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Deep-fried turkey easy if prepared properly


DENTON — Deep fried turkey is becoming a popular holiday dish cooked at home. But improperly prepared, it can have a less than desirable taste and can create a safety hazard to your home and guests.

“Safety is something you always need to think about when deep frying anything,” said Dr. Clay King, professor of nutrition and food sciences at Texas Woman's University.

“Commercial kitchens have hoods and built-in fire extinguishing equipment if things get out of hand. Most residential kitchens don't.”

While water boils at 212 degrees, frying oils don't even look hot at 300 degrees. With that in mind, Dr. King advises anyone who deep fries this holiday season to keep children, guests and pets out of the cooking area — be it indoors or out.

“Hot water burns, but hot oil not only burns, it sticks to your skin. No one wants a holiday gathering to turn into a holiday tragedy,” Dr. King said.

Most deep fryers designed for turkeys are intended for outdoor use. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on the recommended distance from the fryer to overhangs and buildings. Use the fryer on a flat surface, but not on a wooden deck. Using a fryer on a concrete surface is fine, providing you don't mind oil stains.

“And always keep a fire extinguisher close. Oils do have a flash point and if they reach that temperature they can burst into flames,” Dr. King said.
It is possible to deep-fry a turkey on a kitchen stove, but it is usually inadvisable because of the logistics of lowering a large bird into a tall pot of hot oil.

Once the safety issues have been addressed, the next consideration should be the oil used for the frying.

“Most people think cooking with Canola is healthy. Often Canola oil is hydrogenated to make it more stable and extend its shelf life,” Dr. King said. “Due to this type of processing, there are now trans fatty acids in the oil, which, according to recent research, means the oil is not heart healthy.”

Dr. King recommends using cottonseed oil or peanut oil to deep fry a turkey.

“Cottonseed oil and peanut oil are non-hydrogenated and healthier. This is especially important now to avoid trans fatty acids,” he said.
“Peanut oil is more expensive than cotton seed oil, but it’s easier to find. You'll find cotton seed oil where commercial kitchens buy their supplies.”

In addition, the frying oils can be purchased at sporting good stores, along with other items for frying turkeys. For example, Dr. King said, flavor injections are favorites of many turkey fryers as they add extra flavor and seasonings.

The pot for deep frying also is important, and most pots for deep frying a turkey should be at least 40 quarts — about five gallons of oil will be needed — and have a basket for lowering and lifting the bird. A 10-pound or smaller turkey deep-fries better than larger birds.

Many deep fried turkey recipes recommend a frying temperature of 350 degrees. The metal a pot is made from will determine how quickly the oil will heat and how much it will cool when the bird is lowered in.

Although a heavy metal pot, like cast iron, takes longer to heat, once it is hot it maintains its temperature even when the bird is lowered into the oil. Stainless steel and aluminum pots heat faster and cool faster, which means the oil will cool more when the turkey is placed in them. That cooling factor means a longer cooking time, which can mean a less desirable taste, Dr. King said.

Consult the owner's manual about cooking times, but generally, cook the turkey three minutes per pound.And while a turkey is frying, never leave it unattended. “Safety first,” Dr. King said.

“Deep frying a turkey isn't as unhealthy as it might sound,” Dr. King added. “Deep fried turkey is moist and delicious and not at all greasy. The inside of the bird steams, and that keeps the nutrients and flavors in. When you boil or bake, many of those nutrients and flavors escape.”

Marinades and other seasonings injected into the turkey and a dry rub on the outside can provide additional flavor, he said.



Media Contact:

Amanda Simpson
Director of News and Information
Tel: (940) 898-3456
e-mail: asimpson1@twu.edu

Page last updated January 22, 2009

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