I know I am a bit late with this, and Hanukkah is half over, but I got sidelined with a killer cold for the past week. I was back on my feet just in time for Latke Ball on Thursday and Chinese food with friends tonight. A couple of week ago, some friends and I decided to kick off Hanukkah early and deep fried a turkey. Combined with niner’s football, latkes and beer, it made for a pretty awesome Sunday. While the tradition of deep frying turkey got started in the American South, and most people associate it with Thanksgiving, this culinary trend was ripe for a Hebraic takeover. Hanukkah is considered a minor Jewish holiday but there are three universal practices associated with it: Lighting the menorah, playing dreidel, and eating fried foods. Why settle for simple potatoes when you can fry an entire bird? Now when this idea was first proposed there was a lot of concern that this was a spectacularly dangerous thing to be doing on a small San Francisco balcony. There are a lot of people who have done incredibly stupid things combining a turkey and a deep-fryer and have started some crazy fires. You can even entertain yourself for hours on YouTube watching people do this very thing. I have been lucky enough to have watched the process a few time at my family’s Thanksgiving and got some great pointers from Derek B. Plus a few simple rules can greatly reduce the risk.
- This is not a one person job. You need at least two people or a mechanical pulley system (thanks Alton) to do this safely. Luckily, men really enjoy doing this and I had Ben, Shaun and Sivan on hand to assemble the fryer and do the heavy lifting.
- Have a fire extinguisher handy. (and as Ben helpful pointed out, have it accessible in a place that would not require you to go through any potential fires to retrieve it)
- Totally defrost your turkey. A still frozen turkey = massively splattering oil.
- Don’t over flow the oil. Most of the fires start when the oil overflows the pot and catches the flame which subsequently ignites the rest of the pot of oil. You can do a displacement test with water and your turkey before you unwrap it to determine the amount of oil you need. When you lower the turkey in after you have heated the oil - turn off the flame.
- Last but not least – Get drunk AFTER the turkey comes out.
With the appropriate safety precautions, you will have a fantastic bird and may never roast a turkey again. My crowd of about 15 people cleaned an 18lb turkey down to the bone. The only drawback to this is a lack of leftovers.
You do need to plan a bit in advance and get your turkey several days before hand so you have time to defrost, brine and dry your turkey before you fry. Some people like to inject seasoning and flavor but I went for a brine. Butcher shops and store like Whole Foods will defrost the turkey for you if you give them advance notice. I went all out and got a Diestel Farms Organic heritage bird, and it was fantastic, but I know Trader Joes and Costco had kosher birds before Thanksgiving, which allow you to skip the brining. I used the Cooks illustrated basic brine recipe (this is a downloadable pdf, get it – it is essential for any meat eater) , I used brown sugar instead of white sugar and then threw in a handful of black peppercorns and 2 C of bourbon for a little extra flavor.
After brining – place your turkey on a rack in your fridge and air dry for 8-12 hours. This will ensure your turkey is dry and minimize oil splatter and will make for extra crisp skin.
- 1 turkey, with giblets removed
- Approximately 4 to 4 1/2 gallons peanut oil (peanut oil has a high smoke point and a neutral flavor)
- Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking.
- Place the oil into a 28 to 30-quart pot and set over high heat on an outside propane burner with a sturdy structure.
- Bring the temperature of the oil to 250 degrees F.
- Once the temperature has reached 250, shut of the flame and very slowly lower the bird into the oil. Once immersed, turn the flame back on and bring the temperature to 350 degrees F.
- Once it has reached 350, lower the heat in order to maintain 350 degrees F.
- Fry the turkey for about 3 minutes per pound and then check the temperature of the turkey using a probe thermometer. Once the breast reaches 151 degrees F, gently remove from the oil and allow to rest for 15-30 minutes prior to carving.
- Carve as desired.