Fried Turkey

- wadE

Ah you gotta love Thanksgiving. A time to gather family and friends together and give thanks for the important things in life. We do this by cooking a 23 lb. turkey and stuffing ourselves until our belly-buttons become 'outies'. It's the American way!

Is there any holiday that's more American than Thanksgiving? Ok ok...I suppose July 4th is a bit more American... only because it's about blowing stuff up, but coming in a close second is Thanksgiving. This holiday is all about excess! ...and there is nothing more American than excess!

As we all know, Thanksgiving was originally all about being thankful... mostly for having enough food to stay alive. The first Thanksgiving (and all since then) are inextricably linked to turkey. Why turkey? It's fairly tasteless, difficult to cook, and generally dry as a bone. Well, back in those days that's about all they could find (and catch) on short notice that was big enough to feed everyone.

These days we continue that tradition by going through the hassle cooking that picture perfect turkey. But this year I found a way for it not to be such a pain. Let's go through it step by step.

Buying the turkey:

First of all, don't buy a frozen turkey! There are several places to buy a fresh turkey all the way up to a few days before Thanksgiving. One drawback is that you'll have to keep it in your fridge until Thanksgiving (taking up half of the damn fridge), but even if you buy a frozen turkey, you'll have to put it in your fridge several days in advance so it can thaw.

Forget the stuffing:

What?...but I love stuffing! Listen...stuffing a turkey adds mass, which adds to the cooking time, and all that bread can suck the juices right out of the bird. Instead, there are several great recipes for dressing (what stuffing is called when it's not "stuffed" in the turkey), and no, the recipes are better than making stove top stuffing!

Soak the bird overnight in a brine:

What the heck is a brine? Well, a brine is basically a salt water solution. By soaking overnight you'll be able to keep you turkey nice and moist. Here's what you do: buy a five gallon bucket, the day before thanksgiving fill the bucket halfway with icewater, put in a handful of salt (and any other spices you might like...rosemary is pretty good, some pepper, cloves, whatever), put the turkey in (remember to removed all the bags of giblets and whatnot inside first), fill the rest with water and ice. Find a good place to leave your turkey...a garage works really well. It keeps the animals away from it, and up here in MN you won't have to worry about all the ice melting and your turkey getting warm. :-)

Here's the real key -- Fry the turkey:

Forget the'll have enough other casseroles, hot dishes, side dishes, bread, whatever in the oven already. The last think you want to do is have to get up at 3 in the morning to put a turkey in the oven, wake up in the morning, take the turkey out, put the rest of your food in the oven that needs to be heated, and somehow keep the turkey warm until it's time to eat! Forget it! Go on the internet, or I even found a great deal at Galyan's, and get yourself a big turkey fryer. They are all the rage these days...and after doing it, I see why! They were selling some 32 qt. fryers, with the oil included, for 50 bucks. The best feature is instead of 15-20 minutes per pound to cook it, we're taking 3 minutes a pound...3 minutes! I cooked a 23 pound turkey in 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Ok ok...I know what you are thinking..."deep fat fry a turkey? are you crazy? it's bad enough I'm going to stuff my fat face with mashed potatoes, stuffing, green-bean casserole, pumpkin pie, ice cream..." I see your point, but guess what, it's not that bad. By deep frying the turkey, when you drop it in, it seals the skin. Your turkey cooks without any juices getting out, and without all the fat getting in... one catch. To get this benefit, you can't be eating all the skin. I know, it's your favorite part...but trust me...with how moist and tasty the meat actually is, you won't miss the skin. Besides, it's thanksgiving...after all the other crap you are going to eat, are you going to tell me with a straight face that NOW you are concerned about your cholesterol?

One other tip...if you still aren't convinced...use canola oil instead of peanut oil (which most recipes suggest). I used canola oil and it came out great.

Now for the bad news...after all of this, you are stuck with 5 gallons of oil, and a giant deep fryer. The best thing to do is to let the oil settle over a big funnel at your local auto parts store, and pour the oil back into the container it came from. After cleaning up you cooker you can use it as a steamer or boiler. Seems a little wasteful to have this big contraption that you are only going to use a few times a year, but how many of us have gadgets and tools sitting around that we used once or twice and haven't used again? How many of you bought tools to stuff your own sausages, or make your own pasta, or make your own beef jerky? I rest my case.

Besides, you can just leave the oil in and make your own bloomin' onions until next year! YUM!!!


- 12/05/2002

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