For some, a giant vat of hot cooking oil screams danger, but for others, it represents deep-fried turkey goodness.
“It’s very tasty,” said Hobey Bauhan, president of the Virginia Poultry Federation. “When you fry a turkey, it seems to lock in the moisture—the meat’s very moist, and the outside is nice and crispy.”
Standing around the turkey fryer chatting with friends and family is a fond activity for many. And while it’s fun to watch a Thanksgiving bird bubbling, it’s also important to remember frying and eating safety.
“You might be inclined to do it in an enclosed area because it’s chilly out,” said Howard Hill, president of King & Queen County Farm Bureau. “But it should always be done outside in an open area … a lot of problems can happen when people are in enclosed areas.”
Hill raises and sells a small flock of turkeys each year for the holidays, and deep-frying is among his favorite ways to prepare Thanksgiving turkeys. In addition to frying outside, he recommends people wear rubber gloves and aprons to protect themselves.
“You could get scalded,” Hill cautioned.
When frying a turkey, the National Turkey Federation suggests using a 40- to 60-quart pot with a basket, and the fryer should be placed in the grass or dirt away from anything that could potentially catch fire. The pot should be filled with enough oil to completely submerge the bird without spilling over.
As for the turkey, smaller is better—ideally between 8 and 10 pounds but no larger than 12 pounds.
Keep thermometers handy too. One to monitor the oil’s temperature, and a meat thermometer for the bird. The oil should be 350 degrees for frying, and the turkey is cooked through when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
“If you’re cooking to 165 degrees, you’re going to kill any bacteria that might be on or in the turkey,” Bauhan said. “When it comes to foodborne illness, follow the four core principles: Clean, keep separate, cook thoroughly and promptly refrigerate leftovers.”
Washing hands and surfaces often helps prevent cross-contamination, Bauhan explained, reducing exposure to dangerous bacteria like salmonella.
For additional safety tips, step-by-step instructions and recipes for frying a turkey, visit the National Turkey Federation’s website at eatturkey.org.