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How to Deep Fry a Turkey for Thanksgiving

Updated on July 8, 2011
Deep fried turkey in a safe location photo: danisaacs @flickr
Deep fried turkey in a safe location photo: danisaacs @flickr

Why Deep Fry a Turkey?

If you would have said you are frying a turkey a few years back, you probably would have gotten at least a few strange looks. Nowadays, pretty much everyone has at least heard of deep fried turkey.

So why would someone deep fry a turkey? Well, there are a few reasons. First, it's delicious. Fried turkey, done correctly, isn't greasy at all. It's moist and tender with a crispy skin. Thanksgiving turkey cooked the traditional way will sometimes end up dry and bland, even for more experienced cooks. Second, who enjoys sitting around for hours tending to the turkey in the oven? I knew someone who stayed up all night tending to her Thanksgiving turkey! Deep frying a turkey takes less than an hour! And third, guys seem to really enjoy doing it! Now that's a twist for Thanksgiving- the men help with the cooking!

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Where to Deep Fry a Turkey

People used to deep fry a turkey inside on their stoves. NEVER try that! Many houses have burnt down as a result. Frying a turkey is a tricky business, but now there are deep fry turkey kits that take away at least some of the risks.

Keep in mind, though, that UL (Underwriters Laboratories) has not certified a single turkey fryer as safe for cooking. They stated that all of the fryers could catch fire and/or explode. See the video below. So, keep this in mind if you do decide to deep fry a turkey.

Here are some tips for how to deep fry a turkey as safely as possible: First of all, always deep fry a turkey outside. If it has started raining or gotten too cold, absolutely don't move the process inside! I can't state this often enough.

The oil splatters and bubbles, so pick a safe place. Avoid roof overhangs or low hanging branches on trees. Don't put the turkey fryer close to anything flammable- your house, a shed, trees, etc,- just in case it does catch fire. And don't use it anywhere enclosed, such as a garage.

You should absolutely have a fire extinguisher handy, just in case. Also, avoid concrete if you don't want oil stains. Same thing for wood decks, plus they have the potential for catching fire.

Turkey Fryer Kits

When you buy a turkey fryer kit, get one that has a pot that is at least 26 quarts for safety purposes.

If you want to marinate your fried turkey (recommended), get a fryer kit with an injector.

Be sure to carefully read the instructions for your particular turkey fryer kit. Follow them exactly, even if they differ from these instructions. All turkey fryer kits are a bit different.

What Kind of Oil Do I Use to Deep Fry a Turkey?

The oil to use to deep fry a turkey is traditionally peanut oil. This is because peanut oil delivers great taste, but also because it has a high flash point, which means it is less likely to catch on fire. Some other oils you can use to fry your turkey are canola and corn oil.

What Size Turkey Do I Use for Deep Frying?

Don't get a turkey that is more than 15 pounds. The main reason why is because it takes longer to fry, and the skin can turn out overdone and burnt. Plus, smaller birds are more safe to fry and easier to handle.

How Much Oil Do I Need to Deep Fry a Turkey?

Some turkey fryer kits have fill lines marked already. If yours doesn't, here's how to figure out how much oil you need. Put the whole turkey into the pot before adding any injector marinade or dry rub.

Add water until it completely covers the bird, plus a couple of inches. Take out the turkey. Now, use a ruler to measure the level of the water by measuring the distance from the water's surface to the top of the pot. This is how much oil you need.

To give you a general idea of how much oil you need to fry a turkey, it will be somewhere around 3 - 6 gallons of oil, depending on the size of the turkey.

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How to Deep Fry a Turkey for Thanksgiving - Preparing the Turkey

To get your turkey ready for frying, first it has to be completely thawed. A ten pound turkey will take a couple of days to completely thaw in the refrigerator. Don't ignore this step, unless you want the fire department at your door. Remove any giblets or anything inside the turkey. If the turkey has an automatic popup timer, don't forget to remove it, too.

 If you decide to inject your turkey with a flavorful marinade, it's best to do it the night before or at least a few hours before frying your turkey. This way it works like a marinade and has time to permeate the entire bird.

Before placing the turkey inside the turkey fryer, be sure that both the turkey and the fryer are completely dry. Don't forget to dry out the inner cavity, too. Any water drops at all will cause crazy splattering that may hurt someone.

How to Deep Fry a Turkey for Thanksgiving

Use the included turkey basket or stand that should have come with your turkey fryer kit to place the turkey into the fryer. Place the turkey so that the neck is facing down. Then use the hook to gently lower the turkey into the oil. Do this very slowly and carefully. If you don't, the oil can boil up and out of the fryer. Be sure to wear a protective apron, long sleeves, and heavy duty oven mitts or gloves when you do this process.

The oil temperature will start to drop. Raise the burner to get the temperature back up. But watch it carefully- if it gets above 450 degrees Fahrenheit, you've got a potential fire on your hands. Once it gets back up to 350, lower it back down. Never close the lid while frying the turkey.

How Long Does It Take to Deep Fry a Turkey?

Deep fried turkeys cook very quickly compared to baking a whole turkey in the oven. It takes approximately 3 - 3 1/2 minutes per pound to cook a turkey, 3 minutes per pound for smaller turkeys and 3 1/2 minutes per pound for larger turkeys.

How Do I Know if a Deep Fried Turkey Is Done?

When the turkey should be done, carefully remove it with the hook that should have been in your turkey fryer kit. Again, wear protective gear, like extra thick oven mitts and long sleeves. Lift it slowly and carefully out of the fryer. Let it hang over the pot for a minute or so, allowing the oil to drip off of it.

Check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer to make sure it's done. This is a very important step. You don't want anybody sick with food poisoning after bragging about your delicious deep fried turkey! The breast meat should read 170 degrees Fahrenheit. If it doesn't, lower the turkey back into the fryer for a few more minutes to get it thoroughly cooked. Let the turkey sit covered for a few minutes before carving and eating it.

How to Deep Fry a Turkey for Thanksgiving - After the Fact

After the turkey is removed, turn off the turkey fryer. Take the pot and put it on a level, heat resistant area that is away from children and pets. Let it cool. This will take a few hours.

The oil can be filtered and reused after it has cooled.

And that's it. You can join the new tradition of deep fried turkey for Thanksgiving! I don't think you will ever try making your Thanksgiving turkey in the oven again.

How NOT to Deep Fry a Turkey Video

How to Deep Fry a Turkey for Thanksgiving Comments

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    • 2patricias profile image


      6 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      I'm such a scaredy cat that I've never even made real chips (French fries) - this looks like a recipe for the adventurous.

      I am adding it to my Recipe Index for HubPages.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      Good advice and good idea. Thank you for an informative hub.

    • Lamme profile image


      8 years ago

      I've never tried frying a turkey, but I know a lot of people who have. I always hear that it's delicious and moist. Maybe I'll have to give it a try this year.

    • woodamarc profile image

      Marc Woodard 

      8 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      I remember once putting a partially frozen turkey into the pot and having burning grease on the deck. This was a learning experience... Lucky the turkey was not harmed. It was great eats!


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