How To Deep Fry a Turkey

This is a comprehensive post on everything you’ve always wondered about how to deep fry a turkey. We’ve been doing it in our family for a number of years now and I often get questions about it, so I wanted to share everything about what we use, how we use it, and tons of tips so you can do it, too!

A freshly friend turkey sitting on top of a deep fryer.

Until a handful of years ago, I had never encountered a turkey made any other way than roasted in the oven. It’s the only way my grandma or anyone else in my family had ever done it. I heard here or there about frying a turkey, but never gave it a second thought.

When I started dating my husband, he introduced me to the tradition of deep-frying a turkey at his aunt and uncle’s house. They had an outdoor fryer, and the guys would bundle up and stand outside of the garage while the turkey cooked. I had that deep fried turkey a time or two and it was amazing! However, never did I actually think about frying one MYSELF.

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Fast forward a few years, and now I can’t imagine doing it any other way!

A raw turkey about to be dropped into a deep fryer.

What Kind of Deep Fryer Do You Use?

Back in 2012, my husband and I were watching a morning talk show in mid-November and they were talking about Thanksgiving dinners. One of the products they featured was an INDOOR turkey fryer. Mind. Blown. No risk of explosions and a heck of a lot safer… I scurried over to Amazon and ordered one immediately. We were having Thanksgiving dinner at my mom’s house that year, so I informed her we were going to fry the turkey, ha!

This is the turkey fryer we use: Butterball XL Electric Fryer

You can fry up to a 20-pound turkey, but we’ve definitely pushed the limits with a 24-pound turkey a couple of years ago.

How Long Does It Take to Deep Fry a Turkey?

This is one of the biggest advantages of deep frying a turkey! It takes so much less time than roasting a turkey in the oven. You’ll want to follow the instructions of the fryer you use; ours recommends three to four minutes per pound. That means if you have a 20-pound turkey (that’s the size we’ve used the last two years), it will take approximately 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes to finish cooking (versus like 4 hours in the oven!). We sometimes pull the turkey out, check the temperature, then need to lower it back in for a little longer, but I always err on checking at the earliest time so as not to overcook it.

We kind of make it a little event on Thanksgiving… since it doesn’t take a long time to cook, once everyone arrives, we “drop the turkey!” into the fryer, then we munch on appetizers and visit while the turkey cooks. Another bonus of frying is that the oven is completely free for side dishes!

What is the Best Oil for Deep Frying a Turkey?

We did a lot of research on this the first time we fried the turkey, and found that peanut oil is pretty much the gold standard when it comes to turkey frying oil. (Spoiler Alert: It’s crazy expensive, but we found it semi-reasonably priced at Sam’s Club.) We used peanut oil up until two years ago when Joseph was diagnosed with his peanut allergy, and then we switched to canola oil.

Canola oil has worked well for us, and we haven’t noticed any negative effects from switching from peanut oil.

Do you Brine or Use a Rub on a Deep Fried Turkey?

When we were roasting turkeys in the oven, I always brined them so I continued to do so for at least three years after we started deep-frying the turkey. In the past I had used Alton Brown’s brine for a deep-fried turkey, as well as a maple bourbon brine that Jessica shared a few years ago. Fast forward to last year when I had a 6-week old and was recovering from a c-section come Thanksgiving (which meant I wasn’t even allowed to LIFT the turkey) … and I did the BARE MINIMUM. Which meant no brine. And guess what? No one could tell the difference! SO… I’m cutting myself some slack and eliminating work that doesn’t have much affect on the final product.

I do think brines are vital when you’re roasting a turkey – they really help to seal in moisture and guarantee a juicy turkey; however, when frying, you’re getting a super moist turkey anyway!

I haven’t done a rub as of yet on a deep fried turkey, but I’m thinking about trying one this year, just for a smidge more seasoning. If I do it, I’ll let you know how we like it!

But How Do You Make Gravy If There Are No Drippings?!

Easy! I use recipes that don’t require drippings. In the past, I’ve made this Ina Garten make-ahead gravy, and more recently have made Jessica’s cider bourbon gravy, which uses the turkey neck for great flavor. There are tons of make-ahead gravy recipes online, so you could definitely find one that suits your taste preference!

Additional Tips for Deep Frying a Turkey

I covered the big questions most people have when it comes to deep frying a turkey (which one to use, how long does it take, what kind of oil do I need, and do you need to use a brine), but I do have a few other tips for you to ensure deep fried turkey success:

  • Make sure you remove the neck and giblets, and do NOT stuff the turkey that you’re frying – you’re going to have to make your stuffing separately if you’re used to cooking it inside the bird.
  • The turkey needs to be bone dry before you drop it into the oil to avoid splatter. In the past I have just gone to town with paper towels, but this year I’m thinking of actually doing that the night before, and then placing the dried-off turkey in the refrigerator overnight, which I’ve read helps to really ensure a super crisp skin. We usually get that anyway with frying, but no one will complain about crispy skin!
  • Put the fryer somewhere safe where little hands can’t touch it… we use the end of our long island to set it up.
  • Make sure whoever is dropping the turkey into the fryer has steady hands… this job always goes to my husband. He wears long oven mitts (I love these) and safety glasses as well, just in case there are splatters. He uses a large step stool to make sure he can easily lift the basket with the turkey (remember, a 20-pound turkey in a basket that’s teetering because the weight of a turkey isn’t able to be distributed evenly) up and into the fryer.
  • Drop the turkey slowly, slowly, slowly. If you drop it in too quickly, you’ll get a surge and splatter of oil. Lowering it slowly reduces the likelihood that any oil is going to splash up.

Do you deep fry a turkey? If so, feel free to share any of your tips or something I may have missed below!

Five years ago: Cloverleaf Dinner Rolls
Six years ago: Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

How To Deep Fry a Turkey - A comprehensive post on everything you've ever wanted to know about deep frying a turkey - the equipment, oil, brines, rubs, times, and even more tips! #thanksgiving #turkey #cooking #recipes