Deep-fry a turkey without burning down the house

Con Poulos

Follow these tips to get your turkey from the fryer to the table, without setting your kitchen on fire.

Deep-frying a turkey can yield incredible results: a glistening bird with golden-brown skin that’s cooked perfectly in minutes. But anyone who’s watched a YouTube video in which a deep-fried turkey goes up in flames should understand that the technique is no joke. Done right, you could be filling your plate in an hour. Done wrong, you could be eating Jell-O at the ER. Here, Food & Wine’s deep-fried turkey tips (use at your own risk!).

Test to see how much oil you really need. Do not fill the pot with oil yet. Using cold water, measure how much liquid should be put in the pot to cover the turkey without overflowing onto the burner.

Go outside. Turkey frying should only be done outdoors, on a flat and level surface—not in an enclosed area (like a kitchen or garage) or on a wooden structure (like a deck)! Also, remember that oil is also hard to clean off of concrete. Make sure to clear the area of children, pets and intoxicated relatives.
Use a fresh bird, or fully thaw a frozen one. The minute any moisture from the turkey hits hot oil, the oil will start to splatter and can cause a spillover effect, starting a fire.
Skip the stuffing. You’ll have to keep the stuffing on the side when frying a turkey. Michael Symon’s stuffing muffins with lemony mushrooms and pine nuts, or butternut squash with corn bread, are fantastic. Also, remember to remove the giblets from the bird’s cavity before frying.
Lower the bird slowly into the oil. Do not drop the turkey into the deep-fryer.
Do not move the pot. Are you Homer Simpson? Adjusting a vat of hot oil is incredibly dangerous.
Stick around. Never leave the turkey unattended. It can only take a moment for something to go wrong.
Don’t start drinking until after the oil has cooled. Better to be alert until this bird is cooked.
Wait to carve. Let the cooked turkey rest for at least 30 minutes, in order to retain the hot juices.
Keep heavy blankets nearby for emergencies. Water will not extinguish an oil fire, it will only spread the ignited oil. A wool blanket will help put out flare-ups.

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Discuss this post

Why do the safety tips NEVER mention the easiest additional safety measure?

#2 (not #1 only because that rule is never fry inside any building/structure) Turn off the burner while you lower the bird in. You could even spill the whole pot of oil and it won't start a fire because there is no ignition source. Once the bird is fully immersed, covered, and any possible spillover (won't be if you do it correctly) cleand up, then relight the burner.

  • 2 votes
Reply#1 - Mon Nov 19, 2012 2:15 PM EST

Couple of other items:

  1. Most store bought kits come with too small of a pot even if tested with water first.
  2. Defrosting the bird is not enough, dry it with paper towels too
  • 1 vote
Reply#2 - Mon Nov 19, 2012 2:21 PM EST


    Reply#3 - Mon Nov 19, 2012 2:22 PM EST

    Oil expands when heated - the water trick is a good reference but not totally accurate.

      Reply#4 - Mon Nov 19, 2012 6:29 PM EST

      The smaller the turkey the better. Better to fry multiple turkeys instead of buying a bigger one. 10 pounds is perfect and no larger than 12.

      And make sure you have a very long meat thermometer to get close to the bone and make sure it is done all the way through.

      Another important thing that doesn't always get brought up, make sure the cavity points up when you put the turkey in the pot.

        Reply#5 - Mon Nov 19, 2012 8:19 PM EST

        We've been deep frying out turkey for almost 10 years now. As long as you are careful it is so easy. I will never cook a turkey in the oven again!

        • 1 vote
        Reply#6 - Mon Nov 19, 2012 8:35 PM EST

        For crying out loud....roast it. Most ER room cringe about the turkey fryers. Oy vey. Please just roast it. Ask Martha Stewart how.

          Reply#7 - Mon Nov 19, 2012 8:39 PM EST

          Like KRW, we've been safely frying our Thanksgiving (and occasionally Christmas) birds for 10+ years. It is not rocket science and there is no reason to fear doing it. I've never had a turkey as tender and juicy as a properly fried / marinated turkey. I'd add one more item to the safety list - save your beer / wine / mixed drinks until AFTER you're done frying.

            Reply#8 - Mon Nov 19, 2012 10:53 PM EST

            The best use for a turkey fryer is home brewing

              Reply#9 - Tue Nov 20, 2012 8:36 AM EST

              just watch...some moron will end up burning his house down...most lilkely an Obama supporter.

                Reply#10 - Tue Nov 20, 2012 8:54 AM EST

                Or just don't invite David Byrne to your Thanksgiving day party!

                  Reply#11 - Tue Nov 20, 2012 11:16 AM EST

                  "Don’t start drinking until after the oil has cooled."

                  Only when drunk should a person attempt to deep-fry a turkey. It's a macho exercise or the result of demented thought. It has nothing to do with cooking.

                    Reply#12 - Tue Nov 20, 2012 1:44 PM EST
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