Deep Fry Your Turkey Without Turning Into A Human Torch

If you’re planning to deep-fry your turkey this Thanksgiving, Consumer Reports has one simple piece of advice: Skip the propane and go electric.

For starters, do not buy an outdoor propane-powered fryer. Without a thermostat control, the fryer can heat the oil to the point of combustion. These models can hold five gallons of oil, and cooking with that much oil at a high temperature poses added risk. Electric fryers are much safer.

The Masterbuilt Butterball Professional Series Indoor Electric Turkey Fryer we recently tested is designed for indoor use, has a thermostat, and uses two gallons of oil. The turkey turned out nicely browned and very juicy–only the thighs were a bit oily.

Consumer Reports also has advice on gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes and other holiday foods. And, no, they don’t recommend deep-frying your stuffing.

Q&A: Deep frying a Thanksgiving turkey [Consumer Reports]

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  1. MDSasquatch says:

    I do mine on the grill, it turns out very good and has nice crispy skin to boot.

    • Hoss says:

      The turkey fat doesn’t make a mess?

      • MDSasquatch says:

        not in my case; I have a fairly good Weber and the grease is caught in an aluminum pan that I simply toss after it is cooked.

    • Aennan says:

      My dad always did the same thing – very moist and beautifully browned. Plus, it freed up the oven for so much else!

    • MikeM_inMD says:

      This will by my third Thanksgiving grilling the turkey on the Weber. My wife and kids would loudly object if I suggested any other way. I start with a plain, brined bird, and it comes out crispy-skinned and moist.

  2. MistahFixit says:

    Actually…

    Deep-Fried Stuffing sounds pretty damned good :o

  3. Platypi {Redacted} says:

    Mmmmm, deep fried stuffing. I think that has potential there. Stuffing balls, dipped in gravy. I would try them.

    Granted, I am actually gaining weight typing that.

  4. Alvis says:

    I don’t want to see a list of “more healthful” stuffings. I want a list of ones that will put me into a savory-induced coma.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      I made stuffing from scratch last night for the very first time. I cooked the chicken in the crockpot and came home to find it full of yummy juice. About 1/2 cup of juice + 1 cup of water + 1 loaf of stale bread & some various seasonings (mostly thyme, parsley, garlic & onion) = BETTER THAN STOVETOP! :)

      A lot less sodium too, which made me happy – and tasted just as good.

    • Me - now with more humidity says:

      Amen. It’s one day a year… plus leftovers. Mmmmm… leftovers!

  5. Hoss says:

    Be safe. Keep the thing at least 30 feet from your trailer

    • magus_melchior says:

      (Pardon the comment abuse…)

      1. ALWAYS HAVE A FIRE EXTINGUISHER AVAILABLE. You should have one if you’re doing some serious cooking anyway, as it can be the difference between just a ruined dinner and a ruined house.
      2a. If you don’t get the fancy electric fryer appliance (which is understandable if you already have a big stockpot and an outdoor burner), get a big fry thermometer to monitor the oil’s temperature, or better yet, two probe-type cooking thermometers (one for the oil, one for the turkey).
      2b. Also, don’t leave the thing alone when you’re heating the oil alone– oil usually has an auto-ignition temperature well above 400 degrees, but that doesn’t mean you can walk away to work on the green bean casserole. Once the turkey’s cooking, the oil temperature shouldn’t move around too much unless you’ve got the burner on full blast.
      2c. Finally, try to do it outdoors on grass or asphalt (or over any non-flammable surface you won’t mind spilling oil on).
      3. As others no doubt have mentioned, thaw your bird and pat it dry before dunking it into the oil, and lower the bird in slowly. It won’t explode if you chuck a frozen turkey into the oil, but you will run the risk of a serious grease fire. If you don’t like getting splattered by hot oil, use a stepladder and some string to lower the turkey in from above, or get some welder’s gloves.
      4. If the oil should ignite, never, EVER use water to try to extinguish it (let alone a soup can– leave that to the MythBusters)!

  6. nybiker says:

    Well, if it only cooks a 12-14 pound turkey in 48 minutes, I guess you could cook 2 of them (just keep the first one in the oven on warm).

  7. Me - now with more humidity says:

    I’m always amazed at little oil is actually consumed in the frying process. Best… turkeys… ever.

    Although if I roast one, I turn it upside down so the juices flow down into the breast. Wayyyyy good.

  8. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Propane or not, the issue is people filling the pot to the top without accounting for displacement of the turkey. Don’t be scientifically dense, and only fill the pot 1/4 – 1/3 of the way full.

    • MistahFixit says:

      Archimedes: “Indeed. Now, if you’ll pardon me, I’m in the middle of devising how to set Romans on fire using mirrors.”

    • _joecrawford says:

      Or just put the turkey in the cold oil first and take all the guess work out of it.

      • MercuryPDX says:

        OR… you can brine it in the same pot you’re going to deep fry it in and use the brine solution as a guide. :)

        Most people don’t seem to brine it before deep frying though. :/

        • AustinTXProgrammer says:

          I would suspect the extra moisture would make for a lot more dangerous popping and splashing.

          I have have fried 8 turkeys so far. Never an accidental fire, but I have overflowed the oil a little before. If you put the fryer well away from any structures the worst case is loosing thanksgiving dinner.

    • Me - now with more humidity says:

      You need more than that. A 35 pound jug of peanut oil is perfect.

      If you don’t trust it, put the turkey in the fryer still wrapped, then fill the fryer with water. Take a Sharpie and mark the side of the fryer at the point where the water covers the turkey. Should be about 3 inches or so from the top.

      • Me - now with more humidity says:

        Of course, that should read: remove the turkey and mark the pot at the level where the water is.

  9. cash_da_pibble says:

    I learned that you FIRST fill your pot with water- GAS off- and dunk the bird in.
    Note the level you want your oil to be- two inches from top, preferably, and then remove the bird.
    Note where the water level is AFTER you remove the bird- and that’s how much oil you put in.
    Very safe way to ensure your oil doesn’t boil over.
    Also, don’t leave your deep-frying turkey unattended. You want someone there to make sure to turn down the heat when things get a bit sketchy.

    • magus_melchior says:

      You mean “oil” every time you write “water”, yes? Otherwise you’d be trying to boil and deep-fry the bird at the same time, and I’m not sure how that would be physically possible.

    • magus_melchior says:

      If my previous comment makes it through, I apologize– brain no work good with low sleep.

      Yes, it’s always a good idea to test to see what volume of oil you need by using water as the testing liquid.

  10. humphrmi says:

    Another safety issue with deep frying – whether it’s an electric or gas fryer, keep in mind that hot oil and water react in a very violent way. It’s important to thoroughly thaw the bird, and I would also dry it off. Otherwise, you could have an oil boil-over.

  11. ohhhh says:

    The local stores have quit selling oil in 5 gallon jugs for deep frying, it is now sold in 3 gallon jugs to keep the morons from catching their trailers on fire. Unfortunately only the biggest birds will displace enough volume in my fryer to need 3 gallons so I am stuck purchasing two 3 gallon jugs to deep fry smaller birds or critters.

  12. Jfielder says:

    I wouldn’t consider using an electric turkey fryer inside… Just too much steam and fryer stink.

    Also, after the turkey is done, what’s a better desert than some deep fried twinkies?? If you haven’t tried it, I highly suggest it. Just dip them in some funnel cake batter and toss em in there. I like mine with a little chocolate syrup, powdered sugar, and some fresh sliced strawberries can be a nice addition too. Then enjoy your food coma.

    • cash_da_pibble says:

      Heh, just after Thanksgiving last year we experimented with our deep fryer…

      Deep Fried Jumbo Jacks = Heaven.
      Seriously.

      • Jfielder says:

        Haha, I had to google what a Jumbo Jack was. We don’t have Jack in the Box here in Michigan. But yeah, we have tried deep frying a burger before. This was a big 1/3lb burger, cooked to mid rare, with some cheese and tomato, beer battered then deep fried. This took place in the back of an upscale restaurant (brother in law is an executive chef), and thankfully lots of people wanted a taste. We cut the burger into 6 pieces, and I couldn’t imagine trying to eat more than that… but yeah, it was real tasty. Tasted like hot, delicious death.

  13. dolemite says:

    Mmm oily thighs. The breasts didn’t stay oiled?

  14. MercuryPDX says:

    My new favorite: Stuffing Muffins

  15. Andyb2260 says:

    What about using a good old fashioned Nesco type roaster? My folks used to deep fry chicken in one when I was a kid. Fill it with oil, set the temp, get to frying. That’s what the electric turkey fryed shown in the video looks like, a Nesco roaster.

  16. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    It makes me wanna deepfry everything, ala “king of the Hill”: Bill and Boomhauer accidentally drop a beer in to the fryer, starting a grease fire and launching the beer onto the Hills’ roof…

    • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

      Bill: If everybody fried their food, there would be no war.
      Boomhauer: Mm-hm.
      Bill: What shall we try next, Boomhauer?
      Boomhauer: Tell you what, man, talkin’ ’bout some dang ol’ fried fried chicken, man.
      Bill: Fried chicken refried? Damn!
      Bill: We’ve buried the needle, Boomhauer! We’re frying where no man has fried before!
      (Bill steps on a flaming turkey, tries in vain to kick it off of his foot, and starts screaming and running around.)
      Bobby: Mr. Dauterive’s on fire!
      Hank: That’ll happen.

  17. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    Deep frying a turkey scares the hell out of my significant other so I am not allowed to do it.

    What I do instead is BBQ the bird. I dress it as though it were going in the oven, all the same prep. But, I put it in a doubled up disposable foil pan on a some carrots celery and onions, put a half dozen strips of bacon over the breasts then cover with either foil or brown paper. Then it does into the BBQ with the normal grilling grate removed so it sits on the grate that would have help the stone. BBQ on low/med to stay at 300-350 then just monitor the electronic thermometer.

    This started in my family 30 years ago when one Christmas the oven died halfway through cooking a huge turkey. We went to the BBQ for backup and the bird was better than normal.

    The upside to this method is that the house does not fill with the odor of the cooking bird so people can actually focus on other things instead of eating all day.

    By the way the bacon renders down slowly releasing fat to baste the bird while it cooks. The vegies the bird sits on give up their flavour to the gravy and they are discarded.

    Best of all it frees up the oven for the baking of other delicacies.

  18. human_shield says:

    Slow smoked turkey…much safer.

    • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

      I tried that, but I couldn’t keep it lit.

      Ganja stuffing was awesome, though.

    • cash_da_pibble says:

      Absolutely delicious but tons of maintainence.
      My parents have smoked Turkeys for as long as I can remember, and the Smoking always starts at 7:00 pm Wednesday night, and is ready about 20 hours later.

  19. Starfury says:

    The in-laws have turkey roasters and we use those. Perfect bird every year.

  20. no says:

    Or, don’t fry the turkey. I never got the whole frying the turkey thing. Can’t cook it normally without making it too dry? It’s not hard.

  21. sp00nix says:

    Were they trying to be subtly racist in the beginning there?

  22. Audiyoda28 says:

    I’ve been deep frying a turkey for Thanksgiving for I’d say the last 8 years. Never had a mishap or any problems. But then I didn’t purchase a cheap fryer – mine has a octagonal base that is 1.5 times the diameter of the top – there’s just no way to knock this fryer over unless you absolutely try. I always use displacement to determine how much oil I need and I use two thermometers – an electric thermometer that I mount to the turkey holder (so I know the temp of the oil near the bottom of the fryer) and one mounted to the side of the fryer. I always work out on the driveway away from the house and have my extinguisher handy, just in case.

    But I’m sure someday the idiots of this world will make frying a turkey outdoors with propane illegal and i’ll be forced to but an electric model.

    • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

      They’ll take my propane turkey fryer from me when they pry it from my smoldering dead hands!

  23. crtjer says:

    Good Eats episode on Turkey Frying is all you need to know. Google it.

    • Cleo256 says:

      Seconded. Alton Brown is a master of food education, and his episode on deep-frying your turkey safely ought to be required viewing for anyone attempting it.

  24. tjytiedt says:

    I have fried three turkeys over the last three years. No problems. Just use common sense and determine the proper oil level by submerging the turkey in water in the pot, removing the turkey, and then using that amount of oil to fry. Anything else need fryin’?

  25. StoicLion says:

    I’m no fan of turkey (prefer ham) but I found Alton Brown’s episode covering the method in question to be both entertaining and educational. He definitely stresses the need to know what you’re doing before starting the fire.

  26. MrEvil says:

    It’s only a fire hazard because dumbasses do not use PEANUT OIL which doesn’t auto ignite until it reaches 829 degrees Fahrenheit. By that point the integrity of the aluminium pot will have been SEVERELY compromised by the heat (aluminium melts at 1220 degrees). That’s if the burner can actually put that much heat into 4 gallons of peanut oil. Last time I tried frying a turkey it took almost an hour with the burner at full blast to get the oil to the measly 360 degrees required for frying. Once the bird was in and cooking we were lucky to keep the temp up for optimum cooking. This was on a 30 degree evening by the way.

    You can use those outdoor propane cookers safely if you follow these steps:

    1) THAW YOUR TURKEY, ice crystals make oil froth and spatter.
    2) Blot the outside of your turkey with paper towels, the less water on the outside the better.
    3) ONLY USE PEANUT OIL! Other oils have much lower smoke and auto-ignition temperatures. Sure it’ll cost you $70 to fill the fryer, but again do you want a delicious deep fried turkey or do you want to set your house on fire?
    4) DO NOT OVERFILL THE POT Most turkey fryers have a very sizable pot, 10 gallons or so. The max fill line is right at the 4 gallon mark and is PLENTY for any turkey you can get at the grocery.

    Following those four simple guidelines you can safely deep fry a turkey and not even get spattered with hot oil dipping it in the pot and taking it out.

  27. ArizonaGeek says:

    I got one of the Masterbuilt electric fryers last year for Thanksgiving and it was wonderful to use, very easy and just as fast cooking as a gas fryer. It took a little longer to heat up the oil, about 45 minutes or so. But I swear it was the best turkey I’ve ever fried. Now I did change up my marinade recipe so that might have helped but I was pretty impressed. I am cooking two turkeys this year with my fryer. Sheesh I outta sell these things, I sound like a spokesperson!

  28. Rachacha says:

    If you do use a propane fryer, make sure that the turkey is completely thawed. If you do have even a partially frozen turkey, when you place the turkey in the fryer, the frozen water goes instantly from a solid (ice) to a vapor (steam) which causes the oil to bubble violently as the hot steam escapes, this causes the oil to bubble over the top of the pot and potentially start a fire.

  29. goller321 says:

    I have a propane set up, but I’ll never use it again after buying an electric model. The ease, safety and temperature controls make it a no brainer…