I have long believed that a turkey-frying enthusiast willing to spend a big chunk of his Thanksgiving outdoors, hovering over a huge pot of boiling oil, isn't really in search of moist breast meat; he just wants nothing to do with his family. Why else brave bitter cold and the very real threat of third-degree burns?
But if you want a tasty, tender bird, it's time to come in from the cold. Waring's Pro Turkey Fryer/Steamer lets you fry indoors. It also makes deep-frying a turkey about as safe as it can be. The machine fits on a countertop and looks and functions like a large deep fryer. What sets it apart from your average FryDaddy is the rotisserie function that ensures even cooking. (It also has the ability to steam large quantities of food, in case you would prefer an indoor version of a New England clambake to turkey this holiday.)
For all its vaunted safety features, I was terrified to test it. As a professionally trained chef, I've faced many terrifying things in the kitchen (including the drunken advances of a well-known New York chef), yet there's something about two-and-a-half gallons of 350-degree oil in your kitchen that commands respect. I had to watch the instructional DVD three times just to psych myself up.
Assembling the machine was simple. The oil heated up in 30 minutes, which gave me more than enough time to prepare the turkey for its fate. Having been warned that a wet turkey would lead to blobs of searing peanut oil flying toward my eyes and ears, I thoroughly dried the bird inside and out, tamping at soggy crevices I didn't know existed before my bird and I had shared this intimate moment. I then impaled the poor dear on the rotisserie spit, tied the wings to the body and the legs together. I placed the bird in the frying basket and, while my husband watched nervously, slowly lowered it into the fat. I switched on the rotisserie and after observing it make one perfect rotation, closed the lid, set the timer, turned my exhaust fan to high, and started to relax a little.
Thirty minutes later, I heard a noise over the crackle of the cooking turkey: an ominous thud, followed by a pause; then another thud, pause, thud.... Maybe I'd been watching too much Walking Dead, but I imagined the turkey trying to claw its way out of the fryer.
The truth was only slightly less unpleasant: A quick check revealed that the turkey's wings had come free and were preventing the rotisserie from spinning. I turned the rotisserie off, bundled my hands into oven mitts, and released the safety grips holding the basket in the bubbling hot fat. This allowed me to lift the basket to its highest level and kept me and the turkey out of the oil. While the instruction manual had clearly stated that I needed to tie the bird tightly with string, it didn't offer a clue as to how to re-tie the beast if it got loose. I found a very long skewer and threaded the string under the bird and around again. Minutes later the turkey was back in its bath of oil, but I had learned my lesson: The next bird I fry will be trussed up tighter than a character from Fifty Shades of Grey.
After 40 minutes of cooking time, I used the thermometer included with the machine to test for doneness; the breast needed to be 155 degrees. For a machine as elaborate and well-thought-out as this fryer, the thermometer was a disappointment. It was slow to the point of uselessness. I instead used my Thermapen (I think the fastest and best kitchen thermometer on the market), and sure enough, it was ready.
The result was a triumph: an evenly cooked turkey with a breast as juicy and tender as I have known, and crisp, bronze skin worthy of a spring break co-ed.
Clean-up was straightforward but a kind of a pain. The oil took 12 hours to cool, during which time my house began to smell like a chip shop. I drained the oil into its original containers, using the clear plastic tube provided by Waring, and I was impressed at how easy it was to wipe out the inside of the fryer (it took far less time than it would have to scrub a roasting pan).
The Waring Pro Turkey Fryer/Steamer has made deep-frying a turkey a much safer, simpler experience than frying it outdoors. For those few diehards who insist on remaining outside, I understand it's about more than the quest for the perfect turkey. I have a family too. I get it. But for those of us who have have longed for a crispy-skinned, juicy turkey on Thanksgiving, made in the comfort of our own kitchen - Uncle Hal's braying laugh be damned - our prayers have been answered.