Turkey Frying Nightmares - a Deep Subject...

You know that show with Chef Gordon  Ramsay where he analyzes problems in restaurant kitchens and helps them improve? That made me think of common cooking nightmares, such as having the oven too hot and ruining food, or having the oven the correct temperature but forgetting to check the food in time. Or even worse, putting a lot of time and effort into preparing some great recipe, only to find out that some key ingredient was left out.

As Halloween approaches, I've been thinking about a different kind of cooking nightmare - something really scary - deep fried turkey! There are some who say you should ONLY deep fry turkey. Well, I don't agree, I've made some pretty good turkeys by roasting them upside down for most of the oven time (to keep the juices in) and then turning the turkey right-side-up to brown the top. Deep-fried turkeys have become a favorite in US southern states in recent years due to exposure from celebrities such as Emeril Lagasse and Martha Stewart. I hate to admit I haven't tried to cook a turkey this way. I have had a deep fried Cornish hen, and it was very good!

So, I've been reading up on turkey cookers and fryers and have some suggestions about them. Oh, and it's not the idea of eating a deep fried turkey that scares me - it's all that hot oil! But fortunately there are some good tips about using a turkey deep fryer, including deep frying safety tips.

Turkey Fryers or Outdoor Cookers (You Turkeys Better Run!)

I had quite a time figuring out why the prices ranged so much on these outdoor fryer kits. It seems that some are just for deep frying, while others are multi-purpose cookers that allow you to boil seafood (lobster, mmm) and also do deep fried cooking. There are choices between electric or propane gas cookers, too. That is a good thing if your patio doesn't have an electrical outlet (you can use the propane kind). There are aluminum style cooking pots and stainless steel ones. (I think I'd have to get the stainless steel!)  The top manufacturer of these types of cookesrs is Bayou Classic (their 32 Quart Turkey Fryer Kit is shown to the right).

What's the Difference?

There are basic cookers and then more upscale cooker/fryer systems.  It seems you need at least a 32 quart model for turkey frying.

The more expensive ones include:

  • 32 quart stainless steel stockpot
  • Vented lid Perforated steam/boil basket
  • Perforated poultry rack/grab hook
  • 12" thermometer 50° F - 750° F
  • 1 oz. trial seasoning injector
  • 3-piece detachable skewer set
  • 36" stainless braided hose
  • 10 PSI adjustable regulator
  • Black steel outdoor patio stove

The less expensive models include:

  • Vented lid
  • Perforated steam/boil basket
  • Perforated poultry rack/grab hook
  • Stainless steel outdoor patio stove

So, if you are looking at buying one of these fryers to cook your Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey, look at the features, and be sure you are getting the ones you want. The added features can double the price, but that may be well worth it, since you won't have to buy the accessories separately.

Electric Digital Turkey Fryers

Masterbuilt has this  Stainless Steel Electric Digital Turkey Fryer for those who are timid about using those outdoor gas style cookers. This is for year round use and can be used indoors or outdoors. The cooking pot is not as large as the Bayou Classic (discussed above). But this is a neat thing - it can be used for boiling, steaming and frying, and it has an adjustable digital temperature thermostat control and timer.


Deep Fryer Safety Tips - Avoid Nightmares!

Using a specially designed turkey fryer increases the quality, and when you use the proper temperature the flavor is locked inside the turkey, making sure your turkey is succulent, juicy, and bursting with flavor. An advantage of having a turkey fryer is that they aren't just for Thanksgiving or Christmas anymore. You can take a turkey fryer anywhere there is space to safely use it., and other foods can be cooked in it. 

Rule number one - never leave a turkey fryer unattended! This is the main difference between frying a turkey and baking or roasting a turkey (where you can leave it in the oven unattended). Turkey frying has become a social even, much like a backyard barbeque, where it gives families a time to bod or friends a time to visit. So, turkey frying isn't just cooking, it's more like a party.

To ensure that your turkey frying experience is a memorable and safe one, here are some important turkey fryer saftey hints and tips.

Always place turkey fryers should outside, and keep them a safe distance away from buildings and other flamable materials. Never use turkey fryers on wooden decks or inside garages.

To reduce the risk of tipping, always place your turkey fryer on a flat surface.

Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful of marinades before placing it in the pot. Excess water in partially frozen turkeys will cause the pot to overflow, resulting in a fire hazard. The National Turkey Federation recommends 24 hours of thawing for every 5 lbs of bird before cooking in a turkey fryer.

Be careful to not overfill your turkey fryer with oil. If overfilled, oil may spill over, engulfing the entire unit and possibly injuring bystanders. Most turkey fryers do not come with a thermostat, and if left unattended the unit may overheat the oil, resulting in combustion. The sides of the cooking pot, lid and handles become very hot, posing a severe burn threat. Before touching the pot, cover your hands with oven mitts or use well-insulated potholders.

Whenever possible, use protective eyewear. Make sure an all-purpose extinguisher is handy at all times.

Never use water to put out a grease fire. Use common sense when fighting a fire. If it is within reason, use the extinguisher to put it out. If the fire is unmanageable, dial 9-1-1 for emergency assistance.

Even after you are finished cooking, do not let pets or children near the unit. The oil in the container remains extremely hot for hours after cooking.

And remember the most important safety tip of all: NEVER leave a turkey fryer unattended. If you feel brave enough to try deep frying a bird, then I hope these safety tips will help - good luck and have a great holiday dinner!

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