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April 2002 Issue
Deep Fried Turkey
by Philip R. Gantt
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Welcome to Seasoned Cooking and to Phil's International Flair!

For the past couple of years, I have heard that one of the greatest ways to prepare a turkey is to deep fry the bird. I have read several recipes for deep frying turkey and watched cooking programs on TV that illustrated the process. Some chefs use a rub mixture of herbs and spices before immersing the bird in hot oil and others do not.

Not wanting to invest in a large deep fry unit for a whole turkey and spend a lot of money on gallons of cooking oil, I decided scale the process down and use my large wok to deep fry a turkey breast. Although cooking took a little longer than I anticipated, the results were quite good. The turkey breast was very moist on the inside and crisp on the outside. The skin was especially good.

If you want to try deep fried turkey without making a large investment, try using a large pot or wok with about a quart or two of oil instead. And, instead of cooking an entire bird, purchase and cook only a turkey breast, leg, or other favorite piece.

The recipe presented this month has been added to my yet to be published cookbook, Phil's Family and Friends Cookbook. Feel free to email me at with your comments and requests.

Now, on to the recipe!

 

Deep Fried Turkey

Most people who like turkey will like this recipe. You can't stuff the bird before deep frying, but this really isn't necessary. If you want dressing, you can cook it separately in the oven while your turkey is deep frying.

In my first attempt at deep frying a half turkey breast, I estimated that it would take 45 minutes to cook. My estimate was low and I found that the center of the half breast that I had fried was still raw in the center. Consequently, I had to return it to the wok for more cooking. I cooked the second half of the breast for a full hour and it came out perfectly.

  • 1 whole turkey breast, split along the breastbone into 2 halves
  • Oil for deep frying, 1 to 2 quarts (I prefer peanut oil)
I prepared the turkey breast without any seasonings, adhering to my philosophy that simple is best. I also reasoned that the oil and boiling action would probably remove nearly all of the seasonings that I might be inclined to put on the meat. Also, I prefer not to have the cooking oil tainted by spices that will end up being burnt in the hot oil. I recycle my cooking oil so as not to waste, and try to keep the oil as clean as possible by filtering it with a fine strainer frequently. If the oil becomes dark, strain it through a paper towel.

Tip: If the oil you use for deep frying becomes tainted in any way, frying potatoes will remove any residual flavors.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat until the temperature is about 375 degrees. I usually don't measure the temperature with a thermometer, however if you have one handy, this is certainly a good tool to use. Instead, I sprinkle a few drops of water into the oil as it is heating and when the water stops "spitting", the oil should be hot enough for cooking. Alternately, take a piece of potato and drop it into the oil as it is heating. When the potato reaches a golden brown color, the oil is ready.

Take one half of the turkey breast and immerse it carefully into the hot oil. Turn the breast over after 30 minutes of cooking. Cook the breast for a full hour, remove and allow to cool briefly before slicing and serving.

When done properly, deep frying will leave little oil in the finished product. The hot oil will seal the juices inside the food that you are cooking, resulting in a very pleasant dish. The key to success when deep frying food is to make sure that the oil is hot enough before frying. If the oil is not hot enough, the oil will soak into the food and result in an unpleasant product. When you put a large mass like a turkey breast into the hot oil, the temperature of the oil will decrease dramatically. This results in oil being absorbed into the food you are cooking. However, the intense heat of the oil has sealed the surface of the turkey to some degree so that as the oil returns to its original temperature, steam from inside the breast will force much of the absorbed oil out of the food being cooked. The end result is a product that has very little oil content, is crisp on the outside, and yet moist on the inside.

It doesn't matter if you are cooking French fries or whole turkeys, the principal of deep frying is the same. The goal of deep frying is to seal the outside of the food and at the same time steam the inside of the food using the applied heat. With the outside surface of the food being sealed, and the pressure of steam from the food being cooked, the oil is pushed out of the food and to the surface. So, when deep frying food, drain the surface briefly on a paper towel. The food will then be practically oil free.

  • Yields: 8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour
 



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