How to Deep Fry a Turkey

Illustration for How to Deep-Fry a Turkey

Illustration: Alison Czinkota. © The Spruce, 2018

Deep frying a turkey is a very fast method of cooking that is gaining in popularity. The turkey comes out very moist and tasty with dark, crispy skin. Of course, you can't deep fry an entire turkey on your stovetop; to try this technique you'll need to buy a deep fryer.

Once you buy your turkey deep fryer, be sure to read the instruction book carefully and follow all safety precautions. Then follow these instructions for the perfect deep fried meal!

Before You Cook Your Turkey

  1. Select your turkey for deep frying. The best weight is between 10 to 20 pounds.
  2. Completely thaw frozen turkey before frying. A 20-pound turkey takes about 4 full days to thaw in the refrigerator.
  3. Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey cavity. Discard or use for giblet gravy or stuffing.
  4. Place the turkey in the deep-fryer pot and fill with plain water until the water reaches about 1 inch below the top of the turkey. Remove the turkey and note where the water level reaches. This will be your oil level line. Dry the turkey and the pot.

Safety tips:

  • Read the instructions that come with your turkey fryer carefully before use.
  • Locate fryer outside away from roof overhangs.
  • Do not use on a deck, patio or in a garage.
  • Do not fill the pot with oil while it is sitting on the cooking stand.
  • Never leave the pot unattended.

Preparing Your Turkey

Your turkey should be dry and have an empty cavity (now that you've removed the neck and giblets). Now, it's time to prepare your turkey for cooking. You may want to use a seasoning rub for the turkey's skin, but you'll also want to inject the turkey with a spicy marinade to produce a very moist and tasty turkey.

  • Start by buying or preparing a marinade sauce and an injector. Injectors and various marinade sauces are available at most grocery stores in the herb and spices aisle (compare prices).
  • Be sure to inject marinade evenly, so every bite of the turkey will be equally tasty.
  • Let turkey marinate in the refrigerator for at least two hours, overnight for best flavor.
  • Do NOT leave the turkey on the counter after marinating and do not reuse any leftover marinade.

Watch Now: Everything You Should Know About Injecting Your Turkey

Preparing Your Fryer

Once your turkey has finished marinating, it's time to prepare your fryer. Follow these steps for the tastiest and safest results.

  • Your turkey deep fryer comes with a turkey stand to insert into the body cavity of the turkey. Place the loop of the stand through the neck of the turkey and exit through the body cavity at the legs. Tie legs together with a piece of string.
  • Pour oil into the pot, using the water fill line. Use a high-quality cooking oil that has a high (450°F preferably) smoking point, such as canola or peanut oil.
  • Attach the thermometer included with your turkey fryer to the top of the pot with the clip.
  • Light the outdoor cooker, beginning with a low flame. Gradually increase the flame until the oil reaches a temperature between 325 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Do NOT leave the cooker unattended. You might have to adjust the temperature control several times to keep the oil at the right temperature, especially if it is windy outside. It will take at least half an hour for the oil to reach the correct temperature.

Deep Frying

Now you're ready for the main event: cooking the turkey. Here's how:

  • Once the oil has reached the correct temperature (350 degrees for turkeys that are 10 to13 pounds, 325 for 14- to 20-pound turkeys) carefully lower the turkey into the boiling oil. Lower the turkey partially, then lift out, and repeat 3 or 4 times. This will help seal in the juices and keep the oil from boiling over. (This can be messy; oil can bubble out a bit. Wear gloves and try to stand back from the cooker.)
  • Once the turkey has been submerged in the hot oil, cook for 3 to 3 1/2 minutes per pound. Fry turkeys that are 10 to 13 pounds for 3 minutes per pound, and for turkeys from 14 to 20 pounds, cook for 3 1/2 minutes per pound. A 10-pound turkey will take about 30 minutes. A 20-pound turkey will require about 1 hour, 10 minutes.
  • Cook until the internal temperature reaches between 180 and 190 degrees Fahrenheit. Do NOT use the lid while frying.

When It's Is Cooked

In addition to following the timing suggestions above, you'll know your turkey is done when it's very dark brown with crispy skin and moist meat. A properly fried turkey should not taste greasy.

  • Once the turkey is fully cooked, wearing heavy gloves, grab the hook of the lifter. Slowly lift out the turkey and let the excess oil drip back into the pot. Place the turkey on a paper towel lined platter.
  • After cooking is complete, let the turkey "rest" for 10 to 20 minutes before carving.
  • Let the oil in the cooker cool completely, about 3 hours. Place the lid over the pot while cooling, if desired.
  • Once the oil is completely cool, you can strain the oil using a cheesecloth. The oil can then be used up to 3 times. (The oil will begin to break down after 3 uses.)