People always ask me about what my Thanksgivings were like when I was growin’ up. The truth is, I can’t seem to remember! This got me worrying that maybe my elevator wasn’t going all the way to the top. Finally, I worked up the nerve to ask my Aunt Peggy—whose been with me since the day I was born—what my first Thanksgivings were like. Aunt Peggy saw my worry and laughed. “You don’t remember Thanksgivings at River Bend, because you didn’t have ‘em,” she said.
My family lived at River Bend up until I was 10 years old. It was a little mini resort just outside of Albany, Ga., that my Grandmother and Granddaddy Paul ran, complete with motel, cabins, a restaurant and even a skatin’ rink. While daddy worked at a nearby car dealership, Momma would help her parents out with the restaurant. The restaurant was open for Thanksgiving for folks who were traveling but still wanted a special meal. We made certain they were taken care of before we ever worried about ourselves. Sure, we’d eventually get some fried turkey, Momma’s cornbread stuffing, and a slice of pie, but we’d have to sneak it on a quick lunch break during the workday.
After we moved from River Bend, our Thanksgivings transformed into long, wonderful family events, lasting for 4 or 5 days at a stretch. They went on like that up until I opened my first restaurant—The Lady in the Best Western—and then my Thanksgivings were over. Ka-put. I guess you could say at that point I’d come full circle.
I broke that cycle about 10 years ago when I started hosting Thanksgivings in my home surrounded by friends and family. I’ll fry the turkey—the star of the show—and everybody else will bring a side dish to show off their recipes and to take the pressure off me so I can really enjoy a beautiful meal. Even though I don’t remember much about those early Thanksgivings I spent working, I guess I did learn something: I learned to appreciate the gift of time and, most important, family.
My family has made a tradition of frying our turkey, and while it may seem like a lot of trouble, I assure you it’s so very easy if you follow the tips of an expert turkey fryer such as myself.
Before we get started, I want to stress the importance of taking appropriate safety precautions to ensure no one gets injured while you’re creating some tasty fried turkey. Follow these safety tips and use common sense, and your turkey frying experience will be safe and successful:
- The turkey fryer needs to be outside on a flat surface. Do not deep-fry a turkey in a garage or a covered carport.
- Always keep a fire extinguisher (rated for grease fires) nearby.
- Large oven mitts or fireplace gloves must be worn.
- Always wear eye protection at a minimum, but full-face protection is better.
- When lowering the turkey into the oil, turn off the flame.
- Do not allow guests, children, or pets near the turkey cooker.
- Avoid overfilling the oil, as too much oil can cause a fire. To measure the amount of oil needed to fry the turkey, place the turkey in your fryer and add water to top of turkey. Remove the turkey, and the water line will indicate how much oil will be needed to fry your turkey.
What You’ll Need:
- 2 tablespoons of your favorite dry rub
- 2 tablespoons Paula Deen’s House Seasoning
- 1 (10-lb) turkey
- 3 to 5 gallons peanut oil
- large deep fryer
Wash bird inside and out, and allow it to drain. Rub the turkey all over with my House Seasoning, and then coat the turkey with the dry rub. Allow the bird to sit until it reaches room temperature.
Heat the peanut oil in a turkey fryer or a very, very large stockpot to 350 degrees F. Very carefully, lower the turkey into the hot oil, making sure it is fully submerged.
Fry the turkey for 3 minutes per pound plus 5 minutes per bird. Remove the turkey from the oil, and drain it on paper towels.
Now gobble it up, y’all!