Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on November 11, 2002. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Deep fry a turkey for a holiday treat
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- When another roasted turkey doesn't sound appetizing for Thanksgiving, many adventuresome cooks in recent years have turned to frying.
The goal is not a greasy dish similar to the Southern delicacy of breaded, fried chicken. This kind of frying is an outdoor venture that uses a large kettle of hot oil over an open flame to cook a whole turkey to a golden brown.
Melissa Mixon, food safety specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said frying works if the turkey is completely thawed and is not stuffed.
"The key to frying a turkey is making it a safe experience," Mixon said. "The open flame and the large amount of boiling oil can be a dangerous combination if cooks and bystanders are not extremely careful."
Select a cooking vessel large enough to completely submerge the turkey in 1 to 2 inches of oil without it spilling over the top.
"To determine the amount of oil needed, test first by putting the turkey in the pot and filling it with water," Mixon said. "Remove the turkey and measure the amount of water that remains. This is how much oil you will use to cook the turkey."
Choose a safe outdoor location for cooking the turkey. Pour the correct amount of oil into the clean, dry cook pot and heat the cooking oil to 350 degrees. Carefully lower the turkey into the hot oil, and cook for about three to five minutes per pound.
"Never leave the hot oil unattended," Mixon said. "Hot oil can cause terrible burns to humans and can be a fire hazard to objects nearby."
The turkey is done when a food thermometer measures 180 degrees in the thigh. Remove the turkey from the oil, drain the cavity and set it on paper towels. If the turkey is not completely cooked, immediately return it to the hot oil for additional cooking time.
"It's quite normal for the skin to be dark brown or almost black. Some of the extremities, such as the wing tips, may even be a bit burnt," Mixon said.
Let the turkey rest for about 20 minutes before carving. Refrigerate or freeze all leftovers immediately, placing them in shallow pans for fastest cooling. Allow the cooking oil to fully cool and then pour into containers and store in the refrigerator for later use.
While frying has become popular, Mixon said there are other non-traditional methods to cook a Thanksgiving turkey. When grilling, choose a turkey that is 16 pounds or less. A larger one will remain in the danger zone between 40 and 140 degrees for too long. In gas or charcoal grills, maintain a temperature of 225 to 300 degrees and cook for 15 to 18 minutes per pound.
Smoke turkeys at 225 to 300 degrees. Cooking time is 20 to 30 minutes per pound, and the bird is done when a food thermometer reads 180 degrees in the inner thigh.