Deep Frying: The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Turkey

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deep-fried turkey
deep-fried turkey

As interest grows in over-the-top culinary concoctions, one author eschews modern gimmicks while embracing a classic: deep-fried turkey. Though frying a whole bird may seem a stunt itself, when done properly the technique beautifully crisps the skin while keeping the meat remarkably moist. The dish has become a new tradition across the American South.

Deep-frying a turkey produces the best bird this author has ever tasted. The high heat of the peanut oil seals in turkey juices while imparting crackling skin and rich, crispy flavor even into the meat. While stunt dishes like gold-leaf steak or wine with snakes hold no appeal, deep-fried turkey breaks down assumptions. Far from a kitschy fried fair concoction, it offers a reliable way to feed gathered families. The technique also frees the oven for side dishes and casseroles, as frying takes only 30-45 minutes.

The origins remain uncertain, but the concept likely emerged from Louisiana’s propane crawfish boils and crab fries. Experimentation led local cooks to drop birds into bubbling pots, launching a regional sensation. By the 1970s and 80s the dish gained national attention, though not always positively. After one fiery mishap, a homeowner told news crews he would never again use recipes from the New Orleans paper.

Despite fears, with proper precautions deep-frying poses little risk. Dedicated kits provide needed equipment like burners, hooks, and thermometers to monitor oil temperature. Caution and common sense still rule; the process proves unsafe near buildings or under intoxication. With care taken, however, the technique brings communities together through mesmerizing shared spectacle. Watching the bubbling pot also encourages conversation as onlookers gather around this unusual “water feature.”

Cooks can use injections and spice rubs, but restraint allows the frying to shine. One chef prefers simply salting and sugaring the bird a few days in advance. This lightly scents and tenderizes the meat before a final pat down and dip in peanut oil. Though drippings for gravy stay behind, a supplemental roasted thigh or vegetables can provide the necessary fond. If the lack of roasting aromas troubles you, a turkey-scented candle brings that familiar olfactory touchstone.

The remaining oil does pose a disposal issue. Straining and storing for other cooking remains an option, but who needs gallons of leftover fat? Alternatively, solidifying agents transform the oil into a scoopable solid for the trash. Local recycling programs may also take used cooking oil. This minor problem hardly diminishes the joys of deep-fried turkey.

Skeptics may cling to fears of flaming fiascos, but this technique, while seeming a stunt, delivers far more than kitschy cuisine. Proper preparations keep deep-fried turkey safe and reliable for gathering families. When done correctly, the bird emerges with crispy skin, succulent meat, and rich flavor. The process also brings communities together through shared spectacle. This regional treat now holds an established place on American tables.

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