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How to fry a holiday turkey

How to fry a holiday turkey

How to fry a holiday turkey
Photo Credit: Jason Getz, jgetz@ajc.com

How to fry a holiday turkey

This may ruffle a few feathers, but I am going to take a stand: Fried turkey is better than oven roasted turkey.

There, I said it.

And before you ask – yes, the feather pun in my opening line was intentional.

While there are practical advantages to fried turkey, such as the significantly shorter cooking time, it mostly comes down to flavor. The intense heat of the oil locks in all of the moisture that many Thanksgiving chefs struggle to retain after four or five hours in the oven, yielding some of the juiciest turkey breast you will ever eat. It really is idiot proof. I’ve never had a dry turkey come out of the fryer.

And then there is the skin. That sinfully salty, crunchy skin. That’s where the magic happens.

As I’ve previously mentioned, my family usually does a Cajun fried turkey for Thanksgiving most years. I don’t know why we made the change, but about 15 years ago my dad started deep-frying our birds and we have not roasted one since.

If you have never had a fried turkey, I urge you to branch out. Thanksgiving is a holiday steeped in tradition. If you have been roasting birds since your momma’s momma was in charge of Thanksgiving dinner, I can understand how tough it can be to change things up. I can’t guarantee that all of you will prefer it this way, but I’d bet you a tray of twice baked potatoes that most of you will be glad you listened.

Before we get into the specifics of how to fry your bird, let me be absolutely clear on one thing: Deep-frying a turkey can be DANGEROUS if not done properly. Please make sure that you take all necessary precautions before doing this, and promise not to sue me if you burn your house down. You are frying your turkey at your own risk.

Here are a few major safety pointers to remember:

1 – Set up your fryer outside, away from any overhangs. That means doing this inside your garage isn’t a good idea, and neither should you try this in the guest bedroom.

2 – Water and oil don’t mix! This includes frozen water. The bird must be COMPLETLEY thawed and patted dry as much as possible. The thawing is really the most important step. A frozen bird has a lot of frozen water stuck in it, and your fryer will turn into an inferno if you try dropping one into the oil.

3 – Don’t leave the fryer unattended.

4 – Use common sense. You would think I shouldn’t have to say that, but then again you’d think that Two and a Half Men wouldn’t be the most popular show on network television.

This is the simple recipe that my family uses every year and it has yet to disappoint.

Deep Fried Turkey, Watson style:

Prep time:


10-to 12-pound fresh or frozen turkey (completely thawed)

2.5-3 gallons of peanut oil

1 (16-ounce) jar of Creole butter (w/ injector)

Tony Cachere’s Creole seasoning (to taste….1-2 8oz shakers)

Thaw the turkey completely, if frozen. Pat down the bird, removing as much moisture as possible. And please make sure that you remove the innards. If you have ever seen anyone accidentally cook a turkey with the innards bag still in there, you know that it’s pretty gross.

Once the turkey is thawed and patted down, it’s time to shoot it up with the Creole butter. Inject the entire bird, using all 16oz of the marinade. This can be done as far as 24-36 hours in advance, but can be done just prior to frying as well. After injecting, pat down the outside of the turkey with the Creole seasoning, coating completely. This is what is going to form the flavor packed crust, so don’t be bashful with it.

Pour peanut oil up to the “max fill” line in your turkey fryer. If there is no line, do not fill past ½ way. The bird will displace a lot of the oil and you don’t want it to spill over. Heat the oil to 350 degrees.

Once the oil is to temperature, SLOWLY lower the bird into the fryer, being careful not to splash.

Make sure to keep the oil temperature between 325-350 while frying. A 10-12 lb bird should take around 45 minutes, give or take.

Once the turkey thigh registers 165 degrees internally, your bird is ready. Remove from oil, let drain, and rest for 20-30 minutes before carving. Spend that time slapping the tops of hands trying to get a bite of skin. Enjoy.

For more ideas about gifts, decorating, where to eat and what to do, check out our complete Atlanta Holiday Guide.

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