Once considered a Southern tradition, the deep-fried turkey has grown in popularity all over the country in recent years with celebrity chef endorsements, availability of gas and electric fryers and as a time-efficient cooking method on Thanksgiving Day. Some families’ long-standing traditions of oven roasted turkeys are finding themselves slowly replaced by the crispy skin and moist meat of the deep-fried turkey. However, the reward is not without risk. Deep-frying a turkey is inherently more dangerous than putting the turkey in the oven, requiring particular attention to safety considerations. Make sure you are prepared and know how to properly fry a turkey before heating up the oil and potentially causing a dangerous situation.
Whether you choose an electric or propane turkey fryer, the cooking temperature of the oil must reach at least 350 degrees to be ready to cook the turkey. With an open container of hot oil that could splash or spill out, the National Fire Protection Agency  warns consumers to be extra careful when operating turkey fryers. If possible, the agency advises to utilize the resources of professional establishments such as a grocery store or specialty food store. If you are cooking at home, here are some safety tips to help prevent a dangerous situation from unfolding during your Thanksgiving celebration.
Prepare a Secure Cooking Area – Although electric fryers are designed for inside use, the day of Thanksgiving can be a very busy day with people coming and going. Prepare a secure cooking area away from children, pets and high traffic outside. Make sure the surface under which the deep-fryer will sit is flat dirt or grassy area. Avoid frying on wood decks, which can catch fire. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby.
Have a Ready-to-Fry Turkey – If you plan on frying a frozen turkey it is absolutely necessary to make sure the turkey has completely thawed. Placing a frozen turkey in 350 degree oil can cause the oil to boil over and cause a fire. The turkey should be thawed, with an internal temperature of 41 degrees or cooler to prevent bacteria from forming. You may flavor the turkey with injectible marinades, as well as season the interior and exterior of the turkey with seasonings.
Start with the Right Temperature – Most cooking instructions call for the cooking oil to be between 325 and 350. Attach a cooking thermometer to the side of the deep-fryer, watching carefully for the cooking oil to reach the desired temperature before placing the turkey inside.
Carefully Lower the Turkey in the Fryer – Make sure you have the turkey properly placed on the hanger or secured in the basket before lowering into the cooking oil. Stand back and lower the turkey very slowly to prevent oil from boiling over the fryer.
Cook to the Proper Temperature – To avoid foodborne illness, fry the turkey to 170 degrees internal temperature in the breast, 180 degrees in the thighs.
Turkey Frying Don’ts – Do not stuff the turkey with anything before frying. Don’t use too much oil. If you are not sure how much oil you need to fry your turkey, start by placing the turkey (before seasoning) on the hanger into an empty and cold fryer. Add enough water to cover an inch or two above the turkey. This is the amount of oil you will need. Do not leave the cooking oil unsupervised while it is heating and cooking the turkey. Don’t pour out hot oil. Wait for the cooking oil to completely cool before draining from the fryer.