The Six Keys To Safely Frying A Turkey

A few years ago my daughter’s in-laws from Brooklyn NY came to Memphis for thanksgiving. To give them a taste of southern cuisine I decided to fry a turkey in addition to my conventionally roasted turkey. In effect we had a taste panel where our twenty guests got to try both a roasted and fried turkey. There was no question that the fried turkey tasted better. It was more savory and had a richer flavor. It gave new meaning to the saying: “you can fry anything and it will taste better”.

Fried turkeys are great, but frying is dangerous. Every year deep-fryer fires are responsible for five deaths, 60 injuries, the destruction of 900 homes, and more than $15-million in property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

I had a neighbor who once almost burned down his house. The poor guy thought you had to have the oil boil before putting the turkey in. He was lucky he didn’t kill himself. He did however set his house on fire. The funny part of the story was that my buddy just happened to be wearing a tee shirt that said “Chicago  Fire Department”. When the local fire department got to the house my freind noticed one of the firemen looking at his shirt quizzically. My buddy told him the shirt was a gift. To which the fireman responded: “I figured”.

With all this said, there are six keys to safely frying a turke

  1. Get a smaller turkey that fits in your fryer

A turkey in the 12 to 15 pound range will work well. Most turkey fryers will fit a turkey of less than 15 pounds. Larger turkeys increase the chances of oil overflow.  The smaller turkey also cooks quicker and more evenly. If you are having larger crowd you may need to fry more than one turkey. The good news is that it only takes about 35 to 45 minutes to fry a turkey so cooking two should be no problem.2

2. Make sure your turkey is fully defrosted and brought to room temperature

If you want a real disaster try putting a frozen turkey in hot oil. There are some hilarious videos on the internet, but if it happens in real life the explosion isn’t funny at all. I like to use a fresh turkey and even with that I will take the a turkey out of the refrigerator for a couple of hours prior to frying to make sure it is at room temperature

3. Pre-measure how much oil to put in your fryer

I like to place my turkey in the cold fryer before cooking. Then I fill the fryer wiith water to get the turkey fully covered. You then pull the turkey out and mark how much water is in the fryer. Then empty the water out. Fully dry the pot and fill the fryer with oil up to your mark

4. Fry your turkey outside away from anything that will catch on fire

This seems like an obvious one, but you can’t be too careful. Again there are stories where people have fried a turkey inside or even on a wooden deck that just don’t end well

5. Use an  fry oil thermometer and take precaution when lowering the turkey into the oil

Heat your oil to 250 degrees and then slowly lower it in. The biggest risk is the first time you lower the turkey into the oil. The risk is the oil bubbling over and igniting with the flame. I use the a hook unit that comes with the fryer and wearing heat resistant cooking gloves and a large sturdy fork to lower the bird in without getting burned. Once the turkey is in, I then bring the oil temperature up to 350 degrees and cook for 35 minutes

6. Use an instant read thermometer to make sure the bird is done.

After the bird has cooked for 35 minutes I pull it out with the hook, gloves and fork. Then using an instant read thermometer I make sure the internal temp is 155 degrees. After the turkey is out of the oil it will continue to cook and should reach 165 degrees. The bird should rest for at least 20 to 30 minutes before carving.

In the end fried turkey is better and with these 6 keys it can be done safely.

If you enjoy this blog and similar other stories/supper club lessons subscribe to get future blogs at and be on the look out for my book Impromptu Friday Nights a Guide to Supper Clubs. Morgan James Publishing published the Kindle-Version on September 5, 2017 and the hard copy coming out January 30, 2018.




Tips on Preparing Stress-Free Holiday and the Day Ahead Turkey!

The easiest way to relieve the stress of cooking a holiday dinner is to do it ahead of time. OK, there is virtually no way to do it all ahead of time, but you can definitely get the majority of the cooking done in advance. The other challenge comes with limited oven space.

The real stress of cooking comes from putting things off to the last minute and not knowing how the meal will turn out. Below is my favorite tip and recipe of all to really ensure stress-free turkey anxiety – the “Day Ahead Turkey”. This recipe makes a superb, moist turkey that is ready to eat when people arrive and a “fool-proof” gravy.

  • Buy an “External Read Thermometer” which you can get fairly easily at any store that sells home goods. The beauty of this device is that you stick it into a roast and you can watch the progress of the cooking without having to open the oven, which is key as each time you open the oven, you lose heat and change cooking time. They are also digital so there is no confusion on what the temperature is. One big benefit is that you will know where you are. So if the roast is cooking too fast you can turn down the oven temperature. If it is going too slow, turn the oven up.
  • The day before the dinner prepare the turkey as recommended with your seasoning of choice and the place it in a roasting pan breast side up. I like to melt a half stick of butter (1/4 cup) and then rub the outside of the bird with the melted butter. Then sprinkle the outside of the bird with a teaspoon of kosher salt ½ teaspoon of black pepper and a ½ teaspoon of poultry seasoning. Next I give the inside of the bird a liberal sprinkling of kosher salt and black pepper.
  • Insert your external read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh trying to have the end of the probe in the middle of the thickest part being careful to not have it touch the bone
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • Cook the turkey to 75% doneness. A fully cooked turkey is cooked to 165 degrees so your goal is 125 degrees. A fully cooked turkey takes 2 hours and 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Correspondingly, your cook time to 75% doneness is 1 hour and 50 minutes. Your external read thermometer trumps the time method.

  • Take the turkey out of the pan and let it cool on the carving board.
  • Drain off the drippings from the pan reserving a cup of the good drippings (without fat) to make gravy, saving the rest of the drippings for later.
  • Cut the turkey into quarters using a sharp knife. The result will be 4 pieces. Two  breast with bones and two thigh/leg quarters
  • Place the quarters back in the roasting pan laying them flat with the bone side down.

  • Add back the remaining drippings to the bottom of the roasting pan getting liquid to a little less than a half an inch. You made need to add some chicken stock to get the liquid close to the half inch level
  • Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place it in the refrigerator over night.
  • Three hours before dinner pull the turkey out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temp
  • Place your external read thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh.
  • Preheat the oven to 250 degrees
  • Two and a half hours before serving place the turkey in.
  • Here is where your external read thermometer makes it work. Your goal is 165 degrees. A half hour before serving you should be getting close.
  • Thirty minutes before serving I bring the oven temp up to 365 degrees and insert my stuffing.
  • Watching where you are with the turkey temp and stuffing doneness you can bring the temp up or down or pull the turkey out altogether if you are up to 165 degrees.
  • When it is time to serve take the turkey out and let it rest for at least 10 minutes.
  • When carving the turkey, A “chef trick” I learned was to take the whole breast off the bone. This makes it easier to cut the turkey following the grain of the meat into uniform slice sizes.
  • Another benefit of this approach is that you can make the gravy well ahead using the cup of drippings reserved from day one and chicken stock, butter and flour following traditional recipes.

Turkey Gravy


1 cup of drippings reserved from day one

1 cup chicken stock,

¼ cup butter

¼ cup flour

Salt and pepper to taste

Day Ahead:

  • Melt butter in a large saucepan
  • Whisk in the flour to create a roux being careful not to brown
  • Add turkey dripping and whisk together
  • Add chicken stock bit by bit to get to the desired consistency
  • Simmer for 5 minutes
  • All to cool and the refrigerate over night


  • Take out of the refrigerator and allow to warm-up to room temperature (1 hour more or less)
  • Reheat in a sauce pan under a low temp adding chicken stock as needed to thin it out.
  • Under the rare chance that it isn’t thick enough you can use the old chef trick of using cornstarch to thicken. Mix 2 teaspoons of corn starch and a ½ cup of water, stir together. Add to gravy under high heat whisking to thicken

Another tip to really enforce is to delegate. Cut back your workload by delegating to others. They can make the items in advance and bring them to the party to be reheated.

Also let the items warm up to room temperature well in advance. If your dinner is being served at 3 pm, taking out the turkey and sides out of the refrigerator at 10 and 10:30. This significantly reduces the amount of time it takes to reheat.

We have used these approach for years and really love it because each time you get a moist turkey that is already prepped and ready to go. You get to use the oven for other side dishes because the star of the event is already done and takes up less room.

Now you can really enjoy sitting with your beloved guests reveling in good conversation, food and drink – what the day is meant to be!

Paul J. Kenny worked at Kraft foods for 35 years and was VP of Marketing for Kraft Food Ingredients where he was lucky enough to work with an amazing group of chefs and food scientists. His experience honed an appreciation of the “art and science” of a great meal. The strategy of doing a lot of the cooking in advance so that you can enjoy your dinner party is a central theme of Impromptu Friday Nights- A Guide to Supper Clubs his first book. The book provides strategies and tools to make organizing a supper club and hosting a dinner party easy.

Learn more about Paul J. Kenny at and connect on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram.

Impromptu Friday Nights will be available for pre-order on Amazon and wherever books are sold on January 30, 2018.

WREG – Cooking with Paul Kenny

Had fun today filming a segment on holiday entertaining tips. Check it out: