Carl’s Deep-Fried Turkey

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Every Thanksgiving, my friend Carl, who is also a pastor, makes his deep-fried turkey for some of the women in his church. Using a turkey fryer frees up the oven to make lots of sides, stuffing and pies. Carl seasons his turkey with plenty of cayenne pepper, so much that it made me nervous the first time I saw him make it. But I shouldn’t have worried — it came out perfectly browned and crisp, with just a hint of heat. Be sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your fryer and get a turkey that will fit easily in the fryer, no more than fourteen pounds. It is safest to cook this outside. 

Serves 8-10.

One 12-14 pound fresh turkey (preferably not previously frozen)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons ground cayenne pepper

2 1/2 to 3 1/2 gallons peanut oil for frying

  1. Rinse the turkey completely inside and out and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. For safety reasons, the turkey must be completely dry and thawed, inside and out.

  2. Trim the excess fat from the neck and remove the tail. Fold the wings beneath the turkey as if it were lying on its back with its arms, er, wings tucked beneath its head. Make a small incision in the skin, between the breast and thigh (this allows the oil to cook the thighs more evenly without overcooking the breast.) Season all over, inside and out, with salt and black pepper to taste. Rub the butter all over the turkey to coat evenly and sprinkle evenly with the cayenne.

  3. Pour enough peanut oil in the turkey fryer to reach the fill line, or as directed in the user’s manual for your frier. Heat the oil to 360°F.

  4. Place the turkey in the fry basket and slowly and carefully submerge it in the hot oil. Do not adjust the temperature at this time; it will come back up quickly. Cover the frier with the lid and cook for 45-65 minutes (about 4 minutes per pound), maintaining the temperature of the oil between 350ºF and 360ºF until the turkey is golder brown and an internal thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads between 170ºF and 180ºF.

  5. Line a rimmed baking sheet with brown paper bags. Lift the turkey from the fryer and gently transfer it to the baking sheet to drain. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes, loosely covered, before carving. Serve warm.