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.

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.

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.

There are differing schools of thought on brining before frying, but flavor aside, there are safety concerns. Alton Brown recommends it; Sam Sifton warns against it. Sifton wrote this anecdote in the New York Times:

“DO NOT BRINE A TURKEY THAT IS GOING TO BE FRIED. The first time I went to a turkey-fry we made that mistake, my friend Manny and I, the two of us amped on beer and adrenaline, redneck in the extreme. We put the brined turkey into the super-hot peanut oil, which almost instantly converted the excess moisture the bird had been given by the brine into steam. The steam, caught inside the bird, exploded the breasts off the carcass and sent them hurtling skyward on a plume of boiling oil. It was a fairly intense couple of seconds. DO NOT BRINE A TURKEY THAT YOU ARE GOING TO FRY.”

Why risk using a turkey fryer?

This has not deterred adventurous cooks around the country from dragging propane tanks into the backyard. But even if you’re not a thrillseeker, there are benefits to frying your turkey rather than roasting it. First, you get more room in the oven on a day when space for your side dishes and pies is at a premium. Secondly, a fried turkey cooks in a fraction of the time of a roasted one—about 30-45 minutes as opposed to three hours.

And fried food is tasty, of course. Kellie Evans, Associate Food Editor of Saveur, used to fry turkeys when she worked in catering. “I really enjoy this kind of bird. It’s a LOT faster than roasting and less fatty since it doesn’t sit in its fat. The frying initially creates a shield/crust and then the meat essentially steams inside,” she told us.

…you’ve got the hot oil and you’re creating this crisp crust, and the meat is steaming and juicy inside.
Fried turkeys also have more flavor, all things considered equal. Injections and rubs are a personal preference, but the experts say to go easy on them. Hunter Lewis told us, “You know, with a roasted turkey, you try to jack up the flavor as much as possible because it’s a very boring canvas. For the fried, you’re automatically getting better flavor because you’ve got the hot oil and you’re creating this crisp crust, and the meat is steaming and juicy inside. So I think simpler is better for this.” Brandon Boudet, chef and partner at Dominick’sLittle Dom’s, and 101 Coffee Shop in Los Angeles, does a small bit of Creole seasoning on his birds, but nothing else. Keep in mind that any sugars or excess herbs in your rub will probably burn in the hot oil.

(Also note that a lot of turkeys—definitely kosher turkeys but also many standard supermarket birds, too1—are salted already. We fried defrosted Butterball turkeys, which “contain up to 8% of a solution of Water, Salt, Spices, and Natural Flavor,” so an additional brine might have added too much salt anyway. An application of salt and pepper while the oil heated up provided the right amount of seasoning for my palate.)

What makes a good turkey fryer?

Turkey frying kits generally consist of a burner that you connect to a separately-purchased propane tank, a big pot deep and wide enough to fit a smaller turkey, a deep-frying thermometer that you clip to the side of the pot, a rack to set your turkey on and a metal hook that looks like an upside-down hanger which you use to slowly lower or lift the turkey. Sometimes the kits include a big basket and syringe injectors. Depth is important for the pot, in order to avoid spillovers. Brandon Boudet told us, “You want that turkey to sit in the pot with at least half the pot’s length above the turkey, so when you put the oil in, it’s probably only going to go about ¼ or ⅓ of the way.”

A turkey fryer kit with stove will run you anywhere from $60 to $160; this doesn’t include the cost of a propane tank if needed ($30) or propane ($10-$15). For the deep fryers, you’ll also need a large amount of a high smoke point oil such as peanut oil, which can be pricey even when purchased from a restaurant supply store. (I got mine from Costco in a 35-pound container, which comes to about 4.5 gallons for $41.) You’ll also want to have a potholder that covers your arm, a long fireplace lighter and a fire extinguisher in case things get out of hand. It’s not a cheap setup in total, but you should be able to use the equipment for many years to come. Many also use their kits for home brewing beer, crawfish boils and more.

You can buy each element piecemeal, but most experts recommend getting a kit so everything fits together well. The one exception to this is the burner. Hunter Lewis told us that stability is key for safety and to buy a burner with four legs. (Alton Brown said something similar on his deep-fried turkey episode of Good Eats.) The burners that come with the full kits often have bolted legs and a tripod base.

You can buy each element piecemeal, but most experts recommend getting a kit so everything fits together well.
Brandon Boudet fries about 60 turkeys every year for pickup on Thanksgiving day. To accomplish this, he and his team have 10-12 burners going at once, keeping track of frying times either on a clipboard or using chalk on the sidewalk. He says that the key to a great fried turkey is being able to crank up the power on the propane burner. “My little secret is the safety valve that only allows only so much propane to go through the line; I have that thing taken off. Sometimes you’ll get debris or dust inside of that and you have to sit there and play with it and you won’t get the full BTUs pumping out. I’m from New Orleans where [it's] the same process for boiling crawfish. You want as strong a boil as possible before you add the crawfish into it. Back in the day, they never had these safety valves on there.” (Before you pyros go hacking your valve, keep in mind that Boudet is a trained professional and has been doing this for years.)

Whether stability or BTUs are your focus, you’ll have many more options to choose from if you buy the burner separate from the turkey rack/pot. Besides, propane cooking has been gaining popularity of late. A great propane burner can be a handy, super-powered auxiliary stove for messy, smoky projects you don’t want in the kitchen like deep frying, chile roasting and wok cooking.

The all-in-one outdoor propane kits are made by Bayou Classic, King Kooker, Eastman, Brinkmann, and Masterbuilt. Waring Pro, Masterbuilt, and Cajun Injector have electric fryer offerings. And Char-Broil and Masterbuilt have oil-free options; Char-Broil’s is marketed as “infrared”.

There are also several alternatives, including indoor electric deep fryers and outdoor thermal turkey “fryers” which do not require the use of any oil; we dismissed these after testing and researching.

What about electric?

While there are many articles and videos on the web showing you how to fry a turkey, most recommend getting an all-in-one fryer plus propane burner kit. One notable and trustworthy exception to this is Consumer Reports, who recommend an electric indoor fryer as “a safer way to fry a turkey”. However, we couldn’t find any head-to-head tests of propane vs. electric so we did one ourselves. Spoiler: you want propane.

How we picked

Most editorial points to buying a pot made specifically for the purpose of turkey frying—it’s the right shape and has max-fill line warnings, so you don’t have to worry about not being able to fit the bird in or having to buy too much peanut oil. Serious Eats says, “Don’t try and use a stock pot. Don’t use something that the turkey barely fits in. Don’t use a hot plate. Don’t put your pot on a grill. Three gallons of hot oil is nothing to fool around with, so start with the right equipment.” There aren’t a ton of options to choose from: there’s Bayou, the main player in the category, King Kooker, Brinkmann, Backyard Pro and Masterbuilt. The pots themselves are pretty straightforward with slightly different styles of turkey racks. We chose aluminum between aluminum and stainless because it conducts heat quickly and is the more affordable choice. The one that got the most nods was the Bayou Turkey Fryer pot—Serious Eats and Leite’s Culinaria like their kit best, and the pot gets a 4.5-star rating over 55 reviews on Amazon.

The problem is that most of these brands make all-in-one kits with lesser-quality burners included. Hunter Lewis, Brandon Boudet and Alton Brown (on Good Eats) say that the burner is where you want to pay attention to build quality—for that, you’re better off buying separately.

We ultimately decided to test two propane burners: the Bayou Classic SP10 High-Pressure Outdoor Cooker and the Bayou Classic SQ14 Single Burner Patio Stove. Either can be had for about $50. We looked at many different outdoor cooker models on Amazon, Home Depot and Lowe’s, and these two had the attributes recommended by the pros—a sturdy build, single burner, powerful heat and good value. They are also well-liked by Amazon readers and members of beermaking communities, who also prize them for their steady output of high heat and stability. (You can find multiple conversations on Home Brew Talk pitting one against the other.)

To check out the difference between a turkey fried in an electric fryer vs. one fried over a propane burner, I prepped a turkey for the top-rated Masterbuilt Butterball Indoor Gen III Electric Fryer Cooker ($100), which certified to be up to UL standards by the CSA, but is not UL-approved2. This is a fryer with the backing of Consumer Reports, who said that “[t]he meat was nicely browned and very juicy; Thighs were a bit oily; other parts weren’t.” The large black model is big enough to hold a 14-pound turkey, though most recipes recommend smaller birds. The previous-generation model has an impressive 4.5-star rating over 1,060 customer reviews. The differences between Gen III and the previous model are that Gen III has a front-facing oil spout instead of back-facing, and that the new lid is a single, detachable metal piece rather than a folding lid with a window. We chose to test the new one because when we called Masterbuilt, we were told that they are no longer making the previous-generation model. The fryer comes pretty much assembled; a little cleaning and reassembling is all that’s needed before you can start.

How we tested (and how to use this thing)

We started by assembling each fryer in turn, making note of how easy it was to go from box to boiling.

To test burner power, we hooked them up to a tank of propane on a windless, 55-degree night to see how long each took to boil 6 quarts of water in a stainless steel pot, uncovered. It took me a few tries to figure out how to get the heat blasting. It helped to close off the air shutter and slowly turn the propane up until I could hear the flames whoosh.

Finally, the fun part: turkey frying time! I determined that the performance of the two propane models were close enough that I could get away with picking one over the other for design and stability reasons. So I only fried one 10.5-pound turkey in our pot pick. I also did another 10.5-pound in the electric for comparison.

Our pick

It comes with the necessary poultry rack, hook, thermometer…[and is] big enough to hold your 10 or 12-lb. turkey.
Our pick is the Bayou Classic Aluminum Turkey Fryer Stockpot ($40). It comes with the necessary poultry rack, hook, thermometer and injector (which you don’t need). It’s big enough to hold your 10 or 12-lb. turkey. With the turkey fryer kits, one big decision to make is whether to go with aluminum or stainless steel. Our experts were mixed on this. While Kellie Evans prefers stainless steel, Hunter Lewis told us that “Stainless is going to cost you a lot. Aluminum is actually great for this because it conducts heat quickly and it heats up the oil quickly.” This helps once the turkey goes in, which always drops the temperature of the oil considerably. Bayou seems to be the go-to brand in the category; the same pot (but with its burner) was recommended by Serious Eats and Leite’s Culinaria.

We pair this pot with the Bayou Classic Single Burner Patio Stove ($50). We eschewed the full kit’s tripod for this one because this solidly-constructed model has a sturdy 16” square base on four welded legs. “What matters is that the base is sturdy and that a heavy pot of oil will sit on it in a safe way,” Hunter Lewis told us. It comes with a 29” braided metal hose, which felt sufficiently long. The double-ring burner does not have a wind protection screen, but we found that the flame got hot and spread wide, licking up the sides of the pot. It earned 4.5 stars over 196 customer reviews, garnering raves for its high-powered output. The stove comes with an adjustable 10 PSI regulator, which generates plenty of heat. Home Depot lists this model as putting out 55,000 BTUs.

Assembly is pretty easy and requires an adjustable wrench and a Phillips-head screwdriver. There are three pieces: a welded metal frame, a double-ring burner with a locking bolt and air shutter and a regulator hose that you attach to your propane tank.

Once everything has been set up, the instructions walk you through a soapy water test to check all the connection points for propane leaks. The manual reads long, but we appreciated how thorough the safety checks are.

1_boiling_waterAs far as performance goes, it took about 16 minutes for 6 quarts of water to boil, which was admittedly a minute slower than the smaller SP10. But we gave the edge to the Bayou Classic SQ14 for the versatility of the large 16” x 16” cooking surface and the stability of four legs.

On the SQ14, heating the oil to 375 degrees took about 30 minutes, though it probably could have gone a little faster as I was able to crank up the propane about 15 minutes in. I tested the stockpot’s handy clip thermometer against my Thermapen and found that its temperature reading was accurate.

When the oil is ready, its placid surface shimmers a bit, but don’t be fooled—the oil will bubble up furiously.
When the oil is ready, its placid surface shimmers a bit, but don’t be fooled—the oil will bubble up furiously. I turned off the flame. Then I took plenty of time lowering the fully-defrosted, paper towel-patted turkey as slowly as possible into the pot, using a long-armed oven mitt. Once the bird was fully lowered, the temperature on the oil dropped to about 320 degrees. I turned the flame back on high, and it only took about ten minutes for the temperature to reach 350 again.

2_bubbling_oilThe results: A gorgeous turkey with Maillard reaction galore. That little flap of neck skin was like the crackly, Platonic ideal of gribenes. Seasoned only with salt and pepper, the skin and meat were flavorful and fragrant, reminiscent of the best fried chicken, and outer pieces like the wings stayed crisp after a long rest.

3_golden_turkeyI’ll be honest—I let the bird go to 35 minutes, the full 3½ minutes per pound for a 10-lb. turkey, and my Thermapen told me the breast was overcooked at 170 degrees (before carryover!). I probably could have taken it out at least five minutes earlier. The breast meat was a bit dry and overdone, but that was a cook’s error. The rest of the bird was a revelation; crisp, seasoned skin that crunched like pork cracklings and meat that wasn’t greasy. It took a lot less work and time than overnight-brined and roasted turkeys I’ve done in the past.

Cleanup was easier than I had expected. I cooled the pot over a whole day, then strained and saved the oil. The rack and pot were easy to hand wash—no heavy scrubbing required.

Interestingly, the Bayou Classic Fryer Kit with the tripod burner is $121, making the kit cost $30 more than putting the fryer pot with the single stove burner.

Is it dangerous? It can be. But let’s be honest; that twinge of excitement is part of the fun. Hunter Lewis told us, “It’s the old primeval caveman thing where something is cooking, and it’s usually meat, and there’s beer involved.” Big holiday meals are like theatrical productions, and there are few things flashier than putting your mitts on and pulling a gorgeous, crispy, burnished bird from a vat of boiling oil.

While Brandon Boudet gets the propane cranking so he can cook 60 turkeys in 5 ½ hours, Hunter Lewis doesn’t think BTUs make for better turkey. Keep in mind that you don’t want the temperature on the oil to get too high or you risk a flash point (when the oil vapor can ignite) or burning the oil, which will ruin the flavor. A stronger flame might have gotten my oil back up to 350 degrees a little faster, but I don’t think it would have made for a more delicious turkey—just a faster one.

You don’t want electric

The reviews for the Masterbuilt Butterball Indoor Gen III Electric Fryer Cooker and Consumer Reports’ guide gave us high hopes, but the combination of a weaker heat source and less oil (2 gallons vs. about 3.5-4 gallons for propane) wasn’t sufficient to maintain the desired cooking temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit and produced subpar results. Ultimately, we were left with a non-crispy-skinned turkey that tastes pretty much the same as a traditional roasted bird—only a whole lot oilier.

4_fried_turkeyTo make matters worse, it splattered a non-insignificant amount of oil on the floor as I lowered the turkey in. It might be designed for indoor use, but based on this, we wouldn’t recommend doing so. Definitely better suited to a garage. Cleaning was also a pain, despite the machine’s front-facing spout and a screw-on drain pipe. The basket and detachable lid can go in the dishwasher, but the heating element and thermometer filaments sit directly in the bottom of the oil where they attract food residue, and the attached control panel cannot be placed under running water. It’s much more difficult than just washing a big pot.

5_filament_bottomThe 1800-watt Waring Pro TF200 turkey fryer was praised by Food & Wine in their November 2013 issue: “With a built-in rotisserie and safety catches, it’s much less likely to splash or spill hot oil — a big risk with other setups.” It can also hold a bird that’s up to 18 lbs. But its $250 price tag is pretty steep for something that will likely only come out once a year or so. And the rotisserie requires trussing to ensure the bird will turn on its spit. There’s only a small sample of customer reviews for the model, but in a positive 4-star review Michael S. Branigan says, “From the results that I got I have concluded that although this unit makes a great turkey, it does not achieve the same level of overall crisping and browning that my outdoor cooker provides. This seems to be due to the fact that my 15 lb. turkey causes enough of a fryer oil temperature drop that most of the cooking stays in the 300°F range most of the cooking time whereas the outdoor cooker maintains the full 350°F throughout the cooking time. It never recovers the initial temperature setpoint despite the high wattage heating coil in this unit.” This is an improvement on the problem we saw with the Masterbuilt, but still problematic.

The competition

The SP10 was the other gas burner we tested. It’s supported by a slightly smaller 14-inch-wide welded tripod frame compared to the SQ14’s 16 inches and has a longer, 48-inch hose compared to the SQ14’s 29-incher. Once I was able to fiddle with the regulator and air shutter, the propane cranked out with a loud whoosh and blue flames roared under the center of the pot that boiled the 6 quarts of water in an impressive 15 minutes (compared to 16 minutes for the SQ14). But ultimately, we thought the added stability of a fourth leg and a larger footprint outweighed the nominal speed boost you get from the SP10, because safety should always come first.

There are other gas fryers that we considered and dismissed, too.

The King Kooker Turkey Fryer Package ($106) is about the same price as the Bayou kits, but Amazon customers don’t rate them as highly as the Bayou models. According to Home Depot, their turkey fryer burner gets up to 38,000 BTUs, much lower than our pick, and the legs on their burners look and seem a little less stable than the Bayou Classic’s.

At $60, the all-in-one Brinkmann Turkey Fryer is the most affordable option. But it gets only 3.5 stars over 67 Amazon reviews; they fault it for gas valve issues, with multiple users echoing Omar A. Ramirez’s comment: “Now here is the problem. This thing won’t stay lit.”

The Char-Broil Big Easy Infrared Turkey Fryer ($99), meant for the outdoors, is not technically a fryer at all. It uses a propane-powered heating chamber to cook the turkey. Because it doesn’t require oil, you can use a rub on the skin without worrying about it dissolving off. However, it does require a propane tank. Epicurious tested it and said, “Every one of our 14 Thanksgiving guests said the turkey was the best they’d ever tasted, and it was still juicy days later.” We followed up with Jolène M. Bouchon, the author of the Epicurious piece, who told us, ”I don’t know if it’s because we stored the machine outside (covered, but still) or if this is something that just happens over time, but the second year we did our turkey in the machine, it cooked unevenly. Some of the propane jet outputs had gotten blocked, I believe, which we didn’t realize until cooking was underway.” They have not gotten it fixed yet, but they do plan on it. Serious Eats’s J. Kenji Lopez-Alt considered it a unitasker and said, “Skin was great too—better than the roast, though not quite as cracklingly crisp as the actual deep-fried bird.” It earned 4.5 stars over 402 reviews, and people love it for the most part, though two people claim theirs caught on fire. Ultimately, cooking takes considerably longer than the oil fryers: 8-10 minutes per pound, making a 12-lb. bird a two-hour affair from raw to cooked (as opposed to the 30-minute heating plus 30-45 minutes in an oil fryer). While some customers think it tastes like the real deal, others think it’s not the same. Amazon customer JaSoN said, “My big complaint is that this device basically just replicates your oven, but outside.”

The Masterbuilt Butterball Oil-Free Electric Turkey Fryer and Roaster ($129) uses radiant heat like the Char-Broil. However, it uses electricity rather than propane to heat things up. Again, many customers say this is more of a roaster than a fryer. Amazon customer Casey D. Stutzman says, “If you are looking for that deep fried crispiness and look…this won’t give you that.” Amazon customer Ed says, “Did not taste like a deep fried turkey to me. However came out very juicy.”

Turkey-frying advice

- The most often repeated advice is this: Turn the fire off before you lower the turkey. Once your oil comes up to temp, turn off the flame before s-l-o-w-l-y lowering the turkey into the pot. When the moist turkey hits the hot oil, it will bubble up angrily and messily, and you don’t want that to happen when the flame is on. All those fires you see on YouTube were likely caused by overflowing oil catching fire from the burner.

- Do not leave your burner unattended. This process requires vigilance. Keep an eye on the clip-on thermometer to make sure the temperature never gets above 375 degrees at any point or you risk flash point.

- You don’t need an elaborate recipe to make a fried turkey taste good, but you do need to have the right equipment. Aside from the equipment that we’ve recommended in this guide, you will also need:

  • an instant-read thermometer for testing the turkey’s internal temperature

  • a full propane tank

  • a 35-lb. (4.5-gallon) container of peanut oil or other high-smoke point frying oil (we got ours from Costco for $41)

  • Protective long sleeves and pants, as well as good shoes (no slippers!)

  • Long-armed oven mitts (we loved this one) for lowering and lifting the turkey

  • A fire extinguisher

  • Cardboard to lay around the stove to prevent stains on your cement

  • Something to cordon off your hot oil, both during the cooking process and cooling process.

(You could do Alton Brown’s turkey derrick, but turning the flame off before lowering the turkey using the kit’s hook and a strong oven mitt will give you plenty of control and protection.)

- We found the Serious Eats guide, the Alton Brown video, and the Sam Sifton recipe on Bon Appetit most helpful.

- Test your burner before the big day, especially if you’ve moved your setup. Use soapy water to check for leaks at all of the connections. You want to make sure everything turns on and off smoothly and that your burner is stable before you start heating up your oil.

- Even if there’s a fill line on your pot, you’re better off doing a liquid displacement test before you heat the oil. A lot of people recommend that you put your turkey in the pot, fill with enough water to cover, measure how much water you’ve used, and then use that amount of oil. But this means you have wet your turkey again just when you need it to be dry. We like Serious Eats’s technique—put the bird into the pot and cover with oil, not water; once you reach the right level, take the turkey out and put the pot of oil on the burner to heat. And you don’t have to completely submerge the turkey – once you lower the turkey in, the hot oil will bubble up enough to cover the top of the bird. Respect the max fill line on the pot.

- Set the turkey upright on the rack, breast up, legs down, “like a beer can chicken, like any second it could just start dancing,” says Hunter. This is also the advice that Serious Eats gives.

- Cement is going to be a more sturdy, stable base than dirt. Brandon Boudet says, “Lay out a couple of cardboard boxes around, where you’re going to be standing. Helps absorb the oil.” Once your bird is done, place a stack of newspaper on the cardboard next to the pot and let the turkey drain excess oil there before you transfer it to your cutting board. There will be a lot of drainage.

- Keep dogs and children far, far away. They are going to want to get in on the action. Be firm.

- Accidents can happen even after the stove is turned off, and four gallons of oil require a whole day to cool off. Make sure you let the pot cool in a safe place where little hands won’t reach in.

- You can reuse the oil. Brandon says he can fry two turkeys in a single batch of oil before changing it—useful if you’re having more than 10 people over because you can just fry a second turkey after the first one comes out (in less time than it takes to roast one in the oven). Hunter suggests letting the oil cool, skimming the top and straining the bits out, and saving the oil for one more use.

- Once you’ve exhausted its use, don’t pour the oil down the drain, where it can clog your pipes. Check your local Craigslist to find biofuel recyclers who’ll be happy to take the stuff off of your hands. You can also check your local .gov for household hazardous waste recycling events.

- Hunter Lewis says, “And just to reiterate, dogs love these things.”

Wrapping it up

The Bayou Classic Aluminum Turkey Fryer Stockpot ($40) and the Bayou Classic Single Burner Patio Stove ($50) provide an affordable fryer setup that will probably make you want to cook everything outside. Be safe and have fun!

Footnotes:

1. Kosher turkeys are deliciously plump and juicy because the koshering process involves salting the bird to extract impurities. However, they also have a lot of quills left on them — not a pretty sight for trypophobes. Joan Nathan, writing for Tablet Magazine, investigated this and says, “When I asked an Empire spokesperson about this, he explained that since only cold water is allowed in a kosher slaughter, it is harder to get rid of the feathers. The reason that warm water, which would loosen the feathers and allow for easier extraction, is not allowed is that warm water would begin the cooking process forbidden during slaughtering.” If you don’t keep strictly kosher but just want that brine-like juiciness without the hassle of overnighting a 12-pound bird in the fridge, know that many conventional turkey sellers, including Butterball, inject their birds with a salt solution for a similar succulence. Jump back.

2. The Masterbuilt Electric Turkey Fryer mentions in its manual that their device is “CSA approved to UL standards.” This is not the same as being approved by UL. CSA is an acronym for the Canadian Standards Association, a separate organization from UL. I contacted UL for some clarification on what this means and was told, “UL does research and helps develop standards for a variety of products/product categories. These become industry-wide standards. We also will test, inspect and certify products to those standards. Other testing organizations such as CSA will also test, inspect and certify to industry-wide standards such as ones developed by UL. We do want to be clear that the product did not go through our process and does not have the UL mark. It has a CSA mark.” Jump back.

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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
  • 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.