Holiday Outdoor Safety Tips for Deep Fried Turkey

November 25, 2013 - 8:31pm — Matt Kegelman
Deep Fried Turkey

How To Safely Deep Fry a Turkey - There’s nothing quite like a turkey that comes out of the oven after being slow cooked and basted over and over for 6 or 7 hours. But there’s another way to cook the T-Bird that requires considerably less time, and in ways, less effort too: Deep Frying!

Everyone has had deep fried chicken and French fries at one point in their lives; but not too many people can say they’ve had a deep fried turkey or a “turducken” made at home by themselves… in the great outdoors!

Then again, if you’ve ever visited YouTube, you’ve probably seen a video or two of some poor guy burning his house down, ruining the holidays with a deep fryer and a turkey. (see VIDEO below)

But if can you manage to follow these safety tips—you should have a safe experience, and hopefully—that won’t be you!

Outdoor Deep Fryer Safety

There are a few important safety tips to keep in mind that will ensure you have a pleasant and accident free experience when you are deep frying your favorite food outside. The delicious results will be worth it!

Use common sense! Proceed with caution. Read the instructions that come with your fryer! The instructions provided here are meant as a guide, and cannot possible anticipate all the possible problems you might encounter. If you don't feel comfortable with doing this, then don’t.

Look for a good, flat spot to place your burner and tank on. A wooden deck can burn or char easily, so a level grass or dirt surface would probably suit the task best. Concrete or other finished surface could get stained by the oil, so keep that in mind.

Make sure you’re not underneath the overhang of your roof, or under tree branches, or too close to any buildings. Because if there is an accident, the flames can go quite high and spread out fast. These cookers get very hot; the grease is extremely flammable, and it can erupt like a volcano if you don't do it right.


Courtesy the Big Bear City Fire Department - via YouTube

Key Tip: Keep a full fire extinguisher within reach – one that is rated for grease fires – at all times.

You need to next make sure your gas lines and valves are working correctly. To do this, hook the line up to the burner and the propane tank. Use a paint brush and coat the hook-up with soapy water. Then you can turn the valve on for a second and see if the gas comes out. If you see bubbles, you’ve got a leak.

After testing: turn the valve off and wait a few minutes so it can air out before attempting to light it. You want to do this just as you would with a grill when it doesn’t start: Make sure there is no gas in the air when you have an open flame nearby a propane tank.

Before you’re ready to drop in your bird (or other deep fry delicacy), there are a few more precautions to take…

Thaw and Dry that Bird! Preparing the bird for fry-time!

You have to see to it that the turkey is FULLY THAWED and cleaned, removing giblets and neck. Putting an unthawed turkey in a deep fryer is a bad idea!

Determine Right Amount of Oil

Now, and this is important, if you want things to go according to plan, place the turkey inside the cooking vat, as a test to make sure it fits. For most size fryer, you want to use about a 12 lb. bird. (see fryer instructions) If your turkey is too big the legs will cook too quickly compared to the breast meat, and this won’t be as tasty!

To determine how much oil you will need cover your turkey completely, add water until it reaches about two inches above the bird. Take the turkey out, leaving all the water in. Measure with a clean ruler from the top of the pot to the water. That is how high the oil will have to be without the turkey. Empty the water and add the oil to the proper level.

Drying your Turkey Prior to Cooking

Get ALL the moisture off the bird. Some absorbent paper towels might come in handy for this step. Pat down the meat that is going to be put into the deep fryer, so the paper towels absorb all of the moisture from the bird. Make sure to dry the inside of the cavity!

Whatever is going into a deep fryer MUST BE DRY!

One more thing to do—that is not absolutely necessary, but is still a pretty good idea—is to make two one inch cuts on either side of the bird where the legs meet the body. This is so the oil will easily drain out as you remove the turkey from the fry-tank.

For a Tasty Bird

If you want to get the most flavor out of your bird, you can rub it with dry rub (we like to keep it simple with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper) and or you can inject the turkey with your favorite marinade. You can buy a great marinade in a store or make your own. You'll need to get the needle for injecting.

Safely Cooking the Turkey

Finally, it’s time to cook your turkey. The objective is to slowly and safely lower your bird into the hot oil. Using a suitable cooking thermometer to determine temperature, heat the oil to about 325°F and no higher than 350°F. Ideally, you will attach the bird to a metal cooking hanger. You need to have heavy duty oven mitts or leather gloves on your hands, as well as long metal tongues at the ready. Be very careful not to splash the oil - be slow, steady and controlled.

A lot of deep frying kits actually come with a platform that has a metal hook attached to it so you can set your bird up vertically on the stand and safely lower and raise the turkey into the oil. The legs should be facing up. This is the ideal method for deep frying.

We've heard of heavy duty copper wire, as well as fry baskets being used. None are as ideal as a professionally designed and manufactured unit.

Deep Fried Turkey Cooking Instructions

You want to cook your turkey for about 3 and 1/2 minutes per pound at around 350 degrees temperature. The temperature should reach 170° F. in the breast and 180° F. in the thigh.

It’s fairly simple…but there definitely is an art to it.

Don’t keep checking back on your turkey by pulling it in and out of the fryer, but you can take it out when you think it is done and give it a check—and it it’s not done, just lower it back in there, but again—remember to take your time, think things through, and be careful not to splash any of that scolding hot oil!

Go by the 3.5 minutes per pound guideline and you will probably have success on your first try. (No guarantees, wink!)

Remember: read and follow the instructions of the fryer your using. Use common sense and the safety guidelines to ensure you have a safe, tasty, and fun outdoor cooking experience.

Some More Tips for Fried Turkey

  • Keep children and pets away from your cooking area.
  • Don't stuff any turkeys you're going to fry. It doesn't work, and there are food safety concerns
  • Measure for the amount of oil you'll need before you marinate or bread the turkey.
  • Immediately wash hands, utensils, equipment and surfaces that have come in contact with raw turkey to avoid cross contamination.
  • Make sure you time it well. Fried turkeys cook quickly. It only takes about 3 1/2 minutes per pound. You don't want to over cook it, or under cook it.
  • Never leave hot oil or hot cooker unattended.
  • Allow oil to cool completely before disposing or storing it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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