Deep-Fried Turkey 101: Choosing the Right Fryer for a Crispy, Juicy Bird

Rose Maura Lorre is a writer on Wirecutter’s discovery team. She has reported on turkey fryers, composters, body pillows, and more.

Kim Severson, a food correspondent for the New York Times, has covered Thanksgiving from every angle, reporting on America’s never-ending parade of turkey-cooking fads and failures with a healthy dose of skepticism. The Pulitzer Prize winner has seen, tried, and mostly discredited all methods of brining turkey, including wet, dry, and bagged versions as well as T-shirts.

Deep-frying a turkey may sound like another gastronomic gimmick, but in Severson’s experience, it’s vastly preferable to roasting. “I don’t feel this is stunt food,” she said in a Zoom interview. “From a culinary standpoint, from a deliciousness standpoint, I think the fried turkey is superior. It is so unctuous and delicious and moist. So that’s number one. ”.

She is able to provide a compelling argument for deep-frying your Thanksgiving turkey as well as for one specific fryer—the King Kooker Outdoor Deep Frying/Boiling Package—being the greatest outdoor deep fryer available.

Everything you need to fry a turkey and more (or boil a large amount of seafood) is included in this robust setup. Additionally, it has a few good safety features, like a shut-off timer and a turkey holder with two prongs that keep your bird steady.

It’s the fryer she’s going to use for her third Thanksgiving in a row, and the one she used to fry about a dozen more turkeys this past summer while working on her article for the Thanksgiving collection on NYT Cooking.

Additionally, the King Kooker is the outdoor deep fryer that she was advised to purchase by a reliable source: a former food editor at the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which was the first major newspaper to publish a story on deep-frying turkeys in the 1980s (a practice that was initially, predictably, Cajun-related). That editor told Severson that the King Kooker “is the one we all buy and love. ”.

Every outdoor deep fryer looks essentially the same: everything is kept safely above ground with a metal stand supporting a tall stock pot that is atop a propane burner. Makes and models vary.

Severson prefers her King Kooker’s lightweight aluminum pot to other, potentially pricier stainless steel versions. “This is not something you’re going to use all the time. A slightly higher-grade pot, in my opinion, is really not worth the extra money,” she said. “It’s overkill for what you’re going to be cooking. ”.

The stand is where heftiness matters more. “That is a key thing; you want a really sturdy stand,” she said. Because the King Kooker stand is made of welded steel rather than stands that are fastened together with nuts and bolts, it is more sturdy. “This is a single, sturdy, soldered piece of heavy metal,” Severson, who uses her fryer on loose gravel in her backyard, said. “It’s not bolted together with thinner legs. It’s just a bear. It’s just a beast. It’s super heavy-duty. ”.

Deep fryers have a reputation as fire hazards in the making, for several reasons. Some fryers tip over because of human error, while others are the result of poor manufacturing, like the previously mentioned stand issues.

Norman R. Bourgeois Jr. , president of the parent company of King Kooker, stated over the phone that a fryer that is labeled as “CSA Design Certified” has undergone testing to determine its capacity to handle loads, the maximum temperature that it can reach on its side walls and surface below, its resilience to wind, and other factors. Additionally, he informed us that while some manufacturers may designate certain parts of their fryers—like the propane hose and regulator—as CSA-certified, this does not always imply that the fryer as a whole is certified.

In fact, Severson’s favorite safety feature on her fryer is the mechanism that modifies the propane burner’s flow. When she takes out the turkey to check its temperature, she uses it to quickly cut the propane as a safety measure. “When oil spills onto an open propane flame, that’s when you’re going to have problems while frying a turkey,” she stated.

While all fryers have a manual propane shutoff feature, the King Kooker model also has a battery-operated timer that, unless the user overrides it by pressing a button, automatically turns off the propane every 15 minutes.

According to Bourgeois, this additional feature is present on some but not all fryer brands’ models and is intended to prevent overheating even in the event that the fryer is left unattended. (Do not ever leave a deep fryer unattended, ever. Five minutes into the 15-minute cycle, a light on the timer device begins to blink; at two minutes, it starts to blink more quickly to alert owners to the override feature.

The comprehensive King Kooker instruction manual (PDF) can be found here. According to Marguerite Preston, senior editor overseeing Wirecutter’s culinary coverage, “reading it carefully should equip you to fry safely.” ”.

Thanksgiving is synonymous with turkey, but let’s be honest, sometimes traditional oven-roasted turkey can be a bit, well, boring. Enter the deep-fried turkey: a crispy-skinned, juicy masterpiece that’ll have your guests raving. But before you dive headfirst into a vat of hot oil, choosing the right fryer is crucial.

The Ultimate Guide to Turkey Fryer Selection

Whether you’re a seasoned fryer veteran or a curious newbie, this guide will equip you with the knowledge to pick the perfect fryer for your needs We’ve analyzed top-rated models, considered key factors like capacity and features, and even thrown in some expert tips from the pros.

Top Picks: The Cream of the Crop

  • Bayou Classic 44-Quart “Big Bird” Kit: This beast boasts impressive heating and recovery times, delivering crispy skin and moist meat. It’s the epitome of the classic turkey-frying experience.
  • Bayou Classic 1118 32-Quart Turkey Fryer: This value champion offers excellent performance and comes packed with accessories. Just remember, it doesn’t include a burner stand.
  • Masterbuilt Electric Fryer Boiler Steamer: This countertop marvel tackles frying, steaming, and boiling with ease. It’s perfect for smaller turkeys and boasts a convenient grease management system.
  • Char-Broil Infrared Oil-Less Turkey Fryer: This innovative option offers a safer, cleaner alternative to traditional deep-frying. It’s ideal for those who want to skip the oil but still crave that crispy goodness.

Factors to Consider: Beyond the Hype

  • Capacity: Choose a fryer that can handle the size of turkey you plan to cook. Remember, bigger isn’t always better – consider the amount of oil needed and your budget.
  • Features: From basic burner setups to fancy electric models with temperature controls and filtration systems, the choice is yours. Consider your desired level of convenience and ease of use.

Testing, Testing: Putting Fryers to the Test

We put these fryers through their paces, evaluating setup ease, heating times, temperature recovery, and overall cooking performance. We even assessed how easy they were to clean.

Beyond the Top Picks: Other Contenders and Notable Exclusions

While some models didn’t make the final cut, they’re still worth considering depending on your needs. The CreoleFeast Turkey Fryer Set offers solid performance, while the Bayou Classic 30-Quart Aluminum Turkey Fryer Pot is a budget-friendly option for smaller birds.

Frequently Asked Questions: Your Turkey Frying Doubts Answered

Can I use a turkey fryer indoors?

Most models are strictly for outdoor use due to the open flame. However, some electric fryers like the Masterbuilt MB2001 are designed for indoor use. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions for proper usage and ventilation.

How long do I deep-fry a turkey?

It typically takes around 45 minutes for a 12-pound bird at 350°F. Factors like bird size, oil amount, and temperature drop after adding the turkey can affect this time.

How much oil do I need?

The general rule is 3-4 gallons for a 9-pound turkey, 4-5 gallons for a 13-pounder, and 5 gallons for a 15-pound or larger bird. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for maximum fill quantities to avoid dangerous boil-overs.

Expert Insights: Pro Tips for Frying Success

Greg Baker, a renowned chef and food writer, shares his wisdom:

  • Consider preheating the oil to 375°F to compensate for the temperature drop after adding the turkey.
  • Invest in a good thermometer to monitor oil temperature accurately.
  • Safety first! Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use proper safety precautions when handling hot oil.

With this comprehensive guide, you’re now equipped to choose the perfect turkey fryer and impress your guests with a golden-brown, juicy masterpiece this Thanksgiving. Remember, safety is paramount, so follow the instructions carefully and enjoy the delicious rewards!

Additional Resources:

Happy frying!

A sturdier perch for your bird

In an outdoor deep fryer, a turkey is usually placed onto a metal rod that has a circular baseplate on the bottom before being cooked. When you lower the turkey into the pot, it can sit upright on the plate thanks to the rod that passes through its cavity.

However, Severson believes that the King Kooker keeps the meat more securely because it replaces the plate with a three-pronged hook that presses its tines into the meat. “The plate, depending on how big your turkey is, doesn’t allow the turkey to sit flat,” she explains. “The hook securely holds your turkey when it goes in and out of the device, regardless of its size. After all, everything should feel as stable as possible when you’re attempting to pierce a meat thermometer into a turkey breast that’s hanging over a pot of boiling oil.

Multiple uses, but no frills

The fact that the King Kooker Outdoor Deep Frying/Boiling Package comes with two stock-pot and fryer/steamer basket combos of varying depths that allow for more culinary versatility is something Severson appreciates because an appliance like a turkey deep fryer can seem like too big of a contraption to keep around if you only use it once a year.

Severson explained that you can have everything ready for a Cajun or low-country boil by just submerging the deeper basket into the larger stock pot, which is filled with water rather than oil. (Marguerite noted that it would also work for a big lobster or crab boil. Meanwhile, the shallower pan and basket work great for frying fish or preparing a large batch of wings in advance of something like Super Bowl Sunday. Because the fry pan and basket are shallower and sit closer to the burner, they are easier to handle because they have insulated, heat-resistant handles.

What the King Kooker package doesn’t come with are extra accessories that, according to Severson, won’t actually help you fry better-tasting fowl, although the brand does sell such add-ons separately. “A lot of [deep fryers] have extraneous stuff that you don’t need, like flavor injectors,” she said. “You don’t need to inject your turkey with anything for flavor, because it’s going to taste like turkey. It doesn’t matter.”

Similarly, some fryers deliver more power than you need, as high as 54,000 Btu. The King Kooker’s burner cranks up to 33,000 Btu—which, as Severson can attest, is plenty. “It’s just so hot and banging and heats up your oil pretty quickly,” she said.

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