How To Deep Fry a Turkey: Thanksgiving Recipes For Your Holiday Dinner

As Thanksgiving approaches, there are two main questions on everyone's mind: What am I thankful for? And how am I going to cook my turkey?

While only you can know what you're thankful for, there are a few people who can lend a hand with helping you decide how to cook your turkey. One way to get the Thanksgiving centerpiece prepped for a platter is to deep fry the bird.

Deep frying a turkey isn't an easy task and can come with very serious consequences if not done properly. Hot oil can spill, burning the chef or innocent bystanders and the grease can light an entire house on fire. However, with a bit of experience and attention to detail, a perfectly golden deep-fried turkey can grace your Thanksgiving table.

How To Deep Fry Your Thanksgiving Turkey

One of the integral parts of deep frying a turkey is the actual act of deep frying. Chefs can use either an electric fryer inside their home or a makeshift fryer outside. To deep fry a turkey indoors, Butterball recommended either using a fresh turkey or a completely thawed bird. Before even thinking about putting the turkey in the fryer, be sure to remove the giblets, neck and wrapper.

Peanut oil should be added to the fryer, making sure that it doesn't exceed the maximum fill line, and then the fryer should be preheated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oil preheats, pat the outside of the turkey with paper towels to ensure it's dry before putting seasonings or marinades on.

Once the oil is preheated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, slowly lower the turkey into the fryer. Butterball noted that depending on the size of the turkey and the fryer, the bird may not be fully immersed. The top of the breast may remain white but still be fully cooked when the rest of the bird is done.

It will take about three or four minutes per pound for the turkey to cook. When completed, dark meat should be between 175 degrees Fahrenheit and 180 degrees and white meat should be between 165 degrees and 170 degrees.

After the turkey is fully cooked, slowly lift it out of the pot and place it in a pan or on a stack of paper towels to drain. Butterball recommended waiting at least 20 minutes before removing it for carving.

how to deep fry a turkey
Turkeys weighing about 11 pounds sit on a table before being eaten in the Thanksgiving Invitational Turkey-Eating Championship on November 22, 20016. One option chefs have for cooking their Thanksgiving bird is to deep fry it, which can yield delicious results but be dangerous. STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

If you don't have a deep fryer but still want a nice crisp bird, you can use a large stock pot, instead, according to Martha Stewart. After washing the turkey inside and out with cold water, pat it dry. Then, add your desired spices to the bird and bring it to room temperature. Martha Stewart recommended threading the neck lap securely to the bottom of the turkey with a wooden skewer and folding wing tips under before deep frying.

To give yourself a way to hold the turkey while submerging it in the oil, use a steel or aluminum wire to truss legs and tail's nose together securely, forming a handle. In a 10-gallon pot with a liner basket, oil should be heated to 360 degrees.

While holding the turkey by the handle you created with the steel or aluminum wire, immerse the bird in four gallons of peanut oil. Cooking time depends on the size of the bird, which requires about three minutes per pound.

After lifting the bird out of the oil, it should be transferred to a wire rack that's been placed over a roasting pan. Allow the bird to rest for 15 minutes before serving. To ensure the safety of everything and everyone involved, Martha Stewart said this cooking method should only be conducted outside, on flat ground, and at least 10 feet from any structure.

Thanksgiving Turkey Cooking Tips

If your turkey is 14 pounds or less, feel free to deep fry it whole. However, if it's 15 pounds or more, Butterball recommended separating the legs and thighs from the breasts and frying them separately.

Don't try to deep fry a frozen turkey, make sure it's completely thawed before you begin. When working with hot oil, it isn't the time to cut corners.

When it comes to pets or children, make sure they're not able to get near the deep fryer or pot when the oil is hot.

If you've never deep fried anything before, try to invite a guest who has and is willing to help or practice ahead of time with smaller items.


For a 15 pound bird, Martha Stewart recommended seasoning it with:

  • 3 1/4 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 25 medium whole bay leaves
  • 3 ¼ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 3 tablespoons Creole seasoning
  • 1 ½ teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder

Bay leaves, thyme, oregano and peppercorns should be finely ground in a spice grinder, then mixed with the garlic powder and Creole seasoning. Once the seasoning is ready, Martha Stewart said to rub one-third of the mixture inside of the turkey, one-third under skin on the breast and one-third on the outside of the turkey before marinating for 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Before putting a 12-pound turkey into the deep fryer, Food & Wine recommended using a 35-hour brine made from:

  • 3 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 ½ cups Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 gallons cold water
  • 1 bunch of thyme
  • 1 head of garlic, separated into cloves and crushed

In a large stockpot, Food & Wine instructed chefs to whisk the brown sugar with mustard, salt and cayenne pepper. Then, gradually whisk in the water and add the thyme and garlic. The turkey should be submerged into the water, the pot covered and placed in the refrigerator for 35 hours before frying.

County Living recommended combining 1 ½ tablespoons of kosher salt and smoked paprika with 1 ½ teaspoons of garlic powder, onion powder and fresh ground pepper and 1 ¼ teaspoons of cayenne pepper.

After patting the turkey dry, loosen and lift skin from the turkey with fingers, making sure to not completely detach it. Then, spread seasoning under the skin and carefully replacing the skin that was lifted. The remaining seasoning should be sprinkled and rubbed inside the cavity and on the outside of the turkey.

Some people may be reluctant to deep fry a turkey out of fear that they'll mess up a crucial part of their feast. But, when it comes to Thanksgiving, the most important part of the meal isn't the turkey, it's the people you share it with.