Turkey Fry Basics: What You Need to Know for the Perfect Bird

Before we learn how to safely fry a turkey, you may be wondering why fry? In the past few years, deep-fried turkey has become all the rage—and for good reason. Here’s why:

  • It’s super fast. Deep-frying a 12-pound turkey can take as little as half an hour, compared to three or more hours for roasting.
  • It adds drama. Frying a turkey in the backyard over an open flame adds an extra layer of flare to any feast.
  • The flavor is awesome. Deep-frying seals in moisture and flavor, resulting in a turkey that’s juicy on the inside with a crispy, delectable skin.
  • There’s no scrubbing. Although you may have to deal with some spilled oil or other messes, you won’t have to scrub out a roasting pan.
  • It takes up less oven space. When you’re entertaining for the holidays, oven space can be at a premium, and roasting a turkey can take up huge real estate.

Inside or Out

The first thing you need to decide is which method of frying you’ll use. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, you now have two choices:

Turkey Fry How-To


Sure, you can opt for an oil-less turkey fryer, but we’re going to go with the full-on oil version. Here’s the skinny on frying a big fat turkey:

Step 1: Choose your turkey wisely.

When it comes to turkeys, size really does matter. Smaller turkeys are best for frying. An 8- to 10-pound turkey is ideal, but you can go up to 14 pounds. Why? Well, first there’s the safety issue of carefully lowering a huge turkey into a vat of boiling oil. The larger the turkey, the more likely you are to drop it, which can result in grease fires, splattered oil and painful, dangerous burns. Also, the larger the bird, the longer it takes to cook, resulting in over-cooked or burnt skin.

Step 2: Select the right kind of oil.

Only use oils that have high smoke points, such as peanut oil, refined canola oil, corn oil, rice oil and sunflower oil.

Step 3: Determine how much oil you’ll need.

Take a look at your turkey fryer. Does it feature a “fill line” that shows you how far to fill the oil? If so, fill the oil to that line. If there is no “fill line” on your fryer, follow these guidelines before marinating the turkey to measure the right amount of oil:

  • Place the thawed turkey in the fryer basket and lower into the empty pot.
  • Add water until the top of the turkey is covered—a minimum of three to five inches from the top of the fryer.
  • Remove the turkey, allowing the water to drain from the turkey into the fryer.
  • After removing the turkey, note the water level, using a ruler to measure the distance from the top of the pot to the surface of the water.
  • Drain or pour out the water, and dry the pot thoroughly. If the fryer has a drain valve, remove any excess water from the spigot by opening the valve. Remember to close the valve before adding oil.

Step 4: Prepare your turkey.

  • Completely thaw and unwrap your turkey, making sure you’ve noted the weight—you’ll need it to compute the total frying time.
  • Start heating the oil to the appropriate temperature using the chart (see Step 4).
  • Remove the wire or plastic truss that holds the legs in place (if applicable)
  • Take out the neck and giblets from the two body cavities, and remove any excess fat around the neck to allow the oil to flow through the turkey.
  • Cut off the wing tips up to the first joint and cut off the tail.
  • Remove the pop-up timer from the breast (if applicable).
  • Dry the interior and exterior of the bird thoroughly.
  • Inject a marinade of your choice. You can purchase a marinade or make one of your own. You can also add a dry rub to the turkey for added flavor. Inject 60% of the marinade deep into the breast muscles, 30% into the leg and thigh muscles and 10% into the meaty wing section. Do not inject the marinade just under the skin. This can result in the hot oil popping and splattering.
  • After adding the marinades and seasonings, place the turkey in a clean roasting pan on the countertop for no more than 30 to 45 minutes.

Note: Do not stuff turkeys for deep-frying.

Step 5: Fry your turkey.

Follow the chart below to determine what supplies you’ll need, as well as where and how to fry your turkey, based on your chosen cooking method.

Outdoor Propane Fryer

Indoor Electric Fryer

Equipment Features

  • Typically a 30- to 40-quart vessel with a lid, basket, lifting hook and burner
  • Usually a 22- to 28-quart vessel with a glass lid, adjustable digital temperature control and timer

Additional Supplies Needed

  • Propane gas tank
  • Thermometer to measure the oil temperature
  • Food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of the bird
  • Injector for marinades and seasonings
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Oven mitts and potholders.
  • Food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of the bird
  • Injector for marinades and seasonings
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Oven mitts and potholders

Where to Fry

  • Must be used outdoors—never use a propane unit indoors, in a garage or other structure attached to a building.
  • Place on a level dirt or a grassy area
  • Avoid frying on wood decks, which could catch fire
  • Avoid concrete, which can be stained by the oil
  • May be used indoors
  • Requires an electrical outlet
  • Can be placed on a countertop a safe distance from overhead cabinets
  • Can be used on sheltered porches, patios, garages or outdoors within reach of an electrical outlet

Oil Temperature

  • Preheat oil to 375 degrees F.
  • Preheat oil to 400 degrees F.

Lowering the Turkey Into the Hot Oil

  • Just prior to lowering the turkey into the oil, turn off the burner.
  • To prevent excess splattering, slowly lower the turkey into the oil.
  • As soon as the turkey is safely in the pot, immediately turn on the burner.
  • To prevent excess splattering, slowly lower the turkey into the oil.

Frying Time

  • Allow 3 to 4 minutes per pound.
  • Oil temperature may fluctuate based on outdoor temperature and wind conditions.
  • Maintain oil temperature at 350 degrees F.
  • Allow 3 minutes per pound, plus an extra 5 minutes.

Step 6: Test It

Remove the turkey from hot oil and drain it on paper towels. Check the internal temperature with a food thermometer. It should read 165-170°F in the breast area and 175-180°F in the thigh area.

Step 7: Wait 15 minutes and dig in!

Let your turkey rest for a total of15 minutes. After that, you can carve it, plate it and dig into the ultimate turkey experience!

Additional Safety Tips

  • Never leave the turkey fryer unattended during the heating, cooking and cooling process.
  • Keep children and pets away from the cooking area at all times.
  • Allow the oil to cool completely before disposing or storing.
  • Immediately wash hands, utensils, equipment and surfaces that have come in contact with raw turkey.
  • Your turkey should be consumed immediately and leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking.

What to Do with All that Oil

Frying a turkey uses a lot of oil, and much of it is left after you take the turkey out. Instead of wasting your oil, you can filter it and use it for your next big fry.


High smoke-point oils can be reused with proper filtration. Here’s how to properly filter the oil so that it’s ready to use again:

  • Allow the oil to cool overnight in the covered pot.
  • Strain the cooled oil through a fine strainer.
  • If a breading, spice or herb rub was used on the turkey, you’ll need to filter the oil again using a fine cheesecloth to remove any existing sediment.


In a proper, sealed storage container, your oil can be stored in the refrigerator for up to six months and can usually be used in frying three or four more times before it starts to deteriorate. If the oil smells rancid, or foams, darkens, smokes excessively or fails to bubble when heated, don’t reuse it.


Now more than ever, old cooking oil is being turned into biodiesel fuel. Contact your local government to see if there is an oil collection point in your area. Some disposal sites will even offer payment in return for the oil. Either way, most areas have cooking oil deposit sites to safely dispose of your old oil.