Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Turkey - Frying Up Our Thanksgiving Tradition

It started back in the 1990s. I saw Martha Stewart fry up a turkey for the first time on her television show, and as I was wont to do back in my early homemaking days, I immediately decided we had to do this at home. Turkey fryers were not easy to find back in those days, you actually had to go to a sporting goods store. Finding enough peanut oil to fry it in involved a trip to a restaurant supply store. But once we tasted the delicious bird, we were hooked. First of all, fried turkey means no need to get up a 7 a.m. to start a bird. It takes only about 3 and half minutes per pound to cook. That's right, turkey in under an hour!  The color is amazing  and the crisp skin in delectable, while the meat is still tender and juicy. Not to mention that my dear husband likes to take charge of the outdoor cooking! That leaves me with a free oven and time to prepare  the  side dishes.
I've spent a long time perfecting this technique and I'm finally willing to share our secrets.

Equipment-wise, you'll need a turkey fryer. Fortunately, they are everywhere these days. This burner is fired by a propane tank. You must use it outside and at a safe distance from any structures.

The kits usually come with the needed pot.

I like to use a fresh turkey. If you use a frozen one, you'll need to get it thawed at least three days before Thanksgiving. For the fryer, you'll need a turkey of 15 lbs or less. If you need something bigger, fry two smaller turkeys.  You may want to do a fill test for oil before prepping your bird. Put the turkey in the pot and fill with water until it rises to the fill line of the pot or covers  the bird by around 1/4 of an inch. Then take the turkey out and you'll need exactly as much oil as you have water. You can mark that with chalk if your pot doesn't have markings. Make sure you pat the bird dry before you get ready to prep it.

Remove any giblet surprises inside the bird and if there's a  pop-up thermometer, ditch it.  for my bird I do a dry brine. Start with about 1/4 cup of kosher salt.

Rub the turkey inside and out generously with salt inside and out, two to three days before you plan to cook. Then stick it in the fridge in a pan or sheet tray.

The night before cooking, the turkey needs a spice rub. I use the very same one that Martha Stewart first showed my back in the day.

  • 25 medium dried bay leaves
  • 3 1/4 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 3 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • 3 tablespoons Konriko brand, or other hot Creole seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
I put all of this together in a spice grinder and make a powder. (My spice grinder in a coffee grinder I got on discount and only use for spices.) You could also use a food processor for a less powdery rub.  You can also pretty much use any rub you like, though I'd avoid one with sugar in it, the sugar might burn in the oil. Rub the turkey inside and out with the spice rub and then return to the refrigerator.
    The day you plan to fry, take that turkey out and let it get close to room temperature before frying. 
    When it's time to fry the turkey, add the peanut oil to the pot and then turn on the fire. Make sure to use peanut oil. It has a higher smoking point that other oils. This year for a twist, we added around 1/2 cup of bacon fat to the peanut oil and it was absolutely delicious.
    Heat the oil to 350 degrees. It takes 30 to 45 minutes depending on the outside temperature when you fry. Someone should stay with the turkey fryer all the time while the oil heats.
    When you truss up the bird, you'll need to use metal picture wire.  The wire also gives you a handle for lowering the turkey into the oil.
Once the oil is to temperature, carefully lower the turkey into the oil. My fryer came with a hook that aids in taking the turkey in and out of the oil.
Put lid on and cook. You may need to adjust the burner to keep the oil at 350 degrees. Cook for about 3 and a half minutes per pound.
The turkey should have an internal temperature of 160 when it is done.

 Now comes an important key to a great turkey. Let it rest for as long as you cooked it. It's an important step. You should also let an oven-cooked turkey rest for at least half an hour to 45 minutes before carving. Heat contracts the meat. Resting relaxes it and allows it to become tender and juicy.
You'll find this bird to be juicy and delicious with the most delectable skin  you've ever experienced.

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