The Best Turkey Fryer

When I fry a turkey for Thanksgiving, I’m going to use the Bayou Classic Aluminum Turkey Fryer Stockpot (~$40) and the Bayou Classic Single Burner Patio Stove (~$50). And once T-Day has come and gone, I’ll use it the rest of the year for outdoor cooking projects like lobster boils and clambakes.

Last Updated: November 17, 2014
We looked for new models in propane fryers but didn’t find anything better than the Bayou set-up. This year we also tested the Waring Professional Turkey Fryer against the popular Masterbuilt Butterball Indoor Electric Fryer. We can’t recommend either one in good faith, as the results were soggy, oily, and disappointing.  

The affordable, quick-heating stockpot kit has everything you need to get the job done except the oil, the turkey and the propane tank; the separate stove is solidly built, powerful (enough) and stable. You want that stability when you’re handling four gallons of bubbling peanut oil. It comes with a 1-year warranty.

I came to my conclusion after testing two stoves, frying two turkeys (one on a propane burner and one in a top-rated electric fryer for comparison) and talking to three chefs on what types of equipment work best for frying up turkeys for a crowd.

Also Great
The SP10 flames get even stronger and higher than the SQ14’s, but with only three legs and a smaller, round grate, it’s a little less stable than our pick.
If you can’t find the SQ14, get the Bayou Classic SP10 High-Pressure Outdoor Cooker ($50). It’s the same price and actually cranks up the heat faster than the SQ14. The SP10 also has a great wind guard for keeping the flame jet-engine high. However, it only has three legs and a round base, which makes it feel a little less stable than the SQ14.

This year we again tried to find a good indoor alternative to the propane fryer but were disappointed by the soggy, oily results from the top two electric fryers. If you’re going to fry a turkey, do it right.

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These things are dangerous

“I covered a couple of house fires in Durham, NC, where people had tried to fry turkeys in their garages. You don’t do that.”
Hunter Lewis, Executive Editor of Southern Living, told us, “Back in the early 2000s, when frying turkeys started to be all the rage, I was a newspaper reporter, and the day before Thanksgiving, I covered a couple of house fires in Durham, NC, where people had tried to fry turkeys in their garages. You don’t do that. Ironically, when I got home that night, all my cousins were there for Thanksgiving, and as an early Christmas present, I got a turkey fryer.”

His story is a good reminder that most fried turkey disasters probably start as a bit of family fun. There are plenty of guides on the internet that can teach you how to not set your house on fire. Read up until you understand what you are getting into before you begin.

We’re serious. Turkey fryers are so risky that Underwriters Laboratories, the global safety company whose UL logo certification you find on nearly every piece of technology in your house, won’t certify turkey fryers. This UL video shows what can happen when you don’t take the proper precautions.

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Sources

  1. Hunter Lewis, Executive Editor of Southern Living, Interview
  2. Kellie Evans, Associate Food Editor of Saveur, Interview
  3. Does this fryer talk turkey?, Consumer Reports, November 2010
  4. J. Kenji López-Alt, The Food Lab: OK, Deep Fried Turkey Is Awesome!, Serious Eats, November 9, 2010
  5. Sara Foster, Deep-Fried Turkey, Leite's Culinaria, November 14, 2011

Originally published: November 7, 2013

  • Jeff Shepherd

    I’ve been frying turkeys at home for almost 20 years. I used to have a propane fryer but had all sorts of trouble with adjusting the heat setting. Constantly going out to the backyard to adjust the flame. I’ve had the flame blow out as well as well as having the flame damage the input line. Perhaps not a problem when getting a high-rated model like this one, but it was an older model of the Bayou Classic brand so I don’t think it was junk.

    When I went electric, I thought it was the best. I still do. Just set the temperature and forget about it. Now I can go about fixing dressing and salad and not worry if the oil is getting too hot or to cold. There is also a drain on the side so it is easy to get the oil out. The version I have is a round MasterBuilt, which it looks like they don’t make anymore but you can get through Bruce Foods: http://www.turkey-fryers.com/etfv_turkey_fryer_kits.htm

    I highly recommend that model. I have only once had a problem with oil splatter when I let the water condensation from the lid pour back into the hot oil. The lid also keeps heat inside and splatter better contained. This model also holds 3 gallons (and a 15 lb turkey), so it is probably larger than the reviewed electric model. That also means it has more thermal momentum, so the oil temperature doesn’t drop so much when the turkey is put in. I used it indoors a single time and the entire house smelled like turkey oil for days — it is always outside now.

    I will agree with the extra cleaning needed for the submerged heating element, but if you don’t let the oil sit for a day the cleanup is much easier. About four hours and it is cool enough to pour back into the container. Measure the temperature with your handy-dandy thermometer just to be sure.

    I do like your suggestion of frying the turkey head up. When the breast is against the bottom of the lifting rack the skin has a tendency to stick which ruins the presentation. (If you present–I always carve in the kitchen.) With the breast up and the thighs down you also have the temperature gradient working in your favor with the hotter oil at the thighs which take the longest to cook. If I ever go back to propane that is the way I’ll do it.

    Tips

    I always use 3 gallons of peanut oil no matter the size of the turkey. (Caveat: though I always try to get the largest I can find I never find one bigger than 15lbs) First of all, that’s the size of the box of oil I buy each year (at Home Depot (!) no less). It may be more than the turkey needs, but more is better. If the turkey is bigger, and some sticks out, I find the bubbling of the oil will cover the bird and, (if you’ve got it head side down) the bits that stick up (drumstick tips and tail) you aren’t going to eat anyways.

    I cook the turkey 3 min/lb plus 5 min (e.g. 10lb turkey is (3*10)+5=35 min). However I almost always check it a little beforehand just to be safe.

    I re-use the oil for 4-6 turkeys each year. Thanksgiving through Christmas gives plenty of opportunity for delicious fried turkey. And when the oil costs as much as the turkey itself, you might want to get more milage out of it. I store it in a cool place (the garage) and recycle it when ‘turkey season’ is over. I used to try to filter it, but just gave up. Most particles sink to the bottom and stick there, remaining in the container when you pour it out the next time. A colander or strainer helps as well.

    Drying the turkey before putting it in prevents a lot of splatter. Be sure to dry the inside cavity as well. When I prep the bird I also let it air out five minutes or so before it goes in the oil.

    A great review. Deep-fried turkeys are a lot of work but the results are wonderful!

    • Ganda Suthivarakom

      Thanks for the thoughtful response and excellent tips! The Turk n Surf was initially recommended by Consumer Reports, too. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2007/11/a-safer-way-to-fry-a-turkey/index.htm Since my experts recommended frying smaller turkeys, we decided to test the smaller models, but good to know that you’ve had a good experience with the larger one.

      Also good point about the smell; it is pretty intense when you’re frying indoors. I thought some people would be into it, but it’s a little too much for me.