In my world, deep frying a turkey is not a passing fad. It's a highly effective and quick method of cooking a delicious whole turkey. A method which very likely has deep and long roots in southern cooking. That sounds pretty darned American to me, and since Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, well.
It's also dangerous, as it can burn you and your shit up in the blink of an eye. Which is why I'm including this very official disclaimer: don't try this at home, especially if you're drunk or stupid or, God forbid, both.
There are several reasons why I choose to deep fry our Thanksgiving turkey. Primarily:
- It tastes good
- It cooks quickly
- It frees up the oven for other stuff
Some other reasons:
- It gives me something to do
- I can stand outside and hide from my guests for at least an hour, and more if I want ("I have to go keep an eye on the oil. It's very dangerous out there, you should stay inside.")
A deep fried turkey doesn't come out like an enormous piece of KFC. It's not battered, it's just fried. It's not "bad for you" any more than is any other turkey. The skin comes out nice and crispy, and since the bird cooks so quickly, there's very little moisture loss. At least that's my theory, but one that I haven't scientifically tested.
And the time.
A 15 lb bird will fry at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes. That's pretty quick, compared to cooking in an oven. I usually estimate about 3.5 minute per pound. Again, since it cooks so quickly, there's not a lot of time for the thing to dry out. Additionally, since you have hot oil not only on the outside of the bird, but also up inside the cavity, you're really getting some intense heat all around the flesh, making for even (and quick) cooking.
You'll probably want to invest in a turkey frying rig, which can be found at hardware stores. Bayou Classic made mine. These rigs consist of a big ol' pot with a lid, a burner, a basket or bird holder, and a hanger-like lifting device. If not included, you'll also want a large easy-to-read thermometer (one that can handle being submerged in hot oil), a splash guard, and some electricians gloves (which are thick and quite insulated). And of course, you'll need a tank of propane. This rig is also very handy for deep frying copious quanities of chicken wings for the Super Bowl, cooking lobsters, clams, and anything that needs boiling water or oil. Perhaps some craw-dad (available at Corrado's in Wayne, by the way).
A couple of quick notes:
- Brine the turkey. Brining is good.
- Let the bird sit in the fridge for 24 hours uncovered so the skin (and meat) dries.
- Be very careful. You're playing with hot oil, so do some research, and don't be stupid.
I'm not going to get involved in the details, because there are plenty of resources online, outlining the do's and don'ts. But I definitely recommend trying a deep fried turkey at some point, even though it's sooo 2004. You should probably do a dry run on a non-holiday first, and don't tell the authorities that you got the idea from me.
If you're interested in cooking a turkey for a very long time, rather than a very short time, I think the fella at iamnotachef.com is going to be BBQing his this year, or so he tells me. I hope by "BBQ" he means "slow and low with smoke". But now that I think about it I think he meant "grill". Time will tell. We'll be having words if he didn't mean "smoke."