Monday, December 22, 2008

Perfect Christmas Turkey

If you are like me, you have endured countless iterations of the standard holiday bird-roast turkey. Almost every variety of roast turkey I have ever encountered had a common theme-mounds and mounds of dry as desert sand white meat, made ever slightly more palatable by the application of gravy, ketchup, or some other vaguely liquid based sauce to help you lube the stuff down your throat. Which led me to the conclusion that the proper method for eating a roasted turkey consists of the following steps:
  1. Roast the turkey
  2. Eat the legs and thighs
  3. Throw the remainder (breast, wings, neck, etc.) in the trash
Numerous observational studies confirm that this is most people's secretly held opinion. Have you ever had anybody beg for leftover turkey breast to take home? No? I thought not. Isn't the automatic use of leftover white meat in most houses some version of turkey soup? Of course it is. (People with leftover turkey breast are like dying men in the desert: "Muust haave...liquid!")

But about 8 years ago, I made a magnificient discovery: fried turkey. Fried turkey sounds strange (do you batter it like chicken?), but tastes delicious. No other turkey cooking method comes close to the ambrosia which comes forth from the deep fryer. All of the bird is delicious, and all of it turns out moist. Best of all, you don't heat the house up to something like glass factory temperatures for four hours while cooking the daylights out of all that breast meat. Cook times are much shorter, even for a big bird. On top of that, since everything about the cooking method is big (big flames, big bird, big pot, big seasoning, big oil quantity), it feels like a distinctly masculine endeavor, like grilling, rather than something dainty (like basting or making anything French). My dear wife is greatly in favor of this last point, because it means she gets me out of the kitchen so she can do what she enjoys (making mashed potatoes, cornbread dressing, and the like).
Anyway, if you'd like to step up to the manly art of frying your own, here's the simple step-by-step:
  1. Purchase a turkey. Try to keep it less than 20 lbs., as larger sizes tend not to fit well in the fry pot. Make certain it is thoroughly thawed prior to beginning cooking.
  2. Purchase all of the items pictured below. If you can't quite make them out, the seasoning is Lawry's Perfect Blend Seasoning and Rub for chicken and poultry. The oil is 5 gallons (yes gallons!) of clear frying oil. Peanut oil is better, but very expensive. This type is about 1/2 as much and available at Sam's club, although you really only need 3.5-4 gallons, depending on the size of the bird. The metal items include a turkey frying stand, a stand hook, and a long-stemmed thermometer. You will also need a burner equipped with a fuel regulator and hose to connect to a standard grill size LP tank (which you also need). Helpful Hint: Sometimes, you can purchase all this stuff in a kit-burner, pot, thermometer, seasoning, etc. This is great if you can find it.
  3. Connect the LP tank to the burner and check for leakage with soapy water until no leaks are found.
  4. Fill the fry pot about 1/2 full of oil. Use less if you have a bigger bird, more if a smaller one, as the turkey will displace a lot of oil. The goal is just enough oil to cover the bird, with 4-6" of space between the oil and the top of the pot when the turkey is frying, so that there is no splashover (splashover leads to fire and a grease fire is something you do not want!). Helpful hint: Some pots, like mine, have witness marks stamped into the sides of the pot, telling you how much oil to add for turkeys of various sizes. These are enormously helpful.
  5. Clip the thermometer to the side of the pot, so that the tip of the thermometer is submerged in oil to a depth of 2-3".
  6. Light the burner.
  7. Place the pot of oil on the lit burner and begin heating.
  8. Prep the bird by removing it from the package and removing the giblets, neck, temperature timer (that weird pop-up thing) and anything binding the legs together.
  9. Coat the bird liberally with Lawry's and insert the frying stand through the body cavity of the turkey, first through the hole near the neck, and fishing it out the rear.
  10. When the temperature of the oil reaches 350 degrees, use your stand hook to carefully lower the seasoned bird into the oil.
  11. The temperature will immediately drop 25 degrees or so due to the cold bird, but as it cooks, the temperature will start to rise. Be sure to watch the oil temperature, keeping it between 325 and 350 using your fuel regulator. Do not allow the temperature to rise much above 350, as the oil may start to smoke (this is not good!).
  12. Cook the turkey for 3 1/2 minutes per pound, or until the internal temperature of the thickest portions of breast meat reaches 180 degrees. This means that a 15 lb. bird should cook in approximately 52 minutes, and a 20 lb. bird in about 70 minutes.
  13. Remove the bird from the oil and consume the tastiest turkey you have ever eaten. The skin is crispy, savory, and the perfect complement to the moist, delicious meat underneath.
  14. Fight over the last piece of hot turkey!

You know you want to try it now. All I can say is, once you have it done this way, you'll never go back to a roasted one. In fact, you'll wonder why anybody else puts up with that inferior stuff over the glorious thing you have created.

Merry Christmas!


Brian Brokaw said...

I personally never touch the dark stuff and am strictly a white-meat kinda guy. However, fried turkey does sound pretty good. I am, however, prohibited by national statute from coming within 100 yards of a turkey deep frier. Homeland Security sent a letter. Something about "devastation of all mankind." I don't know. Had too many words and not enough pictures of fire.

The Bullhorn said...

Well-maybe Bobbi should try it! It's worth it.