Alternatives To Fire-Prone Turkey Fryers

A turkey fryer has never really sounded like a safe way to cook—there’s just something inherently stupid about the act of dropping a dead bird the size of a basketball into a vat of boiling oil, no matter how tasty the outcome. According to TheStreet.com, “Turkey fryers are a known cause of many fires, so much so that the National Fire Protection Association advises against their use.” TheStreet test-drives an alternative, the $129 Char-Broil Big Easy oil-less fryer, which Char-Broil describes as “Just like a turkey fryer, minus the boiling, hot oil and visits from your local firefighters.” According to TheStreet, it doesn’t leave the skin as crispy as a real fryer would, but otherwise works great.

The double-walled cooking chamber’s construction supposedly creates an environment in which the heat “penetrates” the turkey evenly, resulting in a quick cooking time and a bird with crispy skin and moist meat — in other words, exactly what you’d expect from a fryer.

[The oil-less fryer] does live up to its promises in terms of the incredibly speedy cooking time (I did a 10-pound bird in less than an hour, which may even be faster than a fryer) and the seal-in-all-the-juicy-goodness factor (this bird oozed its essential turkey-ness with every slice of the knife).

For $80, there’s also the Orion Holiday Turkey Cooker/Smoker, which uses charcoal, but TheStreet.com clearly places it a distant second (we’re not even sure they tested it).

“Fry a Turkey Without Starting a Fire” [TheStreet]
(Image: Char-Broil)

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  1. rickhamilton620 says:

    That actually seems kinda cool. I always wondered what fried turkey tasted like though O_o

  2. marsneedsrabbits says:

    Yeah, but nothing says lovin’ like almost burning the house down every year.

    Actually, I’ve always wondered what a fried turkey would taste like, too. Just not enough to actually attempt to fry one.

    I roast mine breast side down stuffed with apples and onions until the last hour, then flip it breast side up to crisp & it is super moist, so I can’t see risking the house to see if there is a better method.

    For a while, there was a fried chicken restaurant here that offered fried turkeys the day before Christmas and Thanksgiving, but I haven’t seen their ads for at least a couple of years.

  3. PHX602 says:

    Because of course, on a day of overeating in a nation beset with an obesity problem….what the hell? We may as well clog those arteries in style!

  4. Alton Brown did a turky derrick to fry safely, but it takes so long to set up, just to be “safe”, that it seems stupid to even begin.

  5. mconfoy says:

    @marsneedsrabbits: Turkey fryers are meant to be used outside only. If someone is using them inside, they should have their head examined and perhaps prescribed heavy doses of Thorazine. I just can’t imagine being stupid enough to use indoors. Which explains why they are more popular where it is warm.

    @PHX602: Fried turkey is healthier as far as fat is concerned than baked turkey. The frying seals the bird, keeping in the juices and the fat stays on the outside. A quick google search can save one from having to taste crow btw.

  6. PHX602 says:

    @mconfoy: I love the know-it-alls that inhabit Consumerist.

    [www.eatright.org]

    “Many people wonder if deep frying adds fat to a turkey. If the cooking oil stays hot enough – 350 degrees F for the entire frying process – deep frying makes little difference.
    A 3 ½-ounce portion of deep-fried turkey with the skin on contains about 12 grams of fat, compared with 10 grams in a 3 ½-ounce portion of roasted turkey (white or dark meat) with the skin on. However, if the temperature of the cooking oil falls to 340 degrees F or less, more oil seeps into the turkey meat, adding to the fat content.”

    Now, I only got an A in Statistics in college, and an A- in Calculus, but 12 is greater than 10.

    We’ll start the ass-kissing with…you. Pucker up, buttercup.

  7. Trai_Dep says:

    3oz of turkey is the suggested serving size on Thanksgiving? Feeding sparrow-sized elves this year? So multiply the 20% difference by 4x or so. Though, anyone expecting to lose weight over that week, might was well start sewing your white flag now to avoid the rush.

    I always liked the idea of deep frying a 20lb turkey – frozen even better – indoors. Darwin in action and gives those lonely firefighters something to do.

  8. Alvis says:

    Broiled != Fried.

  9. JustIcedCoffee says:

    @mconfoy: The fire issue is not because people use them indoors, it’s that people tend to use them on decks, or porches, with a propane heating element. The turkey falls over, oil ignites, and conveniently enough it’s on wood, attached to the house… and poof.
    It must suck… not only does your house go up, but you don’t get your turkey either.

  10. cuiusquemodi says:

    @spiderjerusalem: Because it’s so difficult to find an open patch of grass and set up a ladder and a few pulleys. It’ll give you something to do while the bird brines.

    For my money, fried turkey is just better than the alternative, even if it means a little more fat. I would be curious as to the effect that this new contraption, though that the skin is reported to not be as crispy somewhat worries me. If it’s not that much of a change, the reduced risk of inadvertent siege warfare would be worth it.

  11. cuiusquemodi says:

    @JustIcedCoffee: And it’s Darwin Award nominees like this who give responsible people a bad name and cause the need for the government to get involved. The manufacturer includes directions with safety precautions for a reason (Do not use indoors, Do not use on a wooden deck). Come on, people, do we want another lawn darts on our hands? Take the necessary precautions and have a fire extinguisher on hand.

  12. Major-General says:

    Frankly, what’s the deal with fried turkey anyway.

  13. @cuiusquemodi: Exactly. I’ve safely (read: away from the house, over concrete or other non-flammables, pre-measured the oil to avoid spills, used a helper and a basket) for several years.

    Everyone I’ve shared it with LOVES fried turkey. The crispy skin, the not-waiting-four-hours-while-Uncle-Bob-gets-steadily-drunker…it’s an all-around winner.

    Additionally, peanut oil is high in vitamin E, so it’s good for your skin. Or something.

  14. rmuser says:

    In case you haven’t seen what happens when deep-frying a turkey goes wrong, take a look at this Underwriters Laboratories test.

    [video.google.com]

  15. TangDrinker says:

    Or do what most responsible people do – order your fried turkey from Bojangles or another place. Most of the Cajun/Creole places take orders for them – and I just noticed the KFC down the road advertising them. Not sure I’d want my turkey KFC krispy. Fried turkey isn’t too bad – it is more juicy and rich than a traditional baked bird, but the stock made from the carcass isn’t as good as a traditional bird. I think I’m going with the brining/baking version myself this year.

  16. Spamboy says:

    Frying turkeys is great — takes only 45-60 minutes to cook one, and they never, ever come out tasting dry like an overbaked turkey. Frees up the oven for other things, such as cooking/reheating. Injectible marinades make it taste wonderful. Besides, you have to have something to watch (i.e. boiling, scalding oil) besides the Lions game!

  17. Rusted says:

    @PHX602: I tried. Wrong ancestors. Skin just gets oily.

  18. Trai_Dep says:

    @cuiusquemodi: Deep fried law darts!

  19. rjflyn says:

    Maybe they need to require selling fire extinguishers with them. Personally i am allergic to poultry so i will be enjoying something else between the heart attacks and code blues on that day.

  20. ncboxer says:

    Deep fried turkey is terrific. A neighbor did it for this first time a couple of years ago and brought over a plate of it, and it was so juicy and delicious. We bought a pre-made deep fried turkey one year that had to be heated in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. I was definitely not the same.

    It does matter what you deep fry in and where you do it. My neighbor uses a very large stainless steel pot and a huge square heating element. So there is plenty of room for the turkey and oil. Also the base is very stable, so it won’t just tip over. He
    places it on his concrete driveway, so if there are any spills, it won’t matter. He uses the same type of pot to make beer, so it comes in handy for other things as well.

  21. Pylon83 says:

    Deep frying is only dangerous if you are an idiot. Most people start fires because they put too much oil in, and when the put in the turkey, the oil overflows, his the heating elements, and ignites. If you’re not a complete moron (which is a minority of the population), it’s an entirely safe activity.

  22. girly says:

    Reading about the infrared cooking method reminded me of those infomercials for the “flavor wave”. I think that can cook a 10 lb turkey. It’s about 100 bucks but I think a larger item (possibly even just the 10 lb turkey) might require a 30 buck extender.

    I don’t know how it compares to this, but at least that thing is multi-purpose and works indoors.

    I would lean toward that, but I haven’t tried any of these methods.

  23. girly says:

    oh boy. there is yet another one called the nu-wave(claims to be first), and it gives more info on cooking a whole turkey:

    # Without the extender ring, you can cook up to a 10 lb turkey
    # However with the extender ring, you can increase the capacity of the oven by 50% and cook up to a 16 lb. turkey.

  24. rbdfoxes says:

    My uncle (a responsible, college-educated father and business owner) fried turkeys for Thanksgiving for quite a few years with no problems until one of the hoses dislodged itself from the fryer, spewing boiling oil all over his calf, resulting in a trip to the ER and a gaping oozing wound for the next several weeks.

  25. Trai_Dep says:

    …But was his calf crispy on the outside and tender underneath?

  26. @rbdfoxes: Can I ask what hose this was? Most of the fryers I have seen have but one hose and that is from the fuel to the burner.

  27. JAYEONE says:

    Save a turkey, eat a pizza!

    (the firefighters might come over too if you ask nicely.)

  28. Frank_Trapasso says:

    @GitEmSteveDave:

    I second this request – sounds like anti-frying haterism to me!

  29. Sian says:

    Simply put, your average consumer isn’t smart enough to fry a turkey safely. this is difficult, advanced cooking, and you need to handle it with the same care as a pyrotechnician. Mind you, the results are very good, but even I question if it’s worth the extra risk. The IR Broiler is an interesting alternative.

  30. korith says:

    Never heard or seen anyone fry a turkey till I started going to college here in the states. Very weird world we live in, especially in the south here. Fried foods everywhere.

  31. Mr. Gunn says:

    I think it’s worth it. You can’t stop idiots from being idiots, anyways.

  32. mconfoy says:

    @PHX602: Ah, from the same people that had me eating low fat, high carb diets to reduce my triglycerides. Excellent. Trust them, then leave us be.

  33. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    Man fried turkey is the best. We have been doing it for about 4 years, 10 or so turkeys later we have never had a problem. We set it up in the middle of a concrete patio about 15 feet from anything. Its really easy to check the proper amount of oil needed. There is a line on the inside of our fryer as a guide. We fill to the guide put the turkey in quickly and check the oil level. If we need more oil we add it then remove the turkey and allow the oil to drip off back into the fryer. We use a campfire type pot hanger. Once the oil has drained off the turkey, it goes back into the brine and we start heating the oil. When lowering the turkey into the oil we do it with the crank on the pot hanger. 60 min later we have DEEEElicious bird.

  34. MostNutsEver says:

    I love the fried turkey. In my family we usually have one fried turkey and one baked turkey. You guess which one has any left over at the end of the day.