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Deep Frying: An Alternative to the Traditional Roasted Turkey

On our quest to find acceptable alternatives to the traditional roasted turkey we’ve stumbled upon an aluminum pot, an open flame and several gallons of frying oil. That can only mean one thing – we’re deep frying turkey!

Thanks to Alton Brown, we’re ready to present a clever twist on the traditional Thanksgiving feast with a technique to deep fry your turkey. Alton Brown has two fantastic videos to help you prepare a juicy fried turkey. Once is How to Build a Derrick, and the other is Deep Fried Turkey.

Step One: Gather All Necessary Equipment

When frying a turkey, the name of the game is safety. To be sure that you avoid any unnecessary accidents, spills, or boil overs you’ll need to take the proper precautions and get the right equipment. Here are a few things you’re going to need:

Find a nice (level) patch of earth in the backyard and begin setting up. We recommend cooking over a grassy surface because any spills will be absorbed into the earth. Oil spills on concrete and/or asphalt will stain the ground and serve as a reminder of your fried turkey for the rest of the year.

Your initial set up will require the ladder, pulley, cleat, welded stand, burner, hose and propane tank.  Set up the ladder and position the stand and burner directly beneath it. Mount the pulley directly below the top of the ladder and fasten the cleat to the rail. Attach the PSIG regulator to the propane tank and the burner. Wrap the hose in aluminum foil to protect it from potential hot oil spills and splashes.

Before you fill the pot with oil, perform a quick displacement test to ensure you avoid adding too much oil and risk hot oil boiling over onto the open flame. Lower your turkey into the pot with the T-Star and lifter and fill the pot with water. Add enough water to cover the turkey. Remove the bird, leaving the water in the pot and mark where the water level settles. Discard the water and wipe the pot dry. When it’s time to add oil, fill to the mark and you’re good to go.

Remove the T-star (for now) and head into the kitchen and turn your attention to the star of the show – the turkey!

Step Two: Prepare Your Turkey

As with all cooking recipes, make sure that your meat has been properly thawed in the refrigerator prior to cooking. This step is especially important when frying because the introduction of ice and water to hot oil can be dangerous. When water (or ice) is introduced to hot oil – at temperatures in excess of 300°F – the water turns to steam very quickly. And, when water becomes steam it expands to nearly 1,700 times its original volume. That expansion causes the oil to be pushed out of the pot and creates tiny droplets that increase the overall surface area of the oil and creates an explosion of fire and hot oil.

To avoid a Thanksgiving apocalypse, make sure that your bird has been allowed to sit in the fridge (below 41°F) until it’s internal temperature reaches 37-41°F. A great way to test whether or not your bird is sufficiently thawed is by probing the raw flesh with your Splash-Proof, Super-Fast Thermapen. If the Thermapen reads inside of your target temperature range of 37-41°F you’ll know it’s safe to introduce it to the oil. Clean your probe with a disinfectant wipe and continue prepping your bird.

Whether you decide to brine, inject, or rub your turkey, is entirely up to you. We’ll give you all the tips, tools and techniques for frying your bird to a perfect temperature, but we’ll leave the flavor profiles and recipes to you. Visit America’s Test Kitchen for great recipe and turkey preparation tips.

Step Three: Prepare the Pot

Center the pot on the stand and fill to the predetermined level. Attach one 12” probe to pot with a probe clip making sure the probe handle is not touching the side of the pot, or the oil. Mount the bird on the T-star and insert the other 12” probe into the center of the turkey breast.

Tie one end of your rope to the lifter, run the rope through a pulley mounted to the top of the ladder and secure the other end to a cleat mounted to the rail. The rope will allow you to raise and lower the turkey at a safe distance.

Plug in your probes (one from the oil and the other from the turkey) into your TW8060 Dual Channel Thermocouple with an Alarm and either set it a safe distance from the hot oil, or secure it the ladder arm with an adjustable tri-pod, like the Gorilla Pod.

Step Four: It’s Time to Fry!

Once your apparatus is safe and secure, light the burner and heat the oil to 250°F. Keep a close eye on your TW8060 and whatever you do, do not leave the oil unattended.

Aim for a lower initial temperature to lessen the consequences should something happen when you introduce your turkey to the oil. Getting splashed with 250°F oil (verses 350°F) can mean the difference between 2nd and 3rd degree burns.

Attach the T-star to the lifter and slowly lower the bird into position. Once the bird has settled on the bottom of the pot you can crank the heat and get the oil going up to 350°F.

Make plans to stay with turkey for the duration of the cook. Not only do you need to stick around to keep an eye on the oil, but halfway into your cook you’re going to see a spike in the temperature of the oil. It’s not uncommon for the oil temperature to raise above 400°F after the surface moisture from the bird has cooked off. Be prepared to adjust the heat when you see the TW8060 start to creep up.During the cook there will be no need to remove the bird from the oil. Keep an eye on your thermometer and monitor the temperature from a safe distance. We recommend you use the alarm function to alert you when your turkey has reached your target internal temperature.

Using the rope, lift the turkey out of the oil when the internal temperature has reached 160°F. During the rest, the residual heat will carry the bird up to the USDA recommended 165°F for poultry. Spot check the bird with the Super-Fast Thermapen before you remove the T-star and move the bird to your cutting board. Probe in areas in and around the thickest part of the breast. Check the meat behind the wings and thighs, too. The thighs (dark meat) are safe to eat at 165°F, but will be better at temperatures closer to 175°F, or higher. Dark meat has more connective tissue and will break down better at higher temps. When the breast hits 160°F your thighs will probably be closer to 175°F.

Once you’ve verified your temperatures, kill the heat and put a lid on the oil. Let the turkey cool for a moment before attempting to remove the T-star and carry it into the house. You’re going to want to cover and rest the bird for at least 25-30 minutes before you attempt to carve. Doing so will allow the meat to relax and retain moisture.

After an appropriate rest you’ll be left with a golden brown, crispy turkey that’s both moist and delicious. Don’t let your guests mistake the moist, juicy breast meat for underdone turkey. Chances are they’ll have never tasted something so good. Just remember, you’ve tracked the entire cook from beginning to end and have verified your temperatures using the best, most professional temperature tools available to the home chef. Enjoy!

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