How to Deep Fry a Turkey

Follow these smart tips to safely fry up a golden, juicy bird.

Deep frying your Thanksgiving turkey is a little trickier than roasting a classic turkey, but the payoff is huge. Deep-fried turkeys have juicier light and dark meat and crispier skin than even the most perfect oven-roasted bird. Plus, they cook more quickly, and frying the turkey frees up valuable oven space so you (or someone else in the fam) can quickly bang out a bunch of sides. Here's how to satisfy your deep-fried dreams safely.

Cooking raw chicken with herbs and spices on white wooden background, top view


Cooking raw chicken with herbs and spices on white wooden background, top view

Photo by: kobeza/Getty Images

kobeza/Getty Images

Choose a Small Turkey

Some turkey fryers claim they can fry up enormous birds. But in actuality, the smaller the turkey, the better it is for frying. In fact, you shouldn’t get a bird that’s larger than twelve pounds. Think about it: you’ll be lowering it into a vat of scalding oil. You want to work with a bird that’s very easy to lift and move around. What you’re aiming to avoid is accidentally dropping the bird, splashing the oil and getting burned. Additionally, smaller turkeys cook more evenly and will be done cooking before the skin starts to burn. If you want to go even smaller than a traditional turkey, it’s easy to fry turkey breasts, wings or legs.


Photo by: Jeff Oshiro/Getty Images

Jeff Oshiro/Getty Images

Thoroughly Thaw the Turkey

Make sure the turkey is completely thawed, as any hidden ice pockets can be very dangerous (when the ice melts and turns into water, it could cause the oil to explode). If you need to speed up thawing, seal your turkey in a bag, submerge it in cold water and change the water every thirty minutes. With this nifty quick-thaw method, you should factor in thirty minutes for each pound of turkey to thaw. So a ten-pound frozen bird would take five hours to thaw. When you think the turkey is done thawing, make sure to feel inside the cavity to triple check there’s no ice inside.

Set Up a Frying Station

If you’re frying outside, for starters, never work in bad weather — rain or snow falling into the hot oil will cause it to spatter everywhere. Make sure your workspace is on a sturdy, flat, non-flammable surface (like your driveway), far away from anything that could be damaged by splattering oil or could catch on fire. Don’t fry your turkey in the garage, or near dry, dead grass, or underneath a tree branch. Purchase a fire extinguisher that’s rated for grease fires and stash that nearby. You might want to put a tarp down to protect the surface from getting stained with oil. And finally, secure your pets and little ones safely away from your station. If you’re frying inside, use an indoor turkey fryer — never your outdoor frying setup — and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Measure the Volume of Oil

One of the most dangerous parts of deep frying a turkey is lowering the turkey into the hot oil. Add too much oil, and it can overflow and cause a fire. Here’s how to safely measure the volume of oil. First, put the turkey in the pot and fill it with water to cover the turkey by about a half-inch. Make sure the pot is still at least 4 inches higher than the water line. Now, take a tape measure or ruler and measure the height of the water — that's how much oil you need. Then pour out the water and dry the pot completely.

Prepare Your Turkey for Frying

Pat the turkey dry inside and out. Remove the neck, giblets, and any pop-up thermometers or plastic trussing on the turkey. Season the turkey with salt and pepper all over, then let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. It’s important to note that now is not the time to stuff your bird. It’ll fall out and burn in the oil. Make a batch of baked stuffing in all that extra oven space you have freed up. Right before frying, truss the turkey with butcher’s twine and tie the wings to the body, too. Fill the pot with neutral oil to the measured height and bring it to 350 degrees F. Insert the hanger securely into the turkey and attach the lowering hook component. Wearing oven mitts and closed-toe shoes, very slowly insert the turkey into the oil and remove the hook.

Fry It Up

Fry about three minutes per pound, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the middle of the thigh registers 150 degrees F. We recommend checking the temperature a little sooner than three minutes per pound. To do so, slowly lift the turkey out of the oil and have someone else stick the thermometer into the thigh while the turkey hangs. If you need to return the bird to the oil, remember to lower it slowly.

Rest, Then Eat!

Transfer the cooked turkey to a cutting board and let rest 20 minutes before carving. Then dig into your perfectly juicy creation and marvel at the fact that it’s the best you’ve ever had.

Related Links:

Next Up

Mix-and-Match Turkey

Make the bird the way you like it: This step-by-step guide from Food Network Magazine leads to thousands of possibilities!

What Temperature to Cook Turkey

Say goodbye to serving a dry turkey on Thanksgiving. Use these tips to ensure you cook the bird perfectly on the big day.

Your Complete Guide to Preparing and Cooking a Turkey

A detailed guide to preparing perfect roast turkey, starting with which turkey to buy and ending with the best way to store leftovers.

How to Carve a Turkey

This easy, step-by-step guide has everything you need to know to carve turkey like a pro.

10 Tips for Cooking the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey [Infographic]

Armed with our top 10 turkey tips, you'll come out looking like a pro on Thanksgiving Day. Whether you're hosting your first Thanksgiving dinner or your fiftieth, these indispensable tips will help you turn out a terrific turkey.

How to Brine a Turkey Two Ways

Prepare your holiday main event by locking in moisture.

Just What Exactly Are Giblets?

They're the secret to better flavor from your bird.

Quick Turkey Fixes

When it comes to a successful Thanksgiving dinner, being prepared is half the battle. With these quick turkey fixes up your sleeve, you'll be feeling calm, cool and collected, no matter what surprises the day may bring.

How to Adapt Your Turkey Recipe

When it comes selecting and cooking the bird, even the most experienced Thanksgiving hosts can feel overwhelmed. Here are a few helpful workarounds for some common turkey conundrums.

Turkey Buying Guide

How to choose the perfect holiday turkey