I love this time of year. A&M always has a bye the week before Thankgiving and it really puts me in a good mood. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year b/c it’s like Christmas without having to buy people gifts.
I started posting this method about five years ago over on AggieYell.com, but have been using it since 1990 or so. Back then the only people who fried their turkeys were cajuns and rednecks, and it just so happened that I come from a long line of quality rednecks. We’ve tried many different methods and many different seasonings, but this is the one that always turns out perfect everytime. I’d like to take credit for it, but I’ve got to give credit to Papa HA for perfecting this thing. His cooker is made out of an old barrel, a pressure cooker, and a water heater burner. I told you we were pedigree rednecks.
A couple of things before the heavy stuff: Get a good turkey fryer with a thick pot to fry. The cheap rigs aren’t bad, but if you are going to spend the money you might as well do it right. I promise you’ll use it more than once.
You actually aren’t frying the turkey as much as you are “boiling” him in oil, so you have to mind pretty closely to everything as you get started. After you do it a couple of times, you will learn the intricacies of the boil and learn what you like.
Things you need before you get started:
Turkey frying rig (pot, turkey mount with flange, temp gauge, burner and all that)
Full propane tank (don’t get caught running out of juice)
Large container of peanut oil (the better the oil, the more expensive it is. Don’t skimp on the oil. LouAnn is just fine, though.)
A watch or clock
Long gloves (welding gloves are perfect)
A dishtowel or two to keep from burning yourself. Plus, it looks like you are a pro when you have it stuck in your back pocket
2 roasting pans, very sturdy
An empty pot and a metal ladle
~15 lbs. turkey, thawed (don’t show up with a frozen turkey and try to fry it)
An entire can of Tony Chachere’s Cajun seasoning (the one in the green container)
Before you do anything, make sure you scrub the pot well. It needs to be clean. When you are completely clean, take the bird and set it down inside. Fill the pot with water so that the bird is just barely covered. Now, take the bird out and make a note of where the water level is. That is where you will need to fill the pot up with oil. Now, you need to reclean the pot and make sure it is completely dry before you add any oil. Keep it clean and dust free with the lid on the pot.
1-2 days before the big day, you need to marinate the bird. Make sure it’s thawed, and make sure you take the innards sack out of the neck flap and the neck bone out of the main carcass. They ship that in the bird for gravy, so give it to the missus and tell her to get in the kitchen. Also, if your turkey has the little plastic insert that pops the red center out when it’s cooked, then make sure you take that out. Put the bird in a roasting pan or some other deep-dish pan that can hold him well. Take the Chachere’s and LIBERALLY coat that mother until he’s red. When you have the outside coated, grab his legs and hold him upside down. Now take the Chachere’s and DUMP quite a bit of the seasoning right down the hole. You can’t have enough inside his gut. Most of it will float out during the boil, but you need to season from the inside as much as the outside. You should have used ½ the can of seasoning at this point, depending on how spicy you want it. Despite the fact that you’ve used so much seasoning, it won’t be as spicy as you think. It’s mainly the skin that’s so spicy, but people LOVE to nibble on that skin. When you finish the dump down the gut, lay the bird back down and rub the seasoning in with your hands like you are giving him a massage. All over. Deep. Sensual. Love the bird…
When you finish the rub down (5 minutes or so) recoat the bird with seasoning. Now, you want to wrap him up pretty tightly with plastic wrap and keep him in the fridge for at least a day, 2 days if you can do it. You can wrap the pan and all…just make sure you get it as airtight as possible.
OIL PREP, HEATING
Ok, so now it’s the big day and you are ready to cook that muthah out. The first thing you want to do is make sure that pot is clean (I can’t stress that enough). Don’t use water, but just wipe it down with a clean cloth. If you have to use water, make sure it’s dry. Oil+water=bad time. Turn the propane at the tank on full blast and back a quarter turn and regulate the temp at the burner. Fill the pot with peanut oil up to that level that you pre-determined. Give it some heat and let it get to right around 275-300deg, depending on the size of your turkey. The peanut oil will start to burn over 425deg, so make sure you don’t go that far. When you add the bird, the temp will come down considerably. The optimal temp to boil him is b/tw 350-375deg. Once you get it up to 250deg, throw in a couple pieces of sliced white bread or some potato chunks. It takes the bitterness out of the oil and cleans up any residue from the bottle/pot/transfer from bottle to pot, and people like to eat the potatoes when you pull them out. Just make sure you pull them out when they are cooked.
This is the hardest part, because when you put the bird in, you’ll lose about 100 deg immediately. Just make sure you don’t start adjusting the temp up and down because that is an ass-whipping of the highest order. If it gets too hot, lower it a tad. If it isn’t hot enough, add a little heat. Nothing too drastic, or you’ll hate yourself for starting it. If you end up cooking at anything less than 325deg, you will need to add ½ minute per pound of cooking time.
Lower him in SLOWLY and make sure you use a towel wrapped around the wire holder. The crevasse will fill with oil as you drop him down, so watch yourself. That oil is hot, dude. Remember that he goes in head first, so when you are mounting the turkey on the flange, make sure you start in the neck and end up coming out of the carcass hole back by the legs.
Ok, I have to take a moment to explain that this is a potentially dangerous thing to do. Do NOT try to do this indoors, in your garage, on your patio, or around your vehicles. If the grease starts to spill out and catches fire, you are looking at a massive blaze that won’t stop until you squirt down the entire rig and turkey with your fire extinguisher. Then your turkey is ruined and everyone gets to eat Rotel dip for Thanksgiving. Don’t be scared, but be careful especially if it’s your first time thru.
As soon as you get him in, start timing using your watch. You will leave him in there for 3 minutes per pound. Most turkeys are around 15lbs, so 45 minutes to an hour is the expected cooking time. There may be times when you think it’s starting to burn because the skin turns dark pretty early in the boil. Just keep on trucking and don’t pull him out until he’s ready. Raw turkey isn’t good, and you don’t want to have to put him back in after you sliced into him. If you have too much oil in the pot, use the ladle to scoop it out. Make sure you have a clean roasting pan handy so that when you pull the bird out you will have something to carry him in. When you pull him out finally, make sure you try to drain as much oil out of him as possible. Just pull him out and hold him over the oil for a few minutes to let it all drip out. There will be quite a bit of oil left in him, and that’s good. But you don’t want so much that you have a soggy mess inside.
Once he’s finished let him sit up for at least 10 minutes before you carve him. Just let it sit there. This accomplishes 3 things:
-Lets him cool off so you don’t burn your fingers during the carve
-The extra oil gets soaked into the meat
-The smell from the turkey drives the people in the house crazy. You will have to watch the bird closely so that people don’t start using their grubby hands to pick meat off of him.
I usually carve the thighs/legs off first from the carcass, then the wings. Using an electric knife makes it easier, btw. Then, split the breasts off the carcass and slice them up. At this point, you should have the hollow remainder of the carcass, but you can go back and carve all kinds of good meat off of him. Don’t forget the wishbone…
You can start experimenting with seasonings and I do mine a little bit differently than this now, but this is a great start. You can’t go wrong with this method. Just make sure that if you decide to use the injection method, you use it IN CONJUNCTION with the Chachere’s and don’t squeeze big pockets of marinade into one spot. You need small pokes all over to make it work best with a small amount of marinade per poke. It takes longer, but if you just squeeze a bunch into a pocket of meat, it will burn and make the meat taste bitter and nasty. Also, poking a bunch of holes might make the meat dryer. You can try out a sugar/brown sugar brine if you like, but too much sugar will burn in the grease.
Be as fancy as you want, but this one works in its own simplicity. Have fun and BEAT THE HELL OUTTA t.u.