Deep-Fried Turkey Day, Y’all!

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Deep-Fried Turkey Day, Y’all!

By The Paula Deen Test Kitchen

This year, we’ve put together some tips and menu suggestions for a deep-fried turkey.  Once you’ve tried it, you’ll find it hard to resist the extra crispy, delicious skin and succulent meat.  And if you’ve heard it’s too fatty or dangerous, take a minute to read over some things you may not have considered, and before you know it, you’ll be choosing your menu—with a newly liberated oven!


It’s Fast
Your typical 12-14 pound bird fries in about 45 minutes! Compare this with a roast turkey, which will take about 3 hours depending on your chosen method and temperatures. 

Low Maintenance
It requires little maintenance from your busy holiday hands, and completely frees your oven for making or reheating stuffing, sides, or desserts instead.  And no basting needed!

You’re in Control
You can choose your oil * (and your portions).  Peanut oil, Paula’s preference, is low in saturated fats, contains no natural trans-fat or cholesterol, and absorbs minimally into the meat when maintained at the proper turkey-frying temperature of 350 degrees. It also produces the juiciest meat with excellent flavor and beautiful golden-brown crispiness.  Though slightly fattier than roast turkey, the same rules still apply: if you’re concerned about your fat intake, choose a smaller portion and/or opt for white, skinless meat.

Cleaner & Safer
Cleaner, safer deep fryers are readily available locally and online, with a large variety of models that include most of the equipment you need.  Outdoor frying in an uncovered area is still recommended and is the only option for most equipment.  The indoor model in our featured video now has CSA safety certification, a built-in digital thermometer, timer, marked fill levels, and an easy-lifting basket to maintain the proper temperature and prevent spills.

So stick to our helpful instructional tips, and check out Paula’s video and simple recipe for deep-fried turkey.  With a few advance calculations, you can deep-fry your bird in a neat and timely manner that gives you the flexibility to multi-task the rest of your meal:


What should my bird weigh?
Allow about 1 pound per person to be safe (sources recommend anywhere from ¾ of a pound for smaller eaters to 2 pounds if you want leftovers.).  So the 12-pounder is a reasonable standard that fits conveniently in most turkey deep fryers and feeds a decent-sized holiday crowd.

How much time might I need to thaw it?
Assume 1 day of thawing time for every 4 pounds of meat if thawing in the refrigerator, as recommended (about 3 days for a 12-pound turkey). It is especially important to fully thaw and dry your bird when deep-frying, as water in hot oil will cause splattering.

What should I do with the giblets?
Remove them to make or bolster your gravy, if desired.

How do I know how much oil to use?
Test the fill level by placing the bird into the fryer and covering it with water, making sure the pot is no more than ¾ full.  Then mark the level, remove the water, dry everything off, and add oil.  You will probably need about 5 gallons, depending on the size of your bird and fryer.  Remember to wear protective mitts and eyewear, have a fire extinguisher available, and save heavy libations for after you’ve turned off the fryer.

How long will it take?
Give yourself about 30 minutes to preheat the fryer, and possibly longer for an outdoor fryer in a cold climate.  While preheating, you can inject the bird with a marinade for extra moisture and flavor, and rub it with oil and seasonings.

Fry your turkey for about 3 minutes per pound, until a thermometer inserted into the turkey’s inner thigh registers 165 degrees.  Making sure the frying oil stays as close to 350 degrees as possible is the most important part of producing a finished bird that does not absorb too much fat and cooks safely and promptly (newer fryer models have built-in digital temperature regulation systems to help do this for you).  Have a shallow, paper-towel-lined surface ready for removal from the fryer (a baking dish or roasting pan will work), and let your bird rest about 15 minutes.

What do I do with the oil and leftover meat (if we haven’t eaten it all)?
Once cooled, you can filter and reuse oil or place it back in its original bottles for disposal.  Use leftover meat to make sandwiches, or try our Curried Turkey Salad.

*More on oil choices for deep-frying: Alternatives for those with nut allergies include any oil with a high smoke point such as canola or corn.

Here are some menu suggestions that you can conveniently cook before and while your bird deep-fries:

For sauciness:
Wayne’s Cranberry Sauce
Green Tomato Chutney

Good Old Country Stuffing

Other starchy sides:
Buttery Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
Pumpkin Orzo

Bread and biscuits:
Southern Cornbread

Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing
Green Beans with Almonds and Caramelized Onions
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Pecans

Dark Rum Pecan Pie

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Reader Comments:


This is how I deep fry turkeys and the come out perfect

By Laura31 on March 17, 2012



By KAITLYN on November 22, 2011


Hey Paula, We are thinking about trying to deep fry a turkey for the first time this year!! I watched your video and was wondering what is the marinade that you are injecting into the bird and where can I get this? And are there different kinds or just a basic marinade? Hope you and your family have a very special Thanksgiving and thank you for your time <3... God Bless Rena Dishman

By Rena Dishman on November 22, 2011


Can/should you brine the turkey first?

By Jackie on November 21, 2011


Paula I have cooked turkeys in a deep fryer outside for a number of years, and I gotta say I think this is the only way to cook the big bird, its fast, and if ya season it right it will be the best turkey u have ever eaten, I have used a few different recipes an they all are good, take the plunge, or the plunge the bird, Paula ur size n times are just right,, Happy Thinksgiving to y'all.. brojim...

By Jim Lichtenthaler on November 16, 2011


We have been frying our turkeys for about 8 years. My husband and his father do the frying and that brings them together. Once I tasted fried turkey I couldn't go back to roasting them because I loved the cajun taste of frying. I may be poor but God knows my needs and bringing family together for holidays is the key to happiness.

By Dorothy Newman on November 15, 2011

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