Deep-fried turkey: How to prepare it safely

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Deep-fried turkey: How to prepare it safely

Question

I'd like to try deep-frying our turkey this year. Is this safe?

Karen
Wisconsin

Answer

Deep-fried turkey is safe as long as the turkey is cooked to the appropriate internal temperature and the frying is done outdoors.

Deep-frying has become a popular method for cooking a whole turkey. When done properly, deep-fried turkey can be incredibly delicious — crisp on the outside and tender and moist on the inside. But keep in mind that deep-frying adds fat and calories. Also, deep-fried turkeys are often injected with a marinade, which can be high in sodium.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), deep-frying works best if the turkey is 12 pounds or less. Larger turkeys are more difficult to handle, which increases safety concerns when cooking with hot oil. Also, large turkeys take longer to cook. As a result, you may end up with a bird that is charred on the outside but still undercooked in the inside.

When deep-frying a turkey, choose a cooking pot that is large enough to accommodate the turkey and oil without the oil spilling over. To determine how much oil you'll need, place the turkey in the cooking pot and add water to cover. Then, remove the turkey and measure the amount of water in the pot. This is the amount of oil needed.

The turkey may be cooked plain or it may be breaded, coated with a dry rub or injected with a marinade. The turkey should not be stuffed.

To safely deep-fry a turkey, the USDA offers these tips:

  • Select a safe location outdoors for deep-frying the turkey — away from children, pets, buildings and flammable materials. This reduces the risk of fires and severe burns caused by hot oil splashing out of the pot.
  • Heat the cooking oil to 350 F.
  • Slowly and carefully lower the turkey into the hot oil. The oil should completely cover the turkey.
  • Monitor the oil temperature with a thermometer constantly during cooking. Never leave the hot oil unattended.
  • Allow approximately three to five minutes per pound cooking time.
  • Remove turkey from the oil and drain oil from the cavity of the turkey.
  • Check the temperature of the turkey with a food thermometer. The internal temperature of the bird should be 180 F when measured in the inner thigh. Undercooked turkey may harbor harmful bacteria.
  • If the turkey isn't done, immediately return the turkey to the hot oil for additional cooking.
  • When the turkey is done, remove it from the oil and place it on a sturdy tray lined with paper towels. The skin can be golden to dark brown to almost black.
  • Let the turkey sit for about 20 minutes before carving.

Allow the used oil to cool before pouring it into containers for refrigerator storage. The oil can be reused if it is strained, covered and used within a month.

Last Updated: 11/22/2005
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