Many have said that deep frying turkey produces the moistest and most flavorful bird, so we decided to try it out for Thanksgiving. Taking the advice of our colleague, fellow Examiner and friend Curt Guillory we ordered a Masterbuilt XL Electric Indoor Turkey Fryer, sufficient for up to a 20 lb turkey.
Masterbuilt now cobrands their fryers as Butterball (perhaps because “Masterbuilt” is hard to say with a straight face), but we chose a fresh turkey from Connecticut’s Gozzi Farm: raised without antibiotics or hormones. These turkeys are available on order from Wilton’s Village Market.
The Masterbuilt turkey fryer is extremely well made and comes with detailed instructions. You can buy then for about $150 at Lowe’s, but their price seems to have gone up at Amazon recently in anticipation of the holidays.
You need 2 ½ gallons of oil for the fryer, and we chose canola oil as the healthiest of the oils available at Stop and Shop. We poured the oil in up to the “Max” mark and heated it to 375 F. This takes nearly an hour.
While the Masterbuilt Fryer is labeled as “Indoor,” we chose to heat the oil and cook the turkey in the garage to keep the frying smell from permeating the house. With a good exhaust fan, you certainly could cook inside.
The important thing about deep frying a turkey is to make sure it is thawed and that there are no ice crystals lingering within. We removed the neck and giblets from the cavity and dried the bird off with paper towels. Then we placed it in the frying basket and carried it to the garage, where we slowly lowered into the hot oil.
The good news is that deep frying is way faster than roasting: it takes only 3 ½ minutes per pound. Our 17.7 lb turkey cooked in 61 minutes. This contrasts with nearly 4 hours for roasting a similar-sized bird. The bad news is that you can’t stuff the turkey: you’ll have to make the stuffing separately in a casserole dish. We did, and it was delicious.
At the end of 61 minutes, we lifted the turkey out of the oil and let it drain while we ate our first course. We checked the meat temperature: it needs to be above 160 F, and it was.
After 10 minutes, we brought the turkey in and inverted the frying basket onto a carving board and straightened it out.
The turkey carved easily and was the moistest and most flavorful turkey we’ve ever had: both the dark meat and the white meat were equally moist. This is something you simply can’t achieve by oven roasting. The turkey was delicious hot, and made excellent sandwiches the next day with tender dark and light meat combined: something you can rarely achieve with roast turkeys. All of our diners agreed that this was a great way to prepare the turkey.
It’s probably no harder to clean up the turkey fryer than it is to clean up after roasting a large turkey, but you do have to wait several hours for the oil to cool. We let it sit in the fryer over night. The Masterbuilt fryer is well-designed for cleanup: you can lift out the entire heating element assembly and clean it in a bucket or pan of soapy water.
Then the fryer has a stopcock and drain spout that lets you drain the oil back into the oil jugs you bought it in. You may find it easier to pour out the last of the oil directly rather than waiting for the final bit to trickle out. Once cooled, the oil is now somewhat more viscous than when you bought it because of the addition of turkey fat rendered out as it cooked. This makes it drain a bit slowly. And, for this reason, unless you plan to cook another turkey soon, you probably should discard the oil right away. Our friend Curt Guillory says it is not unreasonable to save the oil from Thanksgiving until Christmas, but not much longer. If you filter the oil through cheesecloth, some web sites suggest you can save it for up to six months. We are somewhat skeptical.
Once the fryer is drained, you can wash the basket in the dishwasher, and can lift out the entire metal frying tub and wash it in your sink. It cleans up easily.
While deep frying your turkey sounds like a big project, we actually found that Thanksgiving dinner seemed like much less effort than usual by using the fryer instead of a roaster, and our ovens were free for making rolls, stuffing and baking the meringue on one of our pies. The only real disadvantage is the expense of 2 ½ gallons of oil that you will probably need to discard fairly shortly.
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