together about as well as Thanksgiving and dieting.
Now for the real hazard of frying a turkey — hot oil. Using your deep fry thermometer, keep a close eye on the oil as it rises to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Never allow the temperature to exceed 375 degrees, at which point the turkey is ready to go in the pot. If the oil begins smoking, you should turn off the fryer immediately to avoid a fire.
Safe Turkey Frying
While frying your turkey, be sure to wear protective gloves, BBQ apron, and goggles to shield yourself from hot oil potentially splashing. When your turkey is completely thawed and dried with no more stuffing remaining, turn off the burner and slowly lower the bird into the oil using a metal hook. It’s normal for the oil to loudly crackle as it touches the turkey, so keep lowering until the bird is totally submerged. Turn your burner back on and maintain a temperature of 350 degrees throughout the entire cooking process. Never leave the fryer unattended while in use, and though kids may want a peek at the turkey as it cooks, keep them and pets away at all times.
Once the turkey has reached the calculated cooking time (about three or four minutes per pound), turn off the burner and remove the entire fry basket. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey, which needs to be at least 170 degrees for safe consumption. If it’s anything less, simply put the basket back in the fryer and turn the burner back on to finish cooking.
But your work isn’t done just yet! You must always allow the pot to cool completely before moving or disposing of the oil. Thankfully, you can pass the time by grabbing a few pieces of delicious turkey and enjoying the fruits of your labor.