If you’ve never deep-fried a turkey, you are majorly missing out. It is the ultimate way to get the crispiest skin while still maintaining juicy and flavorful turkey meat.
It is also substantially faster than oven-roasting or smoking a turkey, so it will save you a lot of time on Thanksgiving day, which is always a good thing.
Deep frying a whole turkey can be intimidating, but you don’t need to worry. I’ll share the gear you need, how to season, and give you a step-by-step guide to safely deep fry your turkey.
Deep fried whole turkey
Equipment you’ll need to deep fry a turkey
- A turkey fryer – I love my Bayou Classic Stainless Steel Turkey Fryer, which you can get from 30-42 quarts depending on how big of a turkey you plan on deep frying
- Peanut oil – Perfect for frying at high temperatures for an extended period. I use LouAna Peanut Oil which comes in 3-gallon containers.
- Propane stove – If your frying kit doesn’t include one, you’ll need an outdoor stove. I recommend the GasOne Heavy Duty Burner. It’s extremely portable and can be used for a variety of things – a camp stove, a crab boil burner, and a deep fryer
- Injector – Some store bought turkey injections include an injector, but if you want to DIY you’ll want to get a meat injector.
- Meat thermometer – You’ll need a good meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of your turkey so it doesn’t overcook, and to check the oil temperature if your frying kit doesn’t include a thermometer.
Choosing your turkey
There’s a lot to consider when buying a turkey. Picking the right weight mainly depends on how many people you are planning to serve. A general rule of thumb is 1 to 1½lb of turkey per person.
This is enough to account for the weight of the bones and still leave your guests with plenty of turkey to eat – plus, who doesn’t LOVE Thanksgiving leftovers?
For this recipe, I used a free-range turkey from Crowd Cow.
I find that free-raised turkey is the juiciest and best-tasting turkey you can find, and Crowd Cow always offers quality meat and seafood year-round.
*Note: Plan to order your turkey by 11/13 for guaranteed delivery by Thanksgiving.
If you want to learn more about all the different types of turkeys we have a turkey buying guide you can check out.
How long to fry the turkey?
You should allow the turkey to fry for three to four minutes per pound. This is just a good general guideline. I highly recommend using a good meat thermometer.
While deep frying is one of the most forgiving methods, you still don’t want to overcook turkey.
For this recipe, my turkey took about 52 minutes to fry before it reached 160°F. If you take the turkey out 160°F it will easily reach 165°F by the time it has finished resting.
How to make Deep Fried Turkey
1. Defrost your turkey (very important)
The first and most crucial step to frying a turkey is to ensure that your bird is completely defrosted. We all know that oil and water don’t mix, but hot oil and frozen water REALLY don’t mix.
If your turkey is still partially frozen or retains chunks of ice in the bird’s cavity, you run the risk of an explosion that won’t just ruin your Thanksgiving but can also seriously harm the person doing the frying.
Don’t believe me? Watch this short video and I think you’ll change your mind…
A good rule of thumb is that a turkey will take about 1 day per 4-5lbs of meat to defrost in the fridge.
So if you have a 17lb turkey, as I used for this recipe, you need at least four days in the fridge for it to fully defrost.
When your turkey is fully defrosted, unpackage it and remove the neck and giblets.
The giblets will generally be in a bag towards the top of the turkey. It may take a little digging, but I can almost guarantee that it is in there – you do NOT want to fry it with the bag inside, so be sure to remove it!
2. Injecting & seasoning your turkey
While many people opt for a brine when they cook turkey, I don’t see a major difference between brined and un-brined turkey when I’m frying it.
Frying is one of the fastest cooking methods for a whole turkey, so you don’t lose a lot of moisture and flavor during the cooking process.
For this recipe, I used the Creole Garlic Cajun injector from Zatarain. You can find it at most grocery stores, and it comes with plenty of injections for a whole turkey, plus they include an injector and needle, so you have everything you need.
You can also go down the DIY route if you have your own injector.
For this turkey, I used the Whiskey Bent BBQ The Bird seasoning. It’s both sweet and savory, and I find that it leaves an amazing flavor when you are frying a turkey.
Season your turkey on all sides. You want to ensure that every inch of your turkey is seasoned to get the maximum flavor in that delicious, crispy skin.
Once your turkey is injected and seasoned, let it rest on the counter at room temperature while you heat the oil.
3. Preheating the oil for deep frying
While your turkey is resting on the counter, you want to heat your oil. I like to use peanut oil to fry my turkey. It is perfect for frying at high temperatures for an extended period.
My turkey fry pot is a Bayou Classic Stainless Steel Turkey Fryer. The main pot is 32 quarts and is big enough to fry up to an 18lb turkey with no issues.
You will also need an outdoor stove that is propane powered.
Many turkey fryers/crab boil pots come complete with a propane stove, but if yours doesn’t then, I recommend the GasOne Heavy Duty Burner.
Once you’ve connected your propane tank to the burner, pour in your oil. You want to start by heating the oil to about 250°F before dropping your turkey in.
4. Frying your turkey
When the oil in your fryer reaches 250°F, turn off the propane gas before adding your turkey.
This is a safety precaution to protect you if your turkey was not fully thawed or ice chunks remain in the bird’s cavity.
If the oil boils over or (God forbid) the turkey explodes, you want to ensure that you are not adding fuel to the fire by leaving the propane running.
Hang your turkey on the hooks provided with your turkey fryer and SLOWLY drop the turkey into the oil.
It will bubble a lot, but just continue to lower it until the turkey is fully submerged. Once your turkey is in the oil, you can turn the propane back on and crank it up until the oil reaches 350°F.
After about 30 minutes, using an instant read thermometer, check the internal temperature of your turkey in the thickest part of the breast. You want to lift it out of the oil to read the temperature.
When your turkey reaches 160°F, remove it from the oil and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. The internal temperature will continue to increase during this time, and you will be left with your turkey at a final internal temperature of 165°F to 170°F.
Now you can plate it up, carve it to your liking, and dig into some delicious, deep-fried turkey!
What to serve with deep fried turkey
- Smoked cranberry sauce
- Smoked sausage stuffing with herbs
- Smoked bacon wrapped carrots with maple glaze
- Smoked beer mustard potatoes
- Loaded potato salad
The Best Deep Fried Turkey Recipe
- 12-14 lb whole turkey A little larger is fine, just make sure your fry pot is rated
- ¾ cup Cajun garlic injection Substitute with any turkey injection
- ½ cup smoked turkey rub Substitute with any turkey rub
- 8 gallons peanut oil The amount of oil will depend on the size of your turkey and fry pot.
- If your turkey is frozen, you need to ensure it is completely defrosted prior to cooking (see note 1).
- Once your turkey is fully defrosted, open the package and remove the neck and giblets from the cavity of the bird and pat both the inside and outside of your turkey completely dry.
- Inject your bird in the breast, legs, wings, and thighs leaving about 3" gaps between injections.
- Season the bird all over with turkey rub. Make sure you season both sides of the turkey and lift up the wings and legs to season underneath. Every part of the turkey should be seasoned.
- Let the turkey rest at room temperature for 30 minutes while you preheat your oil.
- Pour your peanut oil into a 32-quart pot, turn on the propane and preheat the oil to 250°F.
- Turn off the propane and slowly and gently lower your turkey into the fryer until it is fully submerged. When the turkey is submerged, turn the propane back on, and increase the oil temperature to 350°F.
- Let the turkey fry for 30 minutes undisturbed, then gently lift the it out of the fryer and check the internal temperature in the breast with a probe thermometer. You want the turkey to reach 160°F internal temperature. If the turkey is not yet to 160°F, gently drop it back down into the oil and let it continue to fry in 10 minute increments until it reaches 160°F.
- When your turkey reaches 160°F in the thickest part of the breast, remove it from the oil and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes to cool slightly. During this rest period, the internal temperature will continue to increase to 165°F to 170°F.
- 12. Carve as desired and serve.