Frying Your Thanksgiving Turkey Safely
Thanksgiving is just around the corner in the US (Canada celebrates Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October- it is a holiday for all Canadians except those in New Brunswick. What happened there?). When early settlers arrived in North America, native Americans celebrated the completion of the growing season and gave thanks for the crops that were grown. Both the Canadians and the Americans celebrate Thanksgiving with turkey, pumpkin and seasonal vegetables. One of the items on these early menus, however, was not fried turkey.
Turkey is a traditional meal but why would anyone want to fry a turkey. One reason to consider frying the turkey is time. It takes 20 minutes per pound to cook a turkey in the oven but it only takes about three minutes per pound to fry a turkey. There are some limitations, however. If you have a large turkey your options are more limited. Most of the time turkeys for frying are limited to about 15 lbs. So if you have a 23 lb. turkey planned for Thanksgiving, figure on starting the turkey a good while before the planned eating time.
There is an old saying that oil and water do not mix. That is very true with frying turkeys, especially if the water is in the form of a frozen turkey. Have you ever gone to a fast food restaurant when they were cooking a fresh batch of fries? The frozen fries go into the basket and the basket goes into the hot oil. Hot oil starts bubbling immediately. Imagine putting 15 lbs. of frozen turkey into that oil. With the fries, the oil is contained in the fryer. With a turkey fryer, the oil bubbles over the side. If your fryer was heated by propane, the oil would bubble onto the open flame and that could start a grease fire.
Even though you have defrosted and thoroughly dried the turkey, you will never be able to get 100% of the water off the bird. Always insert the turkey into the oil slowly to control the “boil” that occurs when water on the turkey meets the hot oil.
Some safety tips to follow when cooking your turkey:
- If you are using a propane heated fryer, turn off the gas when putting the turkey into the fryer or removing the turkey from the fryer. If the oil spills or boils over it will not be ignited by an open flame.
- Protect your hands with heavy gloves when inserting the turkey into or removing the turkey from the fryer.
- Don’t put too much oil in the fryer. Putting the turkey into the fryer will displace a considerable amount of oil.
- Keep a fire extinguisher near the cooking area.
- Use a thermometer and heat the temperature to a maximum of 375 degrees F. If the oil begins to smoke, it is too hot. Turn off the fire immediately. Heating the oil much beyond the smoking point could cause the oil to ignite. The optimum cooking temperature is 350 degrees F.
- Let the oil cool before transferring it to a storage or disposal container. This may take a few hours.
- Oils that are low in unsaturated fat such as peanut oil, corn oil or canola oil are good for cooking turkeys. These oils also have two other nice qualities- they do not cost a lot and the oil has a relatively high smoke point. Make sure no one has a peanut allergy if you opt to use peanut oil.
- A fully cooked turkey should float and have a nice brown color.
- Permitting the turkey to rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving allows the meat to reabsorb the juices.
- NEVER LEAVE A FRYER UNATTENDED.
Turkey is a Thanksgiving staple. Fried turkey is a nice variation to the usual turkey dinner. If you don’t have a fryer and don’t want to spend the money to purchase one before you actually see if you like a fried turkey, check with other Scouting organizations or churches- there may be groups that will fry your turkey for you and it might cost you only the price of a gallon of oil.
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