Deep-frying a turkey is one of those things that turns you from skeptic to convert the first time you try it. Not only is your bird done in 40 minutes, but it ends up amazingly juicy, not at all greasy, with skin that’s crispy beyond belief. Smearing the turkey with a rub and letting it penetrate overnight is essential. We’ve put together a few more tips on deep-frying a turkey (including what not to do), and a step-by-step guide on how to fry a turkey too (you can never be too careful with this method).
Look for a fresh turkey—they seem to end up crispier and tastier than previously frozen ones. If you’re forced to use a frozen turkey, make sure it’s completely thawed before frying (this will take several days in the refrigerator). Filé is powdered sassafras leaves, a popular spice in the South, especially in Louisiana, where it’s used as a condiment and thickener for gumbo. Here it imparts a slight woodsy flavor to the rub. Look for it in the dried-spices section of grocery stores. And Peanut oil is best for frying because it has a very high smoke point and a neutral flavor. To figure out how much oil to use, try this displacement trick: Before unwrapping your turkey, place it in the frying pot and add enough water to cover it completely. Remove the turkey from the pot and measure the water: That’s how much oil you should use.
Special equipment: A propane turkey fryer like this one from Bayou Classic was all we needed to make a crisp, succulent turkey. It comes with the base, pot, turkey rack, and thermometer, plus a bunch of accessories. We wore heatproof rubber gloves and safety goggles to protect our hands and eyes while we fried (safety first!). And on that note, it can’t hurt to have an all-purpose fire extinguisher on hand, just in case.
Game plan: Be sure to leave ample time to completely thaw your turkey and then give your rubbed turkey a full night in the fridge to allow the flavors to fully penetrate. Also, at frying time, give your oil plenty of time to heat up. It took ours about 40 minutes to come to temperature each time we tested. And be sure to thoroughly read through the instruction booklet that comes with your fryer before use!
For more, we recommend our easy guide on How to Smoke a Turkey.
And see our Ultimate Thanksgiving Guide for more tips, tricks, and recipes.
- Yield: 10 to 12 servings
- Difficulty: Medium
- Total: 2 hrs, plus overnight dry brining time
- Active: 25 mins
For the rub:
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 6 tablespoons dry mustard, such as Colman’s
- 6 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons filé powder
- 2 teaspoons hot paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the turkey:
- 1 (15- to 18-pound) fresh turkey
- Peanut oil for frying (about 4 gallons, see intro)