Deep-fried turkey flew the Southern coop back in the ’90s, landing on Thanksgiving tables across the United States. “People love this cooking method because it creates juicy meat with a wonderfully thick, crispy skin. Plus, a turkey can fry in as few as 45 minutes, and the process requires minimal clean-up,” says Caviar & Bananas executive chef Todd Mazurek.
The Johnson & Wales University grad, who’s worked in the kitchens of Fat Hen, Wild Olive, COAST, and other local restaurants, fries a bird for his own celebration every year. “I always start by soaking it in a citrus and herb brine for two days to make the meat really moist,” he says. “But I experiment with a different rub each time.”
A peanut butter recipe has worked well in the past, but this year, he found that homemade hazelnut butter tastes even better. “Hazelnuts are milder and sweeter, bringing out more of the turkey’s flavors and providing a nice complement to the peanut oil that I fry it in,” he explains.
And the butter is a cinch to make. “Toast the nuts by coating them in two tablespoons of hazelnut oil, tossing them until evenly coated, then baking them on a sheet pan at 300°F for 12 minutes,” instructs Mazurek. Make sure the turkey is dry inside and out before you apply the rub—this will help it stick to the skin, creating a holiday bird you’ll be truly thankful for.
Turkey Frying Tips
While deep-frying is an easy way to cook a delicious Thanksgiving turkey, safety precautions are vital. Chef Todd Mazurek shares a few pointers
For beginners, poultry-frying kits make things simple by packing all the necessary equipment, including a burner (which connects to a propane gas tank), a stand, and a large stockpot.
Do not stuff turkeys for deep-frying—rubs and marinade injections work best.
“Always fry outside on dirt, grass, or concrete that you don’t mind getting a couple grease stains on,” says Mazurek.
Make sure you use the correct amount of oil. “Do a test run by putting the turkey in the pot and pouring water on top until the bird is completely covered,” instructs Mazurek. “Remove the turkey and use a ruler to measure the distance from the top of the pot to the surface of the water. Then dump water, dry the pot, and fill the oil to this point.”
Thoroughly dry both the bird and the pot inside and out. “This will help prevent spattering. Remember that water and oil do not mix,” Mazurek says.
Before putting the turkey into the hot oil, remove trussing and pop-up timers from the meat and any excess fat from around the neck. Clip the wing tips up to the first joint and cut off the tail.
Heat the oil to 375°F. “When you add the turkey to the pot, the oil will cool down really quickly but will then come back up to 325°F within several minutes,” says Mazurek. Cook the bird at 325°F for three minutes per pound of meat, monitoring the fryer closely.