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How to Deep Fry a Turkey

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1
Safety Tips for Deep Frying a Turkey
A turkey fryer and propane tank stand on a patio.
  • Turkey fryers are one of the most misused types of outdoor cookers, often due to an unfamiliarity with their setup.  
  • Always wear a BBQ apron and mitts, as well as protective shoes when working with a fryer or other outdoor cookers
  • Position at least one fire extinguisher rated for grease fires near the fryer setup. Though indoor fryers are safer to use, still have a fire extinguisher handy.  
  • Do not attempt to use an outdoor fryer indoors, nor an indoor fryer outdoors.  
  • Children and pets should not be allowed in the area in which a fryer is being used at any time. 
  • Do not drink alcohol while operating a turkey fryer.  
  • Never leave the fryer unattended, even for a moment.  
  • Never walk between the propane tank and the turkey fryer because the gas line can be a tripping hazard and might knock over the pot.  
  • Plan on being outside for a couple of hours.  
  • If the oil in the fryer starts to smoke or exceeds 400 degrees Fahrenheit, immediately turn the burner or gas supply off and wait for the oil to cool to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Never move the fryer when it’s in use. Allow it to cool completely before moving, cleaning and storing. 
  • Dark meat must reach an internal temperature of 175 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • White meat must reach an internal temperature 165 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit. 


Safety Tip: Frying a turkey involves heating oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Before attempting to use a fryer, thoroughly read all manufacturer's instructions and warnings. Follow safety precautions regardless of whether you're deep frying a turkey indoors or out.   

2
How to Set Up Your Turkey Fryer
A person setting up a turkey fryer outside.

How to set up an outdoor turkey fryer:

 

  • An outdoor turkey fryer includes a burner, stand, pot, thermometer, hanger or basket and lowering mechanism. You’ll need to provide a propane tank. 
  • Choose an open space to set up your outdoor fryer. It should be on a flat, level and hard surface that is at least 10 feet from the home in any direction. The fryer and propane tank should never be on a flammable surface, such as wood or asphalt (blacktop). 
  • Assemble the stand and burner according to your fryer’s manufacturer’s instructions. 
  • Make sure there is nothing overhead near the flame or the pot. 
  • Attach the fryer’s gas line to the propane tank. Set the propane tank as far away from the fryer as the line will allow without stretching. 
  • Determine how much oil you’ll need for the pot. To do this, do a test run using water in place of oil. Place the thawed turkey into the fryer basket and put both in the fryer pot. Add water into the pot until the level covers the top of the turkey by about half an inch. Lift the turkey and fry basket and allow the water to drain off and back into the pot. You can mark the water level with a food-safe pencil or marker and use that line as a guide when adding oil. Or you can measure the amount of water in the pot using measuring cups as you discard the water.  
  • Thoroughly wash and dry the fryer pot before cooking. 


How to set up an indoor turkey fryer:

 

  • An indoor turkey fryer is a large countertop fryer. These fryers are single units that are versatile, easy-to-use and typically safer than outdoor fryers. However, they’re usually more expensive than outdoor fryers and may not have the same capacity. 
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your particular fryer model. 
  • Usually using an indoor fryer is as simple as filling the fryer with oil to the pre-marked level and lowering in the fresh or thawed turkey with the fryer basket. 


Tip: Peanut oil is the most popular type of oil used for deep frying a turkey, but any oil with a smoking point of 450 degrees Fahrenheit will work. Try safflower oil or corn oil if you don’t like peanut oil or are accommodating a peanut allergy. 

3
How to Prepare a Turkey for Deep Frying
A person injecting a turkey to prepare it for the turkey fryer.
  • Either use a fresh turkey or thoroughly thaw a frozen turkey.  
  • Unwrap the turkey and remove the neck and giblets from the body cavity. Discard the wrap and the organs. 
  • Check the thawed turkey carefully to be sure there are no pockets of hidden ice, including around the joints and between the rib bones. 
  • Remove any excess fat from the bird. 
  • Dry the bird well, inside and out. Any pockets of moisture will cause the oil to spatter violently.  
  • Add any seasonings, injected flavorings or marinades to the turkey according to your deep-fried turkey recipe. 
  • For an 18 pound turkey fryer, if the turkey is 14 pounds or less, you can deep-fry it whole. If the turkey is 15 pounds or more, separate the legs and thighs from the breast and fry them separately. 
  • Do not attempt to deep fry a stuffed turkey. Cook stuffing separately. 
  • Make small incisions under the turkey’s neck, wings and legs to allow oil to drain from the bird more quickly after frying. 
4
How to Deep Fry a Turkey Outdoors
A turkey frying chart for frying in an outdoor turkey fryer.
  • Add the amount of oil you determined you needed when setting up your outdoor fryer. The final oil level after the turkey is submerged should be at least three to five inches below the top of the pot.  
  • Put on a protective apron and gloves. 
  • Preheat oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Attach a fry thermometer to the side of the pot or use a digital read thermometer.  
  • Allow turkey to come to room temperature while the oil heats.  
  • Once the oil is the right temperature, turn off the burner and lower the empty basket into the pot for about 30 seconds.  
  • Remove the basket from the oil, place the seasoned turkey inside, then lower carefully and slowly back into the oil. Preheating the basket in this way will help keep the skin intact and prevent it from sticking to the basket.  
  • If your outdoor fryer comes with a hanger instead of a basket, there’s no need to preheat the hanger. Instead, firmly skewer the turkey with the hanger’s hook, making sure you can securely lift the bird without it sliding off. Lower the turkey carefully into the oil without dropping it.  
  • Turn the burner back on.  
  • Cook the turkey about 4 to 5 minutes per pound. For example, a 10 pound turkey will need to cook for approximately 40 to 50 minutes. Use this formula to create your own deep-frying turkey time chart to your liking, depending on how crisp you like the skin. See above for a deep frying turkey time chart for cooking outdoors. 
  • Dark meat should cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 175 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. White meat should cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit.  
  • When the turkey is done, turn the burner off and slowly lift it from the pot and place it on a rack in a pan or on paper towels to drain.  
  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure the meat has reached the correct internal temperature. 
  • Let turkey stand undisturbed for 20 minutes before moving it to a carving board. 
5
How to Deep Fry a Turkey Indoors
A turkey frying chart for frying in an indoor turkey fryer.

An indoor deep fryer is a great means of frying a turkey without having to set up outside. Check that your indoor turkey fryer is large enough to accommodate your bird.

  

  • Add cooking oil to the fryer to just below the maximum fill line. Leave a bit of room for the oil to raise once the turkey is submerged. 
  • Put on a protective apron and gloves. 
  • Preheat oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or to the temperature recommended by the fryer’s manufacturer. 
  • Place the fresh or fully thawed turkey into the fryer basket, breast side up or according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. 
  • When the oil reaches the target temperature, slowly lower the turkey and basket into the fryer. 
  • Set the timer for 3 to 4 minutes per pound. For example, if you’re trying to decide how long to deep fry a 20 pound turkey, 3 x 20 = 60 minutes minimum. Turkey fry time for a 10 pound bird should be 30 to 40 minutes. Use this formula to create your own deep-frying turkey time chart to your liking, depending on how crisp you like the skin. See above for a deep-frying turkey time chart for cooking indoors. 
  • Dark meat should cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 175 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. White meat should cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • When the turkey is done, slowly lift it from the pot and place it on a rack in a pan or on paper towels to drain.  
  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure the meat has reached the correct internal temperature. 
  • Let the turkey stand undisturbed for 20 minutes before moving it to a carving board.  
6
Clean Up
A turkey fryer pot filled with soapy water.
  • Allow the oil to fully cool before cleaning up after frying your turkey. 
  • Transfer the oil to a reusable container and save it for a future frying session. 
  • Use a spatula to scrape down the inside of the fryer and toss the debris in the trash. 
  • Add soap and water and clean any stuck-on bits with a microfiber cloth and scrub brush. 
  • Rinse and wipe it down. 

Properly using a fryer can ensure that your fried turkey recipe will result in a bird with crispy skin and juicy meat. Learning how to deep fry a turkey is great for Thanksgiving, but the skills can also be used for frying chicken, fish and even putting together shellfish boils. Choose from our online deep fryer and fryer accessories selection. The Home Depot delivers online orders when and where you need them.