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.
Before you even think about frying a turkey, you need a turkey fryer. Most are propane-powered, so you need a propane tank too.
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.
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:
*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.
Then add the oil. Your rub should be thick but spreadable, like a very thick syrup or a very thin oatmeal.
Dry your turkey thoroughly with paper towels, then coat it completely with the spicy rub, on the outside and inside the cavity.
Put the rubbed turkey in a 2-gallon Ziploc or brining bag* and refrigerate for 12-16 hours.
When it's time to fry, here is everything you will need:
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.)
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.
Now set the frying pot on top of the unlit burner.
Add the frying oil.
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."
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.
Hold a long stick igniter so that the end of it is about 2 inches from the rim of the propane burner.
Light the stick igniter, and the flame will ignite.
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.
The oil will take 30-45 minutes, but it really depends on the temperature outside.
While the oil heats, remove the turkey from the brining bag and wipe most of the rub off with paper towels.
Make sure to get inside the cavity too.
To tie the legs together, cut a piece of twine about 20 inches long, and pull it tight under the end of both legs.
Bring the twine up over the legs, and make a triangle above the legs by crossing the ends of the twine.
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.
Cut away any excess twine.
If your poultry rack came with prongs that you're supposed to stick in the turkey to hold it up, REMOVE THOSE PRONGS.
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.
Slide it all the way down so that the top of the rod is in the center of the cavity.
Ready to fry.
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.
When your oil is at 350°F, it's time to get cooking.
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.
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.
Keep lowering the turkey. It should take about a minute to submerge the turkey completely.
When the turkey is all the way in (you'll feel the rack hit the bottom of the pot), unhook the handle.
Reignite the burner the same way you did it the first time.
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.
How long you'll fry your turkey depends on the size of your bird.
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.
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.
When time is up, re-hook the handle onto the metal rod.
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.
If the turkey is at 155°F, TURN OFF YOUR BURNER BEFORE YOU LIFT THE TURKEY ALL THE WAY OUT.
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.
Hold it there for 10 seconds or so, to let any excess oil drip back into the fryer.
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.
In about 5 minutes, it'll be cool enough to handle. Transfer the turkey, still on the rack, to a cutting board.
At this point, your Thanksgiving guests will have abandoned the appetizers to crowd around you in awe.
Some may even want to steal pieces of skin off of your perfectly deep-fried turkey. Fight them off.
That said: You, as the fearless turkey fryer, are allowed to pick off a piece of skin to eat as you wait.
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.
By now, even the most die-hard football fan will have abandoned the television to gawk at your turkey.
After 15 minutes,* THE WAIT IS OVER. Remove the twine from the legs.
Carve your turkey! Click here for a step-by-step GIF guide on how to carve a turkey.
(Carving a fried turkey is the same as carving a roasted turkey.)
(Except more awesome and maybe even a little easier, since the skin is prettier and crispier and doesn't rip as easily.)
Roasted turkey wings are fatty and icky and nobody wants to eat them. Fried turkey wings are badass and people will FIGHT OVER THEM.
And fried turkey breast? It isn't dry, it's moist and delicious.
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).
Use a small pot to scoop the room temperature oil out of the fryer.
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.
Deep-Fried Turkey With a Spicy Southern Rub
Recipe by Jesse Gerstein and Christine Byrne
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
Brining bag or very large plastic bowl, for marinating your turkey
Turkey fryer with attachments (we used this one and think it's awesome)
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.
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.