Deep Frying Thanksgiving Turkey: Five Tips to Avoid a Complete Disaster

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo credit: Heather Paul via Getty Images)

Thanksgiving is turkey’s day to really shine. Generations of Americans have started their holiday by putting the bird in the oven and trying desperately to keep it from getting dry. In recent years, people have developed different ways to cook their birds. Some like to spatchcock and smoke it, others like to deep fry it. If you’re going to be deep frying your turkey this year, be careful.

When done right, deep frying a turkey produces a moist, tender bird with crispy skin. However, if done incorrectly it can produce an absolute disaster. We’ve all seen videos of massive fireballs launching out of deep fryers, turkeys launched across yards, and worse. If you’re hoping to avoid having the fire department and gallons of flaming hot oil on your lawn this year, we’ve got you covered.

Tips for Safely Deep Frying a Turkey

Before you get started deep frying your turkey, you need to find the best spot for the fryer. State Farm advises that you place the fryer at least ten feet away from your home. Also, keep it away from decks, garages, fences, or anything else that can catch fire. Also, you don’t want to put the fryer under any trees. It should go without saying that having a working fire extinguisher on hand is a must.

Prepare Your Turkey for Deep Frying

One of the biggest mistakes you can make today is deep frying a wet or frozen turkey. No matter what seasonings you used, dropping a wet or frozen bird in the oil is a recipe for disaster. Ice crystals or water could make the oil pop and spatter which could lead to burns or a fire. Pat the bird dry with paper towels.

According to Butterball you can place your turkey on an “empty can, bottle, or tube pan and refrigerate, uncovered, overnight,” to get all the excess moisture out of your turkey before deep frying it. Also, don’t forget to remove the bag of giblets and the neck from the bird’s body cavity.

Be Careful with the Oil

Check the instructions on your deep fryer to see how much oil you should be using. Using too much oil could lead to it sloshing over which could end in burns or a fire. If you want to go the extra mile, wear an apron, heat-proof gloves, and safety glasses. You really can’t be too careful with your vat of bubbling oil.

When putting the turkey in or taking it out, take your time. Slow and steady wins the race here.

Get Your Temperature Right

Before you put your bird in the fryer, you want to make sure your oil is at the right temperature. You want your oil to be 375 degrees Fahrenheit before adding the turkey. The bird is done when the dark meat reaches an internal temperature between 175-180 degrees. White meat is done between 165-170 degrees.

Diligence is Key When Deep Frying a Turkey

There are plenty of benefits to deep frying your turkey. However, it’s not a set-it-and-forget-it way of cooking. You’re going to need to keep an eye on the fryer and make sure the temperature stays in the right range.

Also, it can’t be stressed enough that you need to be careful when putting the turkey in the fryer or pulling it out.

Clean Up Carefully

After you’re finished deep frying your turkey, you’ll want to clean up your frying station. Shut off the heat after you get the bird out and let the oil cool completely before doing anything else with your fryer.