Deep-frying a turkey is one way to get a juicy and beautifully golden bird. Plus, the skin gets extra crispy, and it takes a fraction of the time of roasting (when we deep-fried our 12-pound turkey it took about 50 minutes compared to 3 1/2 hours roasting). Even though deep-frying a turkey is relatively quick, it’s important to factor in plenty of thawing time to ensure it’s completely defrosted and as dry as possible before cooking. Moisture causes oil to splatter, which could cause serious burns. One way to help ensure your turkey is fully defrosted is to dry brine it with a salt mixture up to two days before. Dry brining your turkey not only helps boost the flavor, but it also draws out moisture to ensure the crispiest skin. Plus, doing this step in advance builds in a buffer, so you can ensure your turkey is safely thawed in time for the big day.
Before you deep-fry your turkey:
Once your turkey is dry brined, place it on a sheet pan equipped with a cooling rack to help trap excess liquid. If you have room in your fridge to store it uncovered (we recommend skipping any coverings, so it can get extra dry). If that’s not an option, store it in an oven bag that’ll protect it from other ingredients in your fridge. When ready to fry, remove your turkey from the fridge and pat it dry with paper towels. Allow it to come to room temperature as you set up your fryer and heat your oil, which will help it cook faster.
Set up your fryer on a safe and sturdy surface away from children, pets and anything that can potentially knock it over. Avoid using extension cords that can cause a tripping hazard and may not have built in surge protectors. Ensure it’s completely dry and that all valves are closed (particularly if your fryer has a drain valve for cleaning.) Note: Consider wearing protective gear such as goggles and long, heat-resistant gloves/aprons, especially when frying outdoors or using a large turkey. Also, keep a fire extinguisher that can be used with grease fires close by as you’d never want to use water to put out a grease fire.
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What type of oil do you use for deep-frying a turkey?
Choose an oil with a high smoke point like vegetable oil, canola oil or peanut oil. Do not mix different types of oils and ensure it’s fresh. Every fryer requires a different amount of oil. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for guidance and be sure to have plenty of oil on hand. Both indoor and outdoor turkey fryers can require up to several gallons worth. Never exceed the MAX fill line. If your fryer does not have a MAX fill line, you’ll want enough oil to cover your turkey. (You can determine this while your turkey is still in its packaging and placing it in the fryer with water to see how much oil you’ll need. Make sure to completely dry your fryer before adding oil to it to avoid splattering.)
How long does it take to deep-fry a turkey?
It takes about 3 to 4 minutes per pound to deep-fry a turkey. We recommend using a 12 to 14 pound turkey, which would take 36 to 48 minutes for a 12-pound turkey and 42 to 56 minutes for a 14 pound turkey. You’ll know it’s cooked when the internal temperature reads at least 180ºF for the thickest part of the thigh and 165ºF for the breast.
What should you serve with your deep-fried turkey?
Deep-fried turkeys are flavorful and can be enjoyed without any extra fixin’s. If you use a simple dry brine recipe like ours, consider simply serving it with gravy. And don’t forget several of our favorite Thanksgiving sides or more Thanksgiving dinner ideas.
More turkey FAQs:
Nicole (she/her) is the director of the Good Housekeeping Institute‘s Kitchen Appliances and Innovation Lab, where she has overseen content and testing related to kitchen and cooking appliances, tools and gear since 2019. She’s an experienced product tester and recipe creator, trained in classic culinary arts and culinary nutrition. She has worked in test kitchens for small kitchen appliance brands and national magazines, including Family Circle and Ladies’ Home Journal.
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