Friday, September 13, 2013

Deep Fried Turkey

Fried turkey!!  It's what's for dinner.
Until tonight, I've only had a "real" fried turkey once.  That was many years ago when I was visiting a cousin in Missouri and they made one for me. I loved it, but just never did it myself. I actually have two different "oil-less" turkey fryers (one propane and one electric). They do a good job but it's not quite the same as really frying one.

Today is my father-in-law's birthday. He had never asked me to make anything before so when he said the one thing he really wanted to try was a fried turkey (he had never had one), I jumped at the chance.

I read as many things as I could about it first because I had heard all the stories about how dangerous it can be. I also asked for any helpful hints from my friends on Facebook (thanks to everyone who helped me out!).

I finally decided that for safety reasons I'd go with my favorite chef, Alton Brown's, safety measures. His video is here - this is the third of three parts but it covers the safety aspect. Yes, it may be a bit of overkill but I figured it was worth it if it meant I didn't have to worry about getting burned with hot oil!

I didn't want to sacrifice having gravy so I'll also tell you how to make it without traditionally roasting a turkey - because what's a turkey without it? It's just not the same in my book.

Now, how did it come out?

I think it was one of the best turkeys I've ever had. It certainly rivals the ones I cook on the rotisserie which up until now have been my favorite. Everyone who was here seemed to think the same thing. I attribute part of that to brining - my experience has been that brining poultry (or pork) makes it much better and the same thing definitely applies when frying.

As always, if you try this, please let me know what you think in the comments - and if you have any tips for next time I'd love to hear them as well!

Apple Cider, Maple Syrup and Orange-Lemon Brine


Turkey sitting in the brine
  • 7 cups hot water
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 2 sliced oranges
  • 1 sliced lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons cracked black peppercorns
  • Whole turkey (this will work with any size - the one I fried was 14 pounds)

  1. Stir the hot water and salt together until the salt is dissolved. 
  2. Add the apple cider, maple syrup, peppercorns, lemons and oranges. At this point, if you want you can also add other herbs/spices. I like to throw in some freshly chopped rosemary, thyme and sage if I'm cooking poultry and just rosemary if I'm cooking pork. 
    The bird getting ready to be
    lowered into the oil.
    1. Cool to below 45 degrees F. in the refrigerator. If you want to speed this process, use about three cups of hot water and follow the same process as above, after mixing well, add four cups of ice water.
    2. Remove the turkey from the packaging and rinse well. Remove neck and any giblets that may be packaged in the cavity.
    3. Place turkey in a large pan or food safe bag. For a large bird, I bought an orange Home Depot bucket that I cleaned out well and keep specifically for brining.
    4. The turkey should stay in the brine for a minimum of 24 hours. I've kept it brining for 48 hours with no problems. It also needs to stay cool while it's brining. If your refrigerator is large enough, use that. When I'm doing a whole turkey I'm also generally using my refrigerator space for other things so I have a VERY large cooler that I put it in along with a generous supply of ice.
    5. Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse well and pat dry.

    To fry the turkey

    1. Allow the turkey to sit at room temperature for at least half an hour prior to cooking.  It also 
      You want to keep the oil at about 350 degrees
      needs to be very dry. You'll be putting it in hot oil so this is incredibly important. At this point, there shouldn't be any ice crystals left in it (it should have been completely thawed before brining it) but it doesn't hurt to check - you want as little moisture as possible before lowering the bird into the oil.
    2. Place the oil into a 28 to 30-quart pot and set over high heat on an outside propane burner. It's very important that you do this in an OPEN area - NOT inside (including NOT in a garage!). 
    3. Bring the temperature of the oil to 250 degrees F. 
    4. Once the temperature has reached 250, slowly lower the bird into the oil and bring the temperature to 350 degrees F. 
    5. Once it has reached 350, lower the heat as necessary in order to maintain 350 degrees F. 
    6. After approximately 35-40 minutes, check the temperature of the turkey using a probe thermometer. (Timing will depend on the size of the bird - smaller birds will take less time, larger will take longer. A good rule of thumb is approximately three to three and a half minutes per pound.)
    7. Once the breast reaches 151 degrees F, gently remove from the oil and allow to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes prior to carving. The bird will reach an internal temperature of 161 degrees F due to carry over cooking. 
    8. Carve as desired.

    How to make turkey gravy without roasting a whole turkey!

    • 2 turkey wings

    • 2 turkey legs
    • 4 stalks of celery 
    • 1 medium onion, quartered
    • 4 cloves garlic, cut in half
    • 8 cups water
    • 1 stick butter
    • 8 tbsp all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup whole milk
    • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar (Yes, apple cider vinegar. I thought it was really weird the first time I ever heard about using it in turkey gravy but it adds a great flavor as long as you don't use too much!)
    • Salt to taste 
    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and in a large sauté or roasting pan (I use one of my large LeCreuset Dutch ovens), roast turkey wings, celery, onion and garlic for 2 hours. 
    2. Remove from the oven.
    3. Place on the stove, add water and bring to a boil (I said 6 cups - but you really just want to be certain it's enough to cover the turkey pieces and vegetables). Turn the heat down and simmer on low for an hour, uncovered, to reduce the stock.
    4. Strain the stock into a bowl. 
    5. Put it into the refrigerator for a couple of hours (or overnight). This will make it much easier to remove the fat that will accumulate on top.
    6. In a large sauté pan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour (You are really just making a roux at this point.)
    7. Cook, whisking constantly over medium heat for about two minutes or until it starts to turn a light tan color. 
    8. Whisk in turkey stock and cook until thickened. 
    9. Add milk, cider vinegar and salt to taste. If your gravy isn't as thick as you'd like, simply mix together some cornstarch (or flour) and cold water. Whisk this mixture slowly into the gravy and that will cause it to thicken more. (Gravy tends to thicken when you take it off the heat so you don't want to make it TOO thick.)
    That's it - you now have gravy to use with your mashed potatoes! Easy to do and just as good as if you had roasted a whole turkey.

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