If you’ve never had a fried turkey before on Thanksgiving, trust me: you’re missing out. But when it comes to giving turkeys a hot oil bath, there is a definite “risk it for the biscuit” factor. According to the National Fire Protection Association, deep fryer fires account for an average of five deaths, 60 injuries, and more than $15 million in property damage each year. In an effort to give the men and women of Monroe County’s fire departments a reprieve this year, Keys Weekly offers these tips to avoid sending your house up in flames in the pursuit of Thanksgiving perfection. But of course, please note: I’m not a professional, and this is just an opinion.

  1. THAW. THAT. BIRD. – One of the two most crucial elements in preventing the Great Thanksgiving Bonfire of 2021 is making sure that your turkey is completely thawed before frying. Any ice or water left in the turkey as it is lowered into the oil will rapidly expand, causing explosive splatters and overflow (think “water droplet in a pan of bacon grease” times a million). In a refrigerator, turkeys will take approximately one day per four pounds to thaw.
  2. Brine, marinate, spice … it’s up to you. – We won’t disclose any of Grandma’s secret recipes here, but this reporter has found a 12-hour soak in a bath of icy water with a pound each of dissolved brown sugar and Kosher salt does the trick beautifully. Keep in mind that any herbs and spices left on the outside of the bird will likely end up charred. While you’re at it, remove any plastic pieces and giblets from the turkey’s packaging, including the thermometer and leg ties.
  3. BUTTER IT UP! – If you’re frying a turkey for health reasons, you’re doing it wrong. When you are just about ready to fry, get yourself a big syringe full of melted butter, and jab that bird as many times as you can.
  4. The most common setup used for frying turkeys is a large propane burner topped with a tall 30 quart pot. If your pot has been used before and banged around from months or years of storage, fill it with water and ensure there are absolutely no pinhole leaks. I have personally been mere minutes from a trip to the emergency room when I realized one of my trusty pots had a slow drip of oil over a lit propane burner.
  5. MEASURE YOUR OIL LEVEL CORRECTLY! I’ll say it again, because it’s that important. As in, the difference between keeping your house and burning it down. MEASURE YOUR OIL LEVEL CORRECTLY! Place the turkey inside your frying pot, and fill the pot with water until the bird is completely submerged. The water should still be a minimum of four to five inches from the top of the pot; if it isn’t, you’re going to need a bigger pot. Remove the turkey, and mark the water level WITHOUT the bird.
  6. DRY. THAT. BIRD. – Water is public enemy number one here. Make sure your pot and turkey are completely dry before adding oil to the pot and beginning the heating/frying process.
  7. On a level surface far from any overhangs, shrubs, or the house, fill your pot with frying oil to the marked line, wipe up any drips, place the pot on the burner, and light the burner. Heat the oil until it is between 250-300 ℉.
  8. When placing the bird in the hot oil, be sure to use a sturdy metal poultry rack or other suitable hanger and wear heavy-duty flame-resistant gloves. TURN THE BURNER OFF FIRST, and slowly lower the bird into the hot oil. Ensure that the oil is still a few inches below the edge of the pot and that there are no drips or spills before re-lighting the burner.
  9. Raise the oil temperature to between 325 and 350 ℉. It is normal for the temperature to drop considerably and rise slowly when the bird is first added. In most cases, the pot’s lid is not necessary, as it will raise the temperature too quickly and unnecessarily char the turkey skin.
  10. Fry the turkey for between three and five minutes per pound, or until the breast reaches a temperature of 151 ℉. Bring your phone, bring a book, bring a TV if you want, but once the burner is lit, you’re in for the long haul. DO NOT leave the fryer unattended for any reason. Keep a fire extinguisher handy, and if it all goes up in flames, DO NOT use water to put out the fire. You’ll only make things worse.
  11. Extinguish the burner, and gently remove the turkey from the hot oil. As it comes out, be prepared to be ridiculed by onlookers for burning the turkey and ruining Thanksgiving. This bird might look like it was just rescued from a house fire, but don’t freak out! This is normal. The peanut gallery will be begging you for scraps of the crispy skin later.
  12. Allow the bird to rest with a tin foil covering for a minimum of 30 minutes to allow the breast to reach its final cooking temperature of 161 ℉.
  13. Carve and enjoy!

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Hailing from Rhode Island, the Ocean State, Alex has always spent as much of his life as possible in and around the water. A dolphin trainer by profession, he still spends most of his free time diving, spearfishing, and JetSkiing. Once it gets too dark for those things, he can usually be found at the Marathon Community Theater, where he spends most nights still trying to figure out what the heck he is doing.