Christmas day was deep-fried turkey day this year. I was taking a bit of a risk deep-frying our christmas dinner as I’d never tried it before and it was a huge 8kg which would take four hours in the oven if anything went wrong. But luckily my family were supportive and encouraging and let me do it anyway. So the pressure was on to deliver. The preparation of the equipment and addressing of safety concerns were covered in a my previous post, now was the fun bit.
We put the pot of oil on the burner with a thermometer dipped in so that we could see the gauge. We turned the gas on to full and waited for the oil to reach 190℃.
Just before the turkey went in I rubbed it with a christmas spice mix of cloves, cinnamon, smoked paprika, black pepper, salt, dark brown sugar and minced onion and garlic. If you wanted to go traditional though, you could just rub it with garlic and lemon and season with salt and pepper.
Now it was time to fry. This was the part I was most worried about from a safety point of view. If the oil bubbled up too much or overflowed onto the flame, it could be disastrous. The plan was to lower the turkey in using the coat-hanger rig hanging from a meat hook, attached to a broom handle, so two people could lower it in at a safe distance. When the oil finally came up to temperature, we turned the gas off and with anxious family and cameras ready, we lowered in the bird.
It was a great moment – the sound of spitting oil and the smell of the turkey starting to cook straight away, mixed with the relief that we had got it in without injuring anyone. Although, it would have been a consolation to be able to post a turkey fail video on YouTube.
We stuck a second thermometer deep into the breast so that we could monitor the temperature inside the turkey and take it out at exactly the right time. The oil temperature dropped to around 140℃ when the turkey went in but I was hoping it would climb rapidly back to 190℃. Then it was a matter of waiting for the thing to cook. We took shifts keeping an eye on it and opened a few beers.
As you can see in this picture the turkey was coming along nicely. This is about halfway through cooking and its at 55℃. The temperature I was aiming for was 65℃. One of my concerns with cooking such a large bird was that the skin would brown too quickly and start to burn before the turkey was cooked through. You can see, though, that the skin has hardly browned at all after half an hour in the hot oil. This is because the steam coming out of the turkey constantly keeps the skin moist so its only when the turkey is nearing the end of cooking, when the steam stops coming out, that the skin goes a proper golden brown. Which is pretty handy really.
Another concern was the oil getting too hot and starting to smoke which would be bad for the turkey and also a fire hazard. However, the temperature on our oil thermometer never went back over 150℃ once we had the turkey in, which was unexpected. I don’t know if this was normal or if the thermometer was actually giving us the wrong reading. The turkey’s temperature was still rising nicely though, and the oil gave no signs of overheating so we left it.
After about an hour the turkey reached its target temp and was ready to be lifted out. This was the second danger point and also the moment of truth to see if it really was cooked through and whether christmas dinner was ruined. You could tell from the skin alone that it was done though, it was a really deep golden brown, much darker than the colour produced by oven cooking. We turned off the gas for the last time and lifted her out.
I was really happy with the dark, crispy skin. It was something quite special that only this method could produce. The underside of the turkey was like pork crackling. Really crispy and gooey with fat underneath. Much better than the greasy skin you get under an oven cooked turkey. Now it was time to see what the meat was like inside.
I was relieved and excited to find the breast meat visibly juicy and the legs tearing away from the carcass with a gentle tug. I may have actually been able to take it out five minutes early but I was slightly cautious as this was the first attempt but even so the result was excellent. The flavour of the fried skin with the BBQ rub was great. I preferred that to a normal turkey personally but it might not be for everyone. But maybe leaving in the rub overnight would have allowed the flavour to penetrate further into the meat.
The whole experience was good fun as well and with the whole family there, it was a great christmas event. I think my Mum liked having the oven free too and not having to worry about getting up early to put the turkey in the oven. If you can get hold of the equipment I would definitely recommend the deep-fried turkey. The best skin you could imagine and super juicy and tender meat inside. I have to agree with the american BBQ guys that this is the best way to cook your christmas (or thanksgiving) turkey.