Deep Fried Turkey

Early on in our relationship, Lane and I agreed on one thing instantly- the Thanksgiving turkey is fried.  I know that I’m sharing this a little late to help with anyone’s Thanksgiving, but I’m hoping that anyone who plans to serve a turkey at any upcoming December holiday get-togethers finds this useful.  I love a deep-fried turkey, and I love the added bonus of having the oven available to make side dishes.  I just don’t love turkey enough to let it take up all that real estate in my oven when I’m trying to get dinner for a crowd on the table.  My father used to fry our turkey, and they were the best turkeys ever.  If I’m a guest somewhere and they roast theirs in the oven, that’s great as well.  When I’m hosting, the turkey is fried.  Okay, there may or may not be a turkey breast roasted in the crock pot, but the star of the show is the whole fried turkey.

Because I had boxes to unpack, a house to clean, shopping to do, and sides to contend with, most of Lane’s questions about turkey preparation were met with an occasional “mm hmmm,” or “sure, whatever you think.”  I can’t take any more credit for the turkey than I can for the sweet potato pie.  Lane dealt with the hordes of Desperate Housewives hopefuls at the local-ish Stew Leonard’s in order to procure the perfect fifteen pound fresh turkey.  He salted the turkey (we’ll get to that in a moment), seasoned the turkey, arranged for his nephew to stand by with a fire extinguisher, and fried the turkey to absolute perfection.  The turkey was juicy and tasty and best of all, prepared far away from my kitchen.

Roasted or fried, Lane used to brine his bird.  I have never been a fan of brining, mainly because I never have anywhere that’s a good place to trip over put the brining cooler or a refrigerator with enough space to house the turkey while it’s being brined.  Also, brining actually results ultimately in water loss, which results in a less juicy turkey (the article where Lane got the idea to salt the turkey explains this far better than I can here).  Salting the turkey eliminates this issue because while the salt initially draws water out, it eventually brings the water back into the meat.  Other than salting it, we sprinkled it with some Penzy’s 4S seasoning and then deep-fried it.  Granted, salting the turkey instead of brining it doesn’t eliminate the issue of needing a place to store the turkey until cooking time, but if you’re going to have that issue no matter what you do, then salting is the way to go, whether you decide to fry or roast your turkey.

deep fried turkey

(Salted, Not Brined) Deep-Fried Turkey

Ingredients (for fifteen guests, with leftovers):

  • 15 lb. fresh (or completely thawed frozen) turkey*
  • 1 C. kosher salt
  •  about 1/4 C. Penzy’s 4S (or other dry seasoning of your choice)
  • 3 gallons of peanut oil, for frying**


Remove the turkey from its wrapping, remove the neck and giblets (and anything else they’ve included in the cavity), and pat dry with paper towels.

Sprinkle the salt onto the turkey liberally, it should resemble snowfall on the turkey.  Be sure to get the salt under the skin onto the breast and thigh meat as well.

Place the turkey on a platter and cover loosely with plastic wrap or cheesecloth.

Refrigerate the salted turkey overnight, up to 24 hours (the closer to the 24 hour mark, the better).

Rinse the turkey if desired (we did not rinse, and the turkey wasn’t overly salty at all).

*Before proceeding, ENSURE THAT THE TURKEY IS COMPLETELY THAWED. Putting a turkey that is the slightest bit frozen into the hot oil will cause splatters (or even explode), which could cause a fire.  Also, ensure that the equipment you’ll be using to fry the turkey is far away from the house and on a level surface, and that you have an extinguisher handy.

** To determine the amount of oil you will need in order to properly fill your deep fryer, put the turkey into the empty fryer.  Add enough water to cover the top of the turkey.  Remove the turkey and mark a line where the water is.  Remove the water and dry out the fryer completely.  Be careful not to add too much oil to your fryer.

Sprinkle the 4S or desired seasoning onto the turkey.

Following the manufacturer’s directions for your turkey fryer, heat the oil to 350 degrees.

Carefully lower the turkey with the end-where-the-head-would-be first (using the hook that should have come with your fryer), making sure the turkey is fully submerged.

Fry for 3 minutes per pound, plus five additional minutes (so 50 minutes for a 50 lb. bird).

Remove the turkey and allow it to rest, loosely covered with foil, on paper towels for twenty minutes before carving and serving.

Makes 15 generous servings, with leftovers.

Source:  Salting directions from The Food Lab


2 thoughts on “Deep Fried Turkey

  1. After salting the turkey, how long do u let it sit before cooking? I have a frozen bird that’s defrosting. I was thinking of doing a run AND injecting it with a marinade. But I like the salting idea. Thanks in advance 🙂


    1. Thanks for asking! I’m updating the post to include this.

      We salted the turkey for almost 24 hours. I would say at least 10 hours is fine, with 24 hours being ideal. In this case we put it in the fridge around noon the day before Thanksgiving and fried it around noon on Thanksgiving.

      Happy Thanksgiving!


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