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Deep-Fried Turkey Tips

Deep-frying turkeys is not for the faint of heart and should only be attempted following the safest precautions

The craze for deep-fried turkeys may have ebbed somewhat since the debut of large-scale outdoor fryers some years ago. They are tasty and delicious, but many folks also returned to the traditional taste of roasted bird for Thanksgiving. Many individuals turned their fryers to other tasks such as shrimp boils and tamale steamers.

Deep-frying turkeys is still very popular. It is something, however, that you may not want to attempt on a windy day as the propane flames will be a bit of a challenge. There are other precautions, of course - and they all involve high heat and large quantities of boiling oil.

Old pros will assert there is no other way to cook turkey - if you want the juiciest, most flavorful poultry in the world. They, too, have fallen prey to a few hazards along the way. First-timers - who also became last-timers - typically end up with the charred over-oiled remains of a blackened carcass. This is not the correct outcome, of course.

The truth is, deep-frying is probably easier to accomplish through a "mentoring" experience. That is, find someone who is good at it and invite yourself to participate in their shindig. It helps if everyone gets along, as you'll be required to reciprocate. This, however, is the best way to be initiated into the world of turkey frying. Instruction manuals just aren't visual enough to accomplish what you want. If you're still feeling cautious, experiment with a chicken first. They're lighter weight and won't use as much oil.

The Equipment

You'll need extra supplies beyond what comes in the box or by the piece. That's the stand, a big pot, perhaps a strainer and a smaller pot for steaming veggies.

Other must-haves include long, fireproof/burnproof gloves, a trusty thermometer designed for turkey frying, a lifter hook, goggles, and a fire extinguisher.

Next, you'll need an excess of paper towels, and the peanut oil. This oil is best for frying (the only choice, really) since it has a high flash point. When oil reaches a certain temperature it bursts into flames. Peanut oil will let you maintain a temp of about 350 degrees F. without any problems. It, too, shouldn't go too much higher, however, so it's important to keep an eye on the thermometer.

Other essentials include injectors for shooting up the bird with a whole slew of delicious flavorings and spices. You can make your own marinade flavors or purchase them already mixed for you. The needle-like injector places the seasoning deep into the breast, not just under the skin.

The Plan for Cooking

Advance planning is crucial. You need to know:
-How much oil to use
-How long to cook the turkey.

These two items need to be precise. The oil cannot fill up the pot and it's difficult to judge until the turkey is in. The turkey can't go in until the oil is hot enough. There are two ways you can go about determining oil quantity.

The first is most popular: Place the turkey in the empty pot and fill it with water. Just enough to cover and about another half-inch or so. Remove the turkey and mark the pot at the remaining water level. The down side to this method is that the pot and the turkey have to be completely dry before coming in contact with the oil. Hot oil and water definitely don't mix.

The second method is to place the turkey in the empty pot and fill it with oil. Same level as the water. Remove the turkey slowly and allow the oil to drain as much as possible. Place the turkey on paper towels. You're ready to cook now without removing every water droplet.

The length of cooking time should be "exactly" 3 ½ minutes per pound. You can use a temperature range of 325 degrees F. to 350 degrees F., but whichever you decide, keep it steady as possible. That means a constant eye on the pot.

Keep your trusty thermometer in the oil to keep the frying temperatures just right. Use a second thermometer to be sure the turkey is really done. Remember, it must reach and internal temperature of 180 degrees F. in the deepest part.

Just for Safety

Always be sure the turkey is completely thawed before frying. It has to be dry with no interior ice crystals. After rinsing, allow plenty of time - and use plenty of paper towels - to get every corner dry.

You need a level surface. This can be grass as concrete will stain. If you're expecting rain, don't take a chance. Move the fryer to an empty (car-less) garage, situate it at the edge and leave doors up and open. Place newspapers on the concrete as the oil will cause staining.

No kids or pets allowed. Keep everyone not involved in the cooking at a safe distance. Spillage and popping hot oil droplets are both critical dangers.

Make sure the turkey is securely attached to the hanger and hook. This will be breast end facing down and legs toward the top. Lower very slowly - if you go too quickly, grease will spatter.

After cooking, allow plenty of time for the oil to cool. After about two hours, you can replace the lid and leave overnight, if desired. After the cool-down, transfer the oil to its original container or to a designated one. You can purchase giant-sized funnels for this chore.




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