In the Southern states, deep-fried turkey is not just the favoured fowl of tailgate parties: it’s also a holiday staple. To help bring the party north, we talked to Chef Jude Tauzin, corporate chef for Tony Chachere’s Famous Creole Cuisine, and a native of Opelousas, Louisiana. Chef Tauzin grew up on deep-fried turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas and now makes hundreds of them every year.
Here are his pro tips for deep-frying turkey:
Gather your supplies
Turkey frying is serious business, so be safe and stock up on the right equipment. If you don’t have a deep-fryer, Tauzin recommends using a large stockpot (at least 30 quarts) and a special propane burner with stand. This kit from CajunGrocer.com comes with a pot, propane burner and basket for easily retrieving your hot turkey. Similar kits can be found at Home Depot and Canadian Tire.
Although it’s tempting to MacGyver it with equipment from your shed, Tauzin warns that typical camp stoves won’t get hot enough to heat the oil. If your kit doesn’t come with a turkey stand or frying basket, make sure you have extra long tongs and a good supply of old towels on hand. You’ll also need fireproof oven mitts, a large pan lined with paper towels, and a meat thermometer. Play it safe and keep a fire extinguisher nearby at all times, and don’t forget to wear heavy, close-toed shoes, long-sleeved pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
Please read through these steps carefully before attempting to deep-fry a turkey. In addition to this guide, Chef Tauzin recommends browsing a variety of turkey frying how-tos and videos until you’re fully comfortable. Be cautious and always think it through, he warns.
Thaw and dry your bird
If even the tiniest shred of ice remains in your turkey, it will be a disaster when it hits the hot grease, and could even start a fire. Make sure your bird is completely thawed and thoroughly dried before you begin.
Measure the pot
Tauzin suggests using the water method to determine how much oil you’ll need. Place your turkey in the pot, and fill with water until the turkey is submerged in a full inch of water. Make sure there’s at least five to six inches of clear space from the water line to the rim of the pot – this is essential for preventing oil spills. Next, remove the turkey and mark the waterline – later you’ll want to add your oil to that level. Rinse and thoroughly dry your stockpot.
Prepare the bird
Unwrap your bird from its packing and make a note of the turkey’s weight – you’ll need this number later. Rinse the turkey well and pat it completely dry. Remove any extraneous fat and skin to enhance presentation. Remove the giblets and neck and reserve them for gravy. If you’d like, inject your bird with flavourings – Tony Chachere’s injectable marinades can be ordered online and Google offers lots of DIY recipes. Whatever you do, don’t stuff your turkey, and don’t season the skin, as this will result in burnt patches. You can, however, apply your favourite external seasonings once the turkey has cooked.
In Louisiana, says Tauzin, holiday newscasts always feature at least one story of a house fire started by a deep-frying novice, a trend we definitely don’t want to see here. Enhance safety by bringing the operation outside.
Cook the turkey
Once your equipment is set up, heat the oil. Chef Tauzin recommends cottonseed, peanut, vegetable or canola oil. Once it’s reached 375 F, slowly lower the turkey into the oil, cooking it three to four minutes per pound. Do not leave your turkey unattended. After the appropriate time has passed, carefully remove the turkey from the oil and place it on the paper-towel lined pan and test for doneness. It’s cooked when the dark meat has reached an internal temperature of 175 F and the white meat is at 165-170 F.
Let it sit
Just like an oven-baked bird, a deep-fried turkey needs 15-20 minute resting time. Do not cut the bird at this time, as internal liquids will still be quite hot. If you’d like to season the outside of the bird with a butter-based rub, do so now.
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