If there's one thing the Texas/OU weekend and the State Fair of Texas have taught us is that absolutely anything can and should be fried. Considering that notion and the fact that Thanksgiving is right around the corner, I thought it would be a good idea to take y'all through the process of frying an entire turkey in an early week edition of Tastes of Texas.
I know that many of you are already starting the cooking process of what will be an epic Thanksgiving feast, complete with all of the traditional Thanksgiving fare. You'll have more stuffing, cranberry, mashed potatoes, giblet gravy, et cetera than you can possibly stuff in your face, but the center piece for most will be the turkey sitting proudly on the table. I love the Thanksgiving meal, but my problem with the spread every single year is that I really don't like turkey. However, as with most things, dropping a whole turkey into a massive vat of oil at an incredibly high temperature greatly improves the taste sensation. In short, I don't like turkey, but I LOVE fried turkey. If you've never had the pleasure of cooking an entire bird with this method, I promise you won't be disappointed. More importantly, your dinner guests' tastes buds are in for the ride of their life, for Tastes of Texas is here to save your Thanksgiving from another bland oven baked bird (don't tell your grandma I said that).
What you'll need:
Large Stock Pot (around 30 quarts)
Upright Turkey Holder or Large Frying Basket
3-4 Gallons Peanut Oil
1 Large Turkey
I'm going to assume that those of you who are new to this process do not have the proper equipment and will need to procure the materials. Any large aluminum stock pot will do, as will any outdoor propane burner large enough to hold the 30 quart pot. If any of you are thinking at this point you will just get the pot and cook the bird on the stove, I highly recommend you do not do this. First, a stove burner will take eons to raise your oil to the proper temperature, and second your kitchen will be a disaster from the amount of oil that will pop out of the vat. Trust me, do it outside. You'll also need to find either a poultry holder for frying or a very large frying basket that fits your pot. I recommend you use the poultry holder because it will keep the bird sitting upright in the vat during the frying process, leading to more even cooking. Your local Academy should sell complete turkey frying kits with all of the necessary parts.
Now that you have all of the necessary materials, it's time to prep your bird. Unwrap the turkey the night before, rinse it thoroughly, and remove the giblets from the inside. It's now time to inject your turkey with some sort of marinade. I recommend the injection method because it imparts flavor internally and it helps to keep the turkey moist during the cooking process. I personally use Tony Chachere's Injectable Marinade, but if you would prefer to make your own, a combination of melted butter, garlic, and spices produces a tasty turkey.
I inject my turkey in 12 places. Three points down each breast, one in each thigh, one in the drum sticks, and one in the wings. The idea is to get a few ounces of marinade into as many places throughout the turkey as possible. To achieve this, insert the injection needle three times at each injection point: right, center, and left. This will allow for the marinade to cover the majority of the bird. If any portion seems to be under injected, feel free to play with the injection points and angles. After injecting, place the turkey in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning cover the outside of the turkey in your favorite dry rub (I use Cajun seasoning), and let the turkey sit out to return to room temperature.
Now is a good time to cover a major safety aspect: I think it goes without saying, but just in case, NEVER FRY A FROZEN TURKEY. For evidence of the consequences go here. Moving on.
When the big day arrives you'll need to set up your cooking space outside. I recommend putting down plastic or a tarp wherever you fry to protect your patio or porch from getting stained or your now dry yard from catching on fire. The oil will pop, and some is going to boil over the edges of the pot. Regarding oil, I suggest using peanut oil because it has a great flavor, but more importantly, it has a very high smoke point and can withstand the high temperature at which you'll be cooking. If you're allergic to peanuts here is a chart of the smoke points of various cooking oils. I can't speak to the flavor other oils will give the turkey as I have never used anything other than peanut oil.
The next step is to fill the pot with the oil. A good way to determine how much oil to use is to fill the pot with water the day before and place the unprepped turkey in to see how high the water rises and adjust accordingly. You want the entire turkey to be submerged, but you don't want the oil to be too high, or it will boil over during the cooking process. The level will vary with the size and width of your pot, but generally speaking, the oil shouldn't come higher than 3/4 of the pot without the turkey. Place the pot onto the burner, insert the frying thermometer in the oil, and light the burner.
You want your oil to come to a temperature of about 350 degrees. Remember this is a huge pot of oil, so it will take some time to reach the proper temperature, possibly up to 30 or 45 minutes depending on the size of your pot. Once the oil is at the ideal temperature wait a few more minutes and adjust the burner temperature to ensure the oil temperature is stabilized. Set the turkey on the poultry holder, place the holder onto a hook, and slowly lower the turkey into the pot. If you lower the bird too quickly the oil will overflow. Cook the turkey for about 3 minutes per pound, plus around 3-8 minutes. During the cooking process the oil is going to be rolling, and it will likely boil over a little, but if the oil level isn't too high, this shouldn't be a big problem.
When the turkey finishes cooking, raise it out of the oil with the hook. Let it rest for at least 20 minutes to allow the internal juices to redistribute throughout the meat. Carve and serve to your ogling guests.
I'll allow you to take credit as the hero of thanksgiving, but try to remember who your "Q" was when you're basking in the glory, James Bond.