I must admit, the first time my mom asked me what I thought about deep-frying our Thanksgiving turkey, I was a bit skeptical. How could she try and deprive me of that oven roasted perfection? I was all for experimentation in the kitchen, but Thanksgiving was and, still is, sacred to me. Messing up the turkey would have been worse than taking away Thanksgiving Day football. Boy, was I wrong. My entire world was flipped upside down after taking the first bite of the slice of deep-fried turkey. It felt like everything I knew previously had been wrong. Suddenly, I was rethinking all the decisions I had made up to my twelfth year of existence. The savory, most texture of the meat blended with the Cajun seasoning lining the skin made it an instant favorite for my flavor palate.
For those considering deep-frying their turkey this Thanksgiving, I would strongly suggest making the change. Contrary to what you might think, the turkey is void of greasiness. While it takes its fair share of love, the average deep-frying time takes around 45 minutes, much less time than conventional ways of cooking the bird. If you want to experience the joy that is deep-fried turkey, I'd recommend following this Cajun recipe from allrecipes.com. All deep-frying of this magnitude should take place outside on a level and stable platform. My family has always done it in the driveway.
Here's what you're going to need to buy:
• A heavy-duty portable propane burner. While many of these may run from $40-60, it pays for itself after a couple Thanksgivings. It could also come in handy for a long camping trip.
• A large stockpot between 26-40 quarts.
• A heavy-duty thermometer. The turkey is going to heat up in a hurry. You're going to need to know when to take it out.
• A turkey frying basket in which to place the turkey. They are slotted with a handle on top for easy removal of the turkey. They typically cost $20-30.
• A thawed turkey, of course. Most come between 10 and 15 pounds. This recipe calls for a bird around 12 pounds.
• Cajun seasoning marinade and dry rub. Both can be bought at just about any grocery store. You'll also need a hypodermic meat injector for the marinade.
• Three gallons of peanut oil and one white onion.
To properly season your turkey, place it in a pan and load your marinade into the injector. Inject the marinade into the meat in several places on the turkey by carefully lifting up the skin, rather than poking the needle through the skin. Gently loosen the membrane under the turkey skin. Apply a dry rub under the skin of the bird and all around the cavity. This can be done as much as 36 hours in advance, but you should allow at least 12 hours to give the flavors time to penetrate the meat while it's kept in the refrigerator.
To determine the amount of oil you will need, place the bird in the pot you intend to use for frying. Pour in cold water until the turkey is covered by a couple of inches. There should still be several inches between the surface of the water and the top of the pot. Measure the water: this is how much oil you'll need. Note: before placing the turkey in hot oil, be sure it is patted dry with paper towels to cut down on splattering.
• In a large stockpot or turkey fryer, heat oil to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Be sure to leave room for the turkey, or the oil will spill over. Layer a large platter with food-safe paper bags.
• Rinse turkey, and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Rub Creole seasoning over turkey inside and out. Make sure the hole at the neck is open at least 2 inches so the oil can flow freely through the bird.
• Place the whole onion and turkey in drain basket. The turkey should be placed in basket neck end first. Slowly lower basket into hot oil to completely cover turkey. Maintain the temperature of the oil at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), and cook turkey for 3 1/2 minutes per pound, about 45 minutes.
• Carefully remove basket from oil, and drain turkey. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh; the internal temperature must be 180 degrees F (80 degrees C). Finish draining turkey on the prepared platter.
Always remember, with cooking in general, safety is number one. There are few things more painful than boiling oil, and you'll be working with a lot of it. If done correctly, you should experience similar elation like I did the first time I had it. If it isn't quite what you expected, don't worry, you'll have plenty of years to perfect it. When you do, you'll definitely know.