Why deep-fat fry?

In recent years, new cooking methods have been added to the traditional roasting of the holiday turkey. One of the most popular methods originated in the South and is called deep-fat frying.

Deep fat frying has been used for many items including snacks, and it works for whole turkeys. When deep-fat fried, a turkey should come out moist and delicious, not greasy at all.

However, this method of cooking is dangerous and requires caution, said Renee Boyer, consumer food safety specialist for Virginia Cooperative Extension. As with any oil frying method, serious accidents, including burns, are possible. Precautions must be taken to ensure the safety of anyone around.

The food-safety rules for cooking turkeys are the same as the rules for other foods. The turkey must reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F as measured with a meat thermometer placed in the inner thigh. A deep fat-fryer can be purchased at grocery stores and specialty kitchen equipment stores. Each comes with instructions and warnings that should be read before cooking begins.

If you purchase a frozen turkey, be sure to properly thaw it completely before beginning. Thaw it by placing the bird, in its plastic wrapper, on a tray in the refrigerator for long enough time to completely thaw. The refrigerator should be no warmer than 40 degrees F. It will take about 24 hours for every five pounds of turkey. Alternately, cover the bird while still in its plastic wrapping with cold water and replace the water frequently. If using the water method, allow half an hour per pound of bird.

When you are ready to deep fry, do not stuff the turkey with anything, Have large enough equipment to completely submerge the turkey in the oil without the oil spilling. Place the frying equipment on a flat surface to reduce the risk of accidental spills.

To calculate how much oil to use, place the turkey on the rack and into the fryer. Pour in enough water to cover it by 1 to 2 inches. Then, remove the turkey and measure the amount of water used to determine the amount of oil needed. Pour in the calculated amount of oil and heat to 350 degrees F. Place the turkey on the rack and carefully lower it into the heated oil. Estimate the amount of time needed to cook the turkey. The recommendation is three to five minutes per pound of bird. Use a meat thermometer to be certain the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.

Serious accidents can occur with this method. Fires can easily be started, so never leave the frying turkey unattended. To avoid serious burns, use caution and proper handling. And continue to be careful until the oil has cooled to a safe temperature. It is a good idea to use your deep-fat fryer outside, away from buildings, and not on wooden decks. Keep it away from children at all times.

After cooking, remove the turkey carefully from the hot oil and drain. Let the turkey cool for 20 minutes before carving. The leftover oil is fine to reuse later. Let it cool and store it in the refrigerator. For more information about how to prepare a successful holiday turkey, check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s poultry preparation website.


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