One week after Thanksgiving I can once again begin to think , and write , about turkey.
This year, finally, after many years of talking about it, we deep fried a turkey for Thanksgiving. Previously, we had been deterrred by the apparent danger that the process entails. I had read somewhere that each Thanksgiving there are about 15,000 house fires caused by people trying to deep fry turkeys. The numbers were daunting but we finally figured out that if reasonable precautions were taken there was little danger to houses or persons.
My brother-in-law who lives down the street from us volunteered to do the turkey whle we took care of the ‘sides’. He has a brick patio in back of his house which was to be the venue for the event. The first step was to get the deep fryer ( approx. $80 at Lowe’s for the larger size). It came complete with the frying basket, thermometers and other paraphernalia but the peanut oil ( 3 gallons) and the propane tank were extra. The fresh 14 lb.turkey had been readied by injecting it all over with a Cajun marinade and leaving it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
Just as we began preparations , it began to drizzle…. Murphy’s Law ! Luckily, the patio has a retractable awning and it was quickly unfurled. Oil was filled to within 4 inches of the fryer and then heated to 360 degrees F. This took longer than expected , almost 75 minutes. Finally, the desired temperature was reached and the moment of truth was upon us. It was time to lower the turkey into the hot oil. This was done gingerly and with some trepidation . The oil bubbled up but stopped well short of the rim of the fryer. Whew !! After that, it was a piece of cake as we stood around drinking beer ,monitoring the temperature and listening to the satisfying sizzle of the turkey as it cooked.In under an hour it was done ; the gas was turned off and the turkey was lifted out by means of a hhoked rod inserted into a metal eye. Then it was just a matter of allowing it to drain and scraping away some of the burned parts. At 14 lbs. our turkey was at the outer limit of the recommended size for deep frying. Consequently, frying it long enough to get the inside properly cooked meant that some parts of the exterior got a little burnt. No problem, as they were easily excised.
So how did it taste ? And was it worth it ?
The answer to the first question was that it tasted great. Unlike turkeys roasted in the oven which tend to be a little dry, our deep fried version was moist and juicy. Taste-wise, it was a winner, hands down.
The answer to the second question was a qualified Yes. These were the advantages:
1. Much shorter cooking time even if one takes into account the time involved in heating the oil. 2. The oven was free for other uses. 3. Superior taste.
The disadvantages , in addition to the cost of equipment , were :
1. The turkey was dark brown, unlike the golden brown bird we know and love from the Norman Rockwell illustration. 2. It was boring waiting for the oil to heat up. 3. A waste of oil. It can be filtered and saved but that is quite a chore, Besides, if it is peanut oil, it would have to be stored in the refrigerator/freezer.
Inspite of all this, we will probably be deepfrying our turkey at future Thanksgivings… unless my son has his way and we make a ‘turducken’…. a chicken stuffed in a duck which in turn is stuffed in a turkey.