Monday, April 02, 2007

Fried Turkey

Fried turkey is an almost mythical food--everybody has heard of people who deep-fry whole turkeys, and we've all seen the disaster videos. (You know the formula: too much oil + big, wet turkey + big flaming propane jet equals youtube hilarity!) However, most people have never actually eaten fried turkey or seen a turkey-frying, much less fried a turkey.

This weekend, I took the plunge. More precisely, I made a turkey take the plunge into about a gallon of 400 degree cooking oil. I didn't use a scary gas cooker, though. I received an electric fryer from the in-laws for Christmas. It's basically a great big fry daddy. This is what the machine itself looks like:

I decided to fire up that bad boy because we had company this weekend. My sister's family spent Saturday night with us, so I had to feed four adults and three kids (ages five, three, and one).

I dry-rubbed the bird with Adams Fajita Seasoning. It's mostly salt and pepper, with some kind of lemony acidic stuff mixed in. It is a good quick dry-rub for lots of meats, especially if you don't want any particular type of flavor (i.e., it doesn't make the meat taste like jerk meat, or BBQ, or garlic, or anything else. It just complements the meat). Anyway, I rubbed the bird and let her sit for about 24 hours for the salt to be absorbed. Here she is, ready for cooking:

(The string is a loop tied from leg to leg. There's another loop from wing to wing. I added them so I'd have something to grab if I needed to manipulate the bird in the pot. They were useful, and I'd highly recommend them to anyone who fries a turkey.)

I dumped the oil in, plugged in the fryer, set the thermostat, and waited. And waited. And waited. It took about an hour for the oil to heat up to 400 degrees. Once it hit the mark, I dropped in the bird and the show was on! This was a seven-pound bird, and she only took about half an hour to cook. That was actually a little too long--the bird got up to about 175 degrees, and I prefer poultry cooked to about 160. Here is the finished product:

The meat was tasty, although a little dry (that's what cooking to 175 will do for you). The skin was heavenly--crispy and salty and wonderful. I don't think I've ever had people actually ask to have pieces of skin with their meat before.

I also fried up a couple of other things Saturday while I had the oil hot. One was okra. It turned out well, although I didn't get a photo. The okra was generally well-received. The three-year-old didn't think much of it, although she loves vegetables (after supper, she kept coming back to the kitchen to grab broccoli out of the serving bowl). The one-year-old loved it, and mostly ate okra for supper.

I also cooked some hearts and turkey fries (e-mail me if you don't know what those are, and really want to). Here are the parts right out of the freezer:

I tried breading the parts before frying. I did a good job with the turkey fries, but not so much with the hearts. Here's step two:

Finally, the finished product:

I have had turkey fries before, and these were just as I remember them. Salty and crusty, and just a little bit savory. My only complaint is that the breading wasn't great, but I still ate all of them. The hearts tasted like crusty liver, but were tougher. I ate one, and put the rest with the liver in the fridge. I'm slowly using up the contents of that bowl as treats for dog training.

Overall, I would recommend turkey frying. Even including the time needed to heat the oil, the turkey cooked as fast or faster than oven-roasted bird. For Thanksgiving, this would be a great way to go, because you can cook the turkey elsewhere without tying up the oven. It also didn't heat up the house as much as the oven does. My only concern is clean-up, which I haven't started. I'm contemplating trying to salvage the oil for re-use, but I have to strain out the flotsam and jetsam (and cornmeal that fell off the okra) before I can put it away. I'll let you know how that process goes.

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