Peanut oil for frying (about 4 gallons, see note below)
Makes:10 to 12 servings
If you’ve heard that once you’ve tried fried turkey you’re converted for life, we’re happy to report that for us, it’s true! Not only is your bird done in 40 minutes, but it’s really juicy, not at all greasy, and the skin is crispy beyond belief. The rub we’ve created is a tasty addition, and when left on overnight, it penetrates the entire turkey. We’ve put together a few more tips on deep-frying a turkey here and here.
What to buy: Look for a fresh turkey—they seem to end up crispier and tastier than previously frozen ones. If you do get a frozen turkey, just 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.
Peanut oil is best for frying because it has a very high smoke point and a rather neutral flavor.
Special equipment: A propane turkey fryer like this one from Bayou Classic was all we needed to make a crisp, succulent turkey. (Well, that and the propane and oil!) 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 give your turkey a full night in the fridge with the rub on it 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!
1Combine the rub ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside.
For the turkey:
1Remove the bag of giblets and the neck from inside the turkey. Reserve in the refrigerator until ready to prepare the gravy. Rinse the turkey inside and out and pat it dry with paper towels. Trim most of the excess fat and skin from the neck and cavity (this allows for better frying). Make a 3-inch-long cut on either side of the turkey through the skin where the leg meets the breast. This will allow the oil to drain away and the thigh meat to cook completely.
2Place the turkey on a cutting board or baking sheet and coat it evenly with the rub, including inside the cavity. Place the turkey in a plastic bag and allow to rest in the refrigerator overnight.
3Heat the oil in a turkey fryer until it registers 350°F. (This takes about 40 minutes.) Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Remove it from the bag and lightly blot it with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Place the turkey on the frying rack, drumsticks pointing upward as though it’s doing a headstand. Use the grab hook to very slowly lower the turkey into the heated oil; this takes at least 90 seconds. The oil will boil furiously; this is normal. Wear heatproof gloves and safety goggles, and do not drop the turkey.
4Once the turkey is completely submerged, remove the hook. Fry for about 3 minutes per pound or until the juices run clear and a thermometer inserted into the inner part of the thigh reads 155°F.
5Use the grab hook to slowly remove the turkey from the oil, allowing sufficient time for the hot oil to drain away. Place the turkey and rack on a rimmed baking sheet set on the ground, and let them sit a few minutes before moving to allow any extra oil to drain. Let the turkey rest for at least 15 minutes. Remove it from the rack and carve.
Note: 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.
Beverage pairing: Dixie beer, Louisiana. There’s nothing like a crisp, sharp, and somewhat neutral American light lager with fried turkey. And you might as well have something with true Southern roots like Dixie, though Bud or PBR would be just as delicious.