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How to Deep Fry a Turkey

This Cajun method for deep-frying a turkey cooks fast, produces juicy meat and crispy skin, and frees your oven for other dishes. It's a turkey-cooking trifecta! Of course, since you're dealing with gallons of hot, hot oil, deep-frying a turkey requires special care and equipment. Here's what you'll need to do it right. 

100398823_Deep Fried Turkey Coming out of Fryer_Photo by Meredith

Photo by Meredith

How to Deep Fry a Turkey

Deep-frying a whole turkey can be messy and presents some unique hazards. For these reasons, it should always be done outdoors on a flat, non-flammable surface -- not on the deck, and not in the garage. We also recommend that you don't attempt this without the right equipment:

What You'll Need to Deep-Fry a Turkey:

  • Heavy-duty portable propane burner.
  • Large stockpot (26- to 40-quart capacity) or a custom-made turkey-frying pot.
  • A heavy-duty cooking thermometer
  • A tool that will allow you to safely lower the turkey into a vat of boiling oil, and remove it once the turkey is done.
Turkey Deep Fryer

Photo by Meredith

There are many online resources for buying turkey-frying equipment if you can't find it at your local hardware or kitchen store.

Preparations for Deep Frying a Turkey

What's the Best Size of Turkey for Deep Frying? Choose a Thanksgiving turkey between 10 and 15 pounds. If you have a lot of people to feed, prepare two turkeys rather than a single huge one. (If you make more than one turkey, be sure to prepare them separately.) The turkey should either be fresh or completely thawed before cooking.

How Much Oil Do I Need to Deep Fry a Turkey? Before you deep-fry the turkey, do a test to see how much oil you'll need. To test, place the bird in the pot you intend to use for frying. Pour in cold water until the turkey is covered by a couple of inches. There should still be several inches between the surface of the water and the top of the pot. Measure the water: this is how much oil you'll need.

What Type of Oil Should I Use to Deep Fry a Turkey?For a traditional Cajun turkey, use peanut oil for frying the bird. Peanut oil gives the best flavor and has a high smoke point. You can also use half peanut, half vegetable oil.

How Do I Season a Deep Fried Turkey? Cajun-style turkeys are traditionally injected with a liquid seasoning blend (marinade), then rubbed with a dry seasoning blend (dry rub).

To properly season your turkey, place it in a pan and load your marinade into a hypodermic meat injector (available at kitchen supply stores and some supermarkets):

  • Inject the marinade into the meat in several places on the turkey by carefully lifting up the skin, rather than poking the needle through the skin.
  • Gently loosen the membrane under the turkey skin. Apply a dry rub under the skin of the bird and all around the cavity.
  • This can be done as much as 36 hours in advance, but you should allow at least 12 hours to give the flavors time to penetrate the meat while it's kept in the refrigerator.

Deep-Frying the Turkey

So the turkey is all prepped and ready, here's how to fry the turkey in hot oil.

  1. Heat the oil to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. Before submerging the turkey in hot oil, be sure it is patted dry with paper towels to cut down on splattering.
  3. Place the turkey in the drain basket neck-end first, slowly lowering the basket into the hot oil until the turkey is completely covered.
  4. Maintain the oil temperature at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), and cook turkey for 3 1/2 minutes per pound.

VIDEO: How to Deep Fry a Turkey

Let's see how it's done! This video shows you how to deep fry a whole turkey safely...in just 45 minutes! And while we're at it, how about some deep-fried stuffing?

Get the recipe for Tim and Meredith's Deep-Fried Turkey.


Check out our collection of Deep-Fried Turkey Recipes.


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