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HOW TO DEEP-FRY A TURKEY WITHOUT SETTING YOUR HOUSE ON FIRE

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Sure, you can set your alarm for the early hours of Thanksgiving morning, drag yourself out of a warm bed, and put that big old bird in the oven so it’s ready when your guests arrive at noon.

Or you can sleep in, watch the Macy’s parade, then go outside and cook your turkey in less than an hour.

It’s not a holiday miracle. It’s the magic of deep-frying.

On a crisp fall morning recently, Steve Ziegler is prepping a 13-pound turkey on a table behind the WebstaurantStore’s corporate headquarters off Airport Road in Manheim Township.

Ziegler, product specialist for the online restaurant-supply company, is simultaneously heating oil — to 350 degrees — in a big silver cylinder atop a burner platform. The deep-fryer is attached to a propane tank.

Donning latex gloves, Ziegler seasons the turkey inside and out and arranges it — sitting upright, legs up — on a metal rack, attaching a metal “lift hook.”

Now the turkey is ready to take the plunge. Instead of roasting away for hours in the oven, it’s sizzling in hot oil for about three minutes per pound.

Safety first

When deep-frying a turkey, Ziegler says, safety is paramount.

“One of the biggest safety tips is to make sure you’re using a completely thawed turkey,” he says. “If you put a frozen turkey into a vat of oil, the water in it will cause you to have a boil-over, and then you will have a fire.

“Putting anything frozen into hot oil is just a really, really bad idea. Especially something the size of a turkey,” he says.

“You also want to be sure that you dry your turkey completely,” he adds. “That goes double if you have brined it. If it’s been soaking in liquid, just make sure that it’s a completely dried bird when you put it in (the fryer).”

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Don’t stuff the turkey or put anything inside it before you fry it, Ziegler says.

“This whole cavity is going to fill up with oil,” he says, “so you don’t want to have it stuffed with anything.”

Where you fry the turkey is also important.

“Make sure your setup is nowhere near any structures at all,” Ziegler cautions. “Make sure you’re not under a tree. Don’t do it on your deck. People have burned up their garages because they’ve done it inside their garage. If the weather’s not appropriate for frying a turkey (outside), then do it in your oven.”

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Turkey Fryin

Prepping the bird

Make sure you remove the neck and giblets from the interior cavity of the bird before frying, Ziegler says, and get rid of any bits of plastic that may have come with the bird — that little pop-up “thermometer,” for example.

“I normally trim off any excess fat” from the bird, as well, Ziegler adds.

“Put a slit in the skin right in front of the legs,” Ziegler says. “That’s because oil tends to pool there. It’s a good idea, for drainage, to have that little slit.”

Before frying, Ziegler pats the turkey dry, then uses a syringe to inject orange Creole butter marinade from a jar through the skin and into the flesh of the bird.

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Turkey Fryin

“You just try to get it into all the muscle groups of the turkey,” he says.

Ziegler says he has made his own marinade from such ingredients as orange juice and Worcestershire sauce.

You can buy jars of turkey marinade, “and there’s lots of recipes online for different Cajun turkey marinades,” he says. “Just make sure it has some salt and some acid.”

Ziegler then rubs the turkey’s skin — and insides — with salt, pepper and dry Cajun seasoning mix.

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Fried Turkey

Ziegler says you can use whatever kind of marinade or rub you want, but he sticks to the Cajun seasoning because it’s traditional; turkey-frying got its start in Louisiana, he says.

Brining adds moisture

Although Ziegler doesn’t brine his turkey before cooking it, “brining it adds moisture and flavor,” Ziegler says.

Brining means soaking the turkey in salty water, possibly with some aromatic spices, for several hours or overnight.

“You’re able to get more salt into the turkey breast” that way. “Turkey can take a whole lot of salt,” he says. “I don’t really find I need it. I put lots of salt and pepper around the outside.”

Ziegler fries his turkey in peanut oil.

“It has a high smoke point,” he says, “which lengthens the time you can use the oil. You can filter it out and reuse it and reuse it. It’s not cheap, so it’s nice to be able to reuse peanut oil.”

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Turkey Fryin

Take it slow

Using the lift hook, Ziegler lowers the seasoned turkey very slowly into the vat of boiling peanut oil, to avoid splashing.

The turkey fries for about 3 1/2 minutes per pound, or a little over 45 minutes.

Then, the turkey emerges slowly from the oil, with a dark brown, crispy skin on the outside and juicy white flesh on the inside.

5824c3dc66b26-image1Ziegler plunges the sharp end of a meat thermometer deep into the turkey’s breast, to make sure it has been cooked to a safe 165 degrees.

Ziegler makes turkey only once or twice a year for his family, and he roasts it in a high-end convection oven he has access to at work.

“I prefer that,” he says. “But frying is a fun way to do it, and it gives you that crispy skin that people really love.”

 

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