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Here's Why You Should Deep Fry Your Thanksgiving Turkey

You really should do this, and not only because it's badass. It just tastes better.

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Photographs by Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed. Design by Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

Like all things, turkey tastes better when it's deep-fried. The process can be intimidating, though, so here is a step-by-step guide of exactly what to do.

First of all, we recognize that the hoards of people who insist you should fry your turkey for Thanksgiving can be scary and annoying because they proselytize it like a religion. But it turns out they're also right. 1. Frying the bird takes way less time than roasting it. 2. It frees up valuable oven space and time for sides, dressing, casseroles, and pies (hallelujah!). 3. A fried turkey tastes and looks better than a roast turkey.
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

First of all, we recognize that the hoards of people who insist you should fry your turkey for Thanksgiving can be scary and annoying because they proselytize it like a religion. But it turns out they're also right.

1. Frying the bird takes way less time than roasting it.

2. It frees up valuable oven space and time for sides, dressing, casseroles, and pies (hallelujah!).

3. A fried turkey tastes and looks better than a roast turkey.

Before you even think about frying a turkey, you need a turkey fryer. Most are propane-powered, so you need a propane tank too.

We used a very basic turkey fryer, available here ($64.99), and it worked out great. YOUR TURKEY FRYER SHOULD COME WITH:1) A poultry rack and lifting handle (bottom left corner, above) that you will use to safely move the turkey in and out of the hot oil.2) A frying pot (top left corner, above) that's at least 28 quarts in volume, and a clip thermometer to attach to the side of the pot, for measuring the oil temperature. Our fryer came with a 30-quart pot.3) A sturdy stand, a propane burner, and a regulator hose that connects your burner to a propane tank.YOU WILL ALSO NEED A PROPANE TANK.If you have a gas grill, you probably already have a propane tank. If you don't have a gas grill, you probably don't have a propane tank, so you'll need to get one. In most parts of the country, you can buy and fill propane tanks at large hardware stores. In NYC, you can't. We got our propane tank delivered from Big Apple BBQ, which is easy as long as you plan a couple of days ahead.
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

We used a very basic turkey fryer, available here ($64.99), and it worked out great.

YOUR TURKEY FRYER SHOULD COME WITH:

1) A poultry rack and lifting handle (bottom left corner, above) that you will use to safely move the turkey in and out of the hot oil.

2) A frying pot (top left corner, above) that's at least 28 quarts in volume, and a clip thermometer to attach to the side of the pot, for measuring the oil temperature. Our fryer came with a 30-quart pot.

3) A sturdy stand, a propane burner, and a regulator hose that connects your burner to a propane tank.

YOU WILL ALSO NEED A PROPANE TANK.

If you have a gas grill, you probably already have a propane tank. If you don't have a gas grill, you probably don't have a propane tank, so you'll need to get one. In most parts of the country, you can buy and fill propane tanks at large hardware stores. In NYC, you can't. We got our propane tank delivered from Big Apple BBQ, which is easy as long as you plan a couple of days ahead.

At least a day before you fry the turkey, determine how much oil you're going to need: Put the turkey, legs up, in the fryer pot, then — using a liquid measuring cup — fill the pot with water to cover the turkey.

Measure the water you're adding as you go so you know exactly how much water it took to cover the bird. This is how much oil you will heat to fry your turkey.To cover our turkey, it took 76 cups (19 quarts) of water, just a quart shy of 5 gallons. We heated 5 gallons of oil, just to be sure to cover the turkey. It's probably better to buy and heat a little extra.You can buy oil in bulk online here. If you buy it at the grocery store, that's OK, but you'll have to buy smaller bottles and you might have to go to more than one store.
Christine Byrne / BuzzFeed

Measure the water you're adding as you go so you know exactly how much water it took to cover the bird. This is how much oil you will heat to fry your turkey.

To cover our turkey, it took 76 cups (19 quarts) of water, just a quart shy of 5 gallons. We heated 5 gallons of oil, just to be sure to cover the turkey. It's probably better to buy and heat a little extra.

You can buy oil in bulk online here. If you buy it at the grocery store, that's OK, but you'll have to buy smaller bottles and you might have to go to more than one store.

After that, the night before you fry the turkey, you should marinate or brine it to give it more flavor. We made a delicious spicy rub:

INGREDIENTS:¼ cup kosher salt1 teaspoon black pepper2 teaspoons sweet paprika1 tablespoon hot paprika1 tablespoon chili powder (regular, or ancho if you want a little more depth)1 teaspoon poultry seasoning1 teaspoon ground thyme2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning¼ cup peanut oil or canola oil12-to-14-pound turkeyEQUIPMENT:Medium mixing bowl and fork (for mixing the rub)Large (at least 2-gallon) Ziploc bag, or brining bagPaper towels
Christine Byrne / BuzzFeed

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 tablespoon hot paprika

1 tablespoon chili powder (regular, or ancho if you want a little more depth)

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1 teaspoon ground thyme

2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning

¼ cup peanut oil or canola oil

12-to-14-pound turkey

EQUIPMENT:

Medium mixing bowl and fork (for mixing the rub)

Large (at least 2-gallon) Ziploc bag, or brining bag

Paper towels

*If you don't want a spicy rub (which didn't make the turkey spicy, BTW) you could just brine the turkey. This is a good brine recipe for a fried turkey.

To make the spicy rub, combine kosher salt, black pepper, sweet paprika, hot paprika, chili powder, poultry seasoning, and ground thyme in a medium mixing bowl.

Christine Byrne / BuzzFeed

Then add the oil. Your rub should be thick but spreadable, like a very thick syrup or a very thin oatmeal.

Christine Byrne / BuzzFeed

Dry your turkey thoroughly with paper towels, then coat it completely with the spicy rub, on the outside and inside the cavity.

Christine Byrne / BuzzFeed

Put the rubbed turkey in a 2-gallon Ziploc or brining bag* and refrigerate for 12-16 hours.

*If you don't have a 2-gallon Ziploc bag or a brining bag, you can put the turkey in a very large bowl, then cover it tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Christine Byrne / BuzzFeed

*If you don't have a 2-gallon Ziploc bag or a brining bag, you can put the turkey in a very large bowl, then cover it tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

When it's time to fry, here is everything you will need:

5 gallons peanut oil or canola oil* (exact amount will vary based on the water test you did earlier)Cutting boardMeat thermometerMarinated turkey**Large aluminum tray or roasting panChef's knifeKitchen towelButcher's twine*You can buy peanut oil in bulk here. We had to buy 18 smaller bottles because we're based in Manhattan, and Manhattan is not a friendly place for people who like to shop in bulk.**We wiped most of the rub off of our turkey because we wanted it to look pretty and golden and perfect, but you don't really have to.
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

5 gallons peanut oil or canola oil* (exact amount will vary based on the water test you did earlier)

Cutting board

Meat thermometer

Marinated turkey**

Large aluminum tray or roasting pan

Chef's knife

Kitchen towel

Butcher's twine

*You can buy peanut oil in bulk here. We had to buy 18 smaller bottles because we're based in Manhattan, and Manhattan is not a friendly place for people who like to shop in bulk.

**We wiped most of the rub off of our turkey because we wanted it to look pretty and golden and perfect, but you don't really have to.

Plus the turkey fryer and propane setup, mentioned above. (And maybe this goes without saying, but now is the time to emphasize that YOU MUST DO THIS OUTSIDE.)

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

To set up the turkey fryer, hook the hose that's attached to the burner to the propane tank. Make sure the fryer is at least 10 feet away from your house or any large objects.

Slide the black knob at the end of the hose onto the propane tank's valve, then tighten the black knob by turning it to the right as far as it goes.
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Slide the black knob at the end of the hose onto the propane tank's valve, then tighten the black knob by turning it to the right as far as it goes.

Now set the frying pot on top of the unlit burner.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Add the frying oil.

Remember the water test you did the night before frying to determine how much oil you should use? That's how much oil you should add.
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Remember the water test you did the night before frying to determine how much oil you should use? That's how much oil you should add.

There should be plenty of room between the surface of the oil and the top of the pot. Any pot that comes with a turkey fryer will have a "Max Fill Line."

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

To light the burner of your fryer, turn the tank regulator valve all the way to the left, so that it's fully open. Turn the hose regulator control valve no more than 1/4 turn to the left, so that not too much propane is flowing to the burner.

It's important that you only open the regulator control valve 1/4 of the way. If you let too much propane flow to the burner before it's lit, it'll burst into too big of a flame when you go to light it.
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

It's important that you only open the regulator control valve 1/4 of the way. If you let too much propane flow to the burner before it's lit, it'll burst into too big of a flame when you go to light it.

Hold a long stick igniter so that the end of it is about 2 inches from the rim of the propane burner.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Light the stick igniter, and the flame will ignite.

If it doesn't ignite, move the stick igniter about an inch closer and try again, or open the red valve (the hose regulator valve) a tiny bit more to the left.
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

If it doesn't ignite, move the stick igniter about an inch closer and try again, or open the red valve (the hose regulator valve) a tiny bit more to the left.

Once the fryer is lit, turn the burner up all the way. You do this by turning the hose regulator valve (the red one) to the left. Then put the lid on the pot and let the oil heat to 350°F.

Lots of fryer pot lids have a hole that you can stick the thermometer right into. Your oil WILL heat without a lid if you don't have one, it'll just take longer.
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Lots of fryer pot lids have a hole that you can stick the thermometer right into. Your oil WILL heat without a lid if you don't have one, it'll just take longer.

The oil will take 30-45 minutes, but it really depends on the temperature outside.

Fingers crossed for a mild Thanksgiving afternoon!
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Fingers crossed for a mild Thanksgiving afternoon!

While the oil heats, remove the turkey from the brining bag and wipe most of the rub off with paper towels.

You actually don't ~need~ to wipe the rub off. Just know that if you don't, your turkey will be spicier, and your skin might look a little dark/burnt.
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

You actually don't ~need~ to wipe the rub off. Just know that if you don't, your turkey will be spicier, and your skin might look a little dark/burnt.

Make sure to get inside the cavity too.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

To tie the legs together, cut a piece of twine about 20 inches long, and pull it tight under the end of both legs.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Bring the twine up over the legs, and make a triangle above the legs by crossing the ends of the twine.

Emily Fleischaker / BuzzFeed

(Yes, this is a chicken. But the rules are the same.)

Bring the ends of the twine back up over the legs, pull it tight so that the legs are crossed with one on top of the other, and tie a double knot.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Cut away any excess twine.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

If your poultry rack came with prongs that you're supposed to stick in the turkey to hold it up, REMOVE THOSE PRONGS.

If they're not removable, it isn't the end of the world.
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

If they're not removable, it isn't the end of the world.

You only want the bottom rack and one metal rod in the middle that will hook onto your handle. Slide your bird, legs up, onto the rod in the center of the rack.

NOTE: You're not poking or puncturing the bird at all, just sliding the rod through the hole of the cavity.
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

NOTE: You're not poking or puncturing the bird at all, just sliding the rod through the hole of the cavity.

Slide it all the way down so that the top of the rod is in the center of the cavity.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Ready to fry.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Hook the handle (which came with the fryer as part of the poultry rack) through the loop at the end of the rod. This is how you'll hold the turkey for frying.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

When your oil is at 350°F, it's time to get cooking.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Before you put the turkey in the oil, turn your burner ALL THE WAY OFF by turning the regulator control valve all the way to the right.

Yes, off. This way, there's no chance of oil dripping into the flame and starting a fire while you lower your bird.
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Yes, off. This way, there's no chance of oil dripping into the flame and starting a fire while you lower your bird.

Remove the lid, and start to SLOWLY lower your bird. Make sure the wings are close to the body so that they don't get stuck on the rim of the pot.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Keep lowering the turkey. It should take about a minute to submerge the turkey completely.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Go slow.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

When the turkey is all the way in (you'll feel the rack hit the bottom of the pot), unhook the handle.

Fry, turkey, FRY!
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Fry, turkey, FRY!

Reignite the burner the same way you did it the first time.

So, open the regulator control valve 1/4-turn to the left, then light the igniter 3 inches away from the burner to ignite the flame.
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

So, open the regulator control valve 1/4-turn to the left, then light the igniter 3 inches away from the burner to ignite the flame.

Reattach your thermometer to the side of the pot, so that the end is submerged in oil. Turn your burner up high to get the oil temperature back up between 325-350°F.

Lowering the turkey into the oil will cause the oil temperature to drop to about 300°F.
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Lowering the turkey into the oil will cause the oil temperature to drop to about 300°F.

How long you'll fry your turkey depends on the size of your bird.

Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

IF your bird isn't completely submerged, it's not ideal BUT don't fret! You can use a ladle to ladle hot oil onto the part that's sticking out.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Once your oil temperature is back up at 350°F, adjust the heat of the burner to maintain an oil temperature of 325-350°F for the remainder of the cooking time.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

When time is up, re-hook the handle onto the metal rod.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Raise the turkey up far enough to expose about half of the breast. Insert a thermometer deep into the center of one breast. It should read 155°F.

Taking the bird out of the oil at 155°F means that it will carry over to about 165°F as it rests, which is what you want. If the temperature reads lower than 155°F, slowly lower the turkey back into the oil and fry for another 3 minutes, then check again.
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Taking the bird out of the oil at 155°F means that it will carry over to about 165°F as it rests, which is what you want. If the temperature reads lower than 155°F, slowly lower the turkey back into the oil and fry for another 3 minutes, then check again.

If the turkey is at 155°F, TURN OFF YOUR BURNER BEFORE YOU LIFT THE TURKEY ALL THE WAY OUT.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Turn the regulator control valve all the way to the right. You can turn the tank regulator valve off (all the way to the right) too, since you're done with the fryer.

Raise the turkey slowly up out of the oil.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Hold it there for 10 seconds or so, to let any excess oil drip back into the fryer.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Have an aluminum tray or baking sheet close by (so that you don't have to walk with a hot turkey that's dripping hot oil), and transfer the turkey to the tray.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

In about 5 minutes, it'll be cool enough to handle. Transfer the turkey, still on the rack, to a cutting board.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

At this point, your Thanksgiving guests will have abandoned the appetizers to crowd around you in awe.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Some may even want to steal pieces of skin off of your perfectly deep-fried turkey. Fight them off.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

That said: You, as the fearless turkey fryer, are allowed to pick off a piece of skin to eat as you wait.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

After the turkey has rested for 15 minutes (5 minutes in the tray, 10 minutes on the cutting board), turn it sideways, breast side up, on the rack, and pull the rack out from the bottom.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

By now, even the most die-hard football fan will have abandoned the television to gawk at your turkey.

I mean... THAT. SKIN.
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

I mean... THAT. SKIN.

After 15 minutes,* THE WAIT IS OVER. Remove the twine from the legs.

*5 minutes in the tray, 10 minutes on the cutting board.
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

*5 minutes in the tray, 10 minutes on the cutting board.

Carve your turkey! Click here for a step-by-step GIF guide on how to carve a turkey.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

(Carving a fried turkey is the same as carving a roasted turkey.)

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

(Except more awesome and maybe even a little easier, since the skin is prettier and crispier and doesn't rip as easily.)

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Roasted turkey wings are fatty and icky and nobody wants to eat them. Fried turkey wings are badass and people will FIGHT OVER THEM.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

And fried turkey breast? It isn't dry, it's moist and delicious.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

While you eat, put your pot of oil in a safe place and let it cool.

Once the oil has cooled to room temperature (THIS WILL TAKE HOURS), set up a strainer and a funnel to strain it back into its original container(s).

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Use a small pot to scoop the room temperature oil out of the fryer.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Then strain and funnel it back into the bottles. You can reuse this oil up to 5 times, as long as you store it in a very cool (a garage in November is perfect) place, in airtight containers. Also, don't keep it for more than 3 months.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Deep-Fried Turkey With a Spicy Southern Rub

Recipe by Jesse Gerstein and Christine Byrne

Serves 10-12

INGREDIENTS
For the spicy rub:

¼ cup kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 tablespoon hot paprika

1 tablespoon chili powder (regular, or ancho if you want a little more depth)

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1 teaspoon ground thyme

2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning

¼ cup peanut oil or canola oil

12-14 pound turkey

To fry the turkey:

4-5 gallons peanut oil or canola oil, for frying

Special Equipment

Brining bag or very large plastic bowl, for marinating your turkey

Turkey fryer with attachments (we used this one and think it's awesome)

PROCEDURE

Before you marinate the turkey, determine exactly how much oil you will need:

Place the raw turkey in the 28-30 quart pot that you will fry it in. Add water, measuring it as you go, until the turkey is just barely covered by the water. This is exactly how much oil you will use when you're ready to fry the turkey. Make sure the water, with the turkey submerged in it, is at least 4 inches below the top of the pot; if it's not, your pot is too small.

12 hours before you fry your turkey, you need to marinate it in the spicy rub:

1. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except the turkey, first adding only 2 tablespoons of oil. Mix everything together with a fork to create a paste, adding additional oil if the rub is too dry; it should be the consistency of a thick syrup, but thin enough that it's spreadable.

2. Dry the turkey thoroughly with paper towels, and remove any giblets from inside the cavity (you can save these for gravy, if you want). Massage the spicy rub all over the turkey, inside and out. Place your rubbed turkey in a brining bag or a Ziploc and refrigerate for 12-16 hours. If you don't have brining bags, you can put your turkey in a large plastic bowl covered with plastic wrap to refrigerate it.

To fry the turkey:

1. Pour the predetermined amount of oil into the 28-30 quart pot. Heat it to 350°F over high heat on the burner of a turkey fryer or a very sturdy outdoor propane burner. Have a thermometer in the oil at all times to keep track of the temperature.

2. While your oil heats (it'll take about 30 minutes) remove the turkey from the brining bag and use paper towels to dry it thoroughly, inside and out, and wipe off most of the rub. Cross the turkey legs tightly and tie them together using butcher's twine. Set your turkey legs-up on the frying rig that came with your deep fryer, according to the manufacturer's instructions.

3. When the oil reaches 350°F, turn off the heat on your burner and very slowly lower your turkey into the hot oil — it should take about a minute to lower the turkey completely. Once the turkey is completely submerged, reignite the burner and bring the oil temperature back up to 350°F over high heat. Then, lower the heat on the burner in order to keep the oil between 325-350°F for the rest of the cooking time.

3. Turkey cook time is 3 minutes per pound, so the cooking time is 36 minutes for a 12-pound turkey, 42 minutes for a 14-pound turkey, etc. After your turkey has fried for the allotted cooking time, check the internal temperature of the turkey by very slowly picking it up out of the oil just enough to expose the top half of the breast and inserting an instant-read thermometer into the center of the breast. The turkey is done when the center of the breast is at 155°F. (If the internal temperature is lower than 155°F, slowly lower the turkey back into the oil and fry for an additional 3 minutes, then check the temperature again.)

4. When the turkey is done, turn the heat off on the burner and very gently pick the turkey up out of the hot oil. Transfer the turkey to a large rimmed baking sheet and let it rest for at least 15 minutes, so that the internal temperature of the breast reaches 165°F.

5. Carve your turkey and serve immediately.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Special thanks to Jesse Gerstein, seasoned turkey fryer, for helping us with this post, and to Patrick Janelle for letting us use his backyard. Also thank you Alton Brown and J. Kenji López-Alt for always been the best resources on the planet.

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