Deep Fried Turkey – Crispy, brown skin and the juiciest, most flavorful turkey meat you have ever tasted are what you can expect from this spectacularly delicious recipe. Call the family and tell them to come over for a cookout this weekend because this tasty bird is for sharing! 🤤
If you envision grease fires, oil splatters, and third-degree burns right now, you aren’t alone. Many people are intimidated by deep frying, well, anything. But let me take a moment to assure you that deep frying a turkey with the right equipment and a few basic safety precautions is absolutely safe and incredibly easy.
I should warn you before you get started: Once you’ve learned to deep-fry your turkey, you’ll be hooked. Like, no going back. You may never bake that bird ever again. From holiday dinners and tailgating at sporting events to meal prepping for the week, deep frying is now my go-to turkey cooking method. Let’s make it yours too.
The Key to Flavor
The Key to a Flavorful Deep-Fried Turkey
I’ve fried a few turkeys in my time, and after quite a bit of experimenting, I now know what it takes to turn bland white turkey meat into a tender, flavorful meal that’s hard to forget—the secret lies in rubbing and marinating. And you’ve got to do both, my friend!
The perfect flavors come from injecting marinade into the turkey, rubbing it down with your favorite seasoning blend, and then letting those flavors marinate for 48 hours. This recipe is one where the prep work pays off big time, so don’t skip it if you want a turkey that really packs a flavor punch.
- Turkey – You’ll need a big ol’ bird for this one. Try to get a 12-14 pounder. We’ll be removing the neck and giblets, but if you have a local butcher you buy from, you can ask them to do that for you. 🙌
- Oil – Peanut or canola oil are my oils of choice. If you’ve been around the blog, you already know why: it’s for their neutral flavors and high smoke points.
- Turkey Seasoning – I like using my homemade poultry seasoning, but you can use whatever seasoning mix is your favorite.
- Turkey Marinade – A homemade liquid marinade you inject into the turkey offers maximum flavor here, but feel free to use a store-bought version if you’d like.
How to Deep Fry a Turkey
Make the Turkey Injector Marinade
- Heat – Add the butter, chicken stock, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, onion and garlic powder, thyme, oregano, sage, chicken bouillon powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and salt to a medium saucepan.
- Melt – Place over medium-high heat and stir until the butter completely melts.
- Cool – Remove the marinade from the heat and let it cool for 8-10 minutes. minutes.
Season the Turkey and Inject the Marinade
- Load the Injector – Pat the turkey dry using paper towels before you begin. Using a meat injector or a large syringe, draw in the marinade to fill up the syringe. Release any excess air from the injector before you begin. 💉
- Inject – Carefully inject a small amount of the marinade into different parts of the turkey.
- Season with turkey seasoning inside and out under the cavities of the turkey.
- Marinate – Let the turkey rest in the fridge for up to 48 hours.
Deep Fry Your Turkey
- Measure for Oil – Place the turkey in an airtight bag if you’ve already seasoned it inside the deep fryer. Add enough cold water to barely cover the turkey. We don’t fill the turkey fryer to the top of the pot. Make sure you respect the max fill line or at least leave a couple of inches between the water and the top of the fryer.
- Remove the turkey. Then measure the water or put a mark on the outside of the pot. That is how much oil you’ll need to deep fry the turkey.
- Dry the fryer out thoroughly before adding the oil.
- Set Up – When you’re ready to fry, set up the fryer kit outside in an open area on a sturdy flat surface.
- Add Oil – Fill the turkey fryer with vegetable oil, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on lighting the fryer.
- Watch – Use a deep-fry thermometer to carefully monitor oil temperature; it usually comes with the deep fryer kit. Heat the oil to 375℉/190℃.
- Assemble – Insert the hanger through the turkey to firmly attach it. To prevent fire hazards, turn off the fryer before adding the turkey. That will prevent any flare-ups if oil accidentally spills over.
- Protect Yourself – Put on a pair of heavy oven mitts or heat-resistant gloves. 🧤It’s also a good idea to wear long sleeves and closed-toe shoes for extra protection. Avoid getting close to the fryer with skin visible to prevent burns from oil splatter.
- Add the Turkey – When you’re all geared up, carefully place the turkey in the basket. Then, slowly lower the turkey into the hot oil, pausing every 15 seconds until the turkey is submerged in the hot oil.
- Relight the deep fryer and fry the turkey for 3 minutes per pound (about 35 minutes or more), depending on the size of the turkey.
- Final Stretch – Monitor the oil temperature as the turkey cooks to ensure it stays around 375℉/190℃ during cooking. If it gets too hot, turn off the burner and wait a few minutes before relighting the fryer.
- Rest – Once the turkey is done, lift the basket from the fryer and drain the turkey on a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet for 15 minutes.
- Serve – Finally, carve, serve, and enjoy. 😋
- Brine It: You can brine your turkey instead of injector marinating it. That will also give you a juicy, tender, and perfectly salty bird. I wouldn’t recommend using both techniques at the same time because it can oversaturate the meat, and the marinade will seep out, rendering it pointless.
- Beer Brine: If you decide to brine your turkey instead of injecting the marinade, add a beer bottle for extra flavor.
- Poultry Swap: Yes, you can do this with chicken, duck, and pheasant, too. However, you won’t need as big a pot or as much oil.
Tips and Tricks
- For a show-stopping injector marinade, grind all the spices finely so they don’t clog the injector. Also, stir the marinade between uses for even distribution.
- Discard your leftover marinade that has been in contact with the turkey. 🦠
- Do not use a deep fryer indoors. Keep it outside to stay safe.
- Once the oil heats up, don’t move the pot or the burner. Even a small movement can tip the deep fryer causing a hot oil spill (dangerous) and a big mess (not fun).
- If the turkey starts browning too fast, lower the temperature. To cool it down fast, turn off the deep fryer for a few minutes and then turn it back on again.
- Place your deep fryer far away from powerlines and trees, especially trees with low-hanging branches or leaves. These are big fire hazards.
- Keep the kids away from the fryer while you’re cooking. You know why. 🙅🏿♀️
- You shouldn’t have a problem following these tips, but keeping a fire extinguisher on hand is not a bad idea. Accidents can happen, and it’s good to be prepared.
Definitely marinate and season your turkey beforehand, but I recommend frying on the day you plan to eat your turkey for the tastiest results. If you’re making a big old fried turkey for meal prep, on the other hand, fry your turkey whenever you’d like.
Store carved pieces in the fridge or the freezer in airtight containers. Typically, turkey will last 3-5 days in the refrigerator and up to 3 months in the freezer.
Serving and Storage Instructions
Serve fried turkey hot with all the fixings for a fun family meal. With a bird this big, you can even invite your extended family.
As noted above, store leftovers in airtight containers in the fridge or freezer. To reheat leftovers, microwave individual pieces or place them on a baking sheet in the oven set to 350℉/177℃ for 10-15 minutes or until the pieces are warmed through.
Generally, it takes about 3 minutes per pound of turkey. So, for a 12-14 pound turkey that this recipe calls for, it takes 35-45 minutes to cook the bird. Make sure you know how much your turkey weighs before you start frying (don’t throw away that wrapper just yet!); that way, you’ll have a good estimate of when it will be done.
If you want to be absolutely certain the turkey is perfectly cooked – not underdone or overcooked – use a cooking thermometer. At 165℉/75℃ internal temperature, the turkey is done.
The USDA advises that if you want to reuse peanut oil after frying, you should let it cool, cover it, and store it in the fridge so it doesn’t go rancid. You can use it 3-4 times to fry more turkeys! Still, if you notice the oil starts foaming, darkening, smelling off, or smoking excessively, it’s time to throw it out.
What Goes With Deep Fried Turkey
Serve up your fabulously flavorful turkey with a few classic sides. I love offering up Southern cornbread dressing, scalloped corn, and garlic mashed potatoes. Oh! And don’t forget the homemade gravy. 🤩
More Fantastic Fried Food Recipes to Try
- Fried Turkey Wings
- Southern Fried Catfish
- Fried Deviled Eggs
- Spicy Fried Plantains
- Fried Red Snapper
Thanks to this super easy recipe, gone are the days of bland, dry turkey. Have you tried it already? Got questions? Let me know in the comment box below. I love hearing from all you talented home cooks out there! ❤️
Deep Fried Turkey
- 1 12-14-pound turkey (thoroughly thawed with the neck and giblets removed)
- 4-5 gallons peanut oil (or canola oil)
- 1-2 cup injector marinade
- 2-3 tablespoons turkey seasoning (or seasoning of choice)
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- ¾ cup chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon ground bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon ground thyme
- 1 teaspoon ground oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground sage
- 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, finely ground
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- Start by measuring the amount of oil needed to deep fry the turkey. Place the selected turkey in the fryer and add enough cold water to barely cover it. There should be enough room between the waterline and the top of the pot.
- Measure and mark the water quantity outside the pot. That is the quantity of oil you'll need to deep fry the turkey. Proceed with brining (if brining turkey). You don't need to salt turkey if you're brining it.
- Rinse and pat the brined turkey dry with a paper towel (salt it if you didn't brine), and inject with a turkey injector marinade. You can either use store-bought or the recipe below for optimal flavor.
- Season with turkey seasoning inside and out under the cavities of the turkey. Place in the fridge until ready to be fried. You can do this 1-2 days ahead.
Deep Fry the Turkey
- Fill the turkey fryer with vegetable oil. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on lighting the fryer. Use a deep-fry thermometer to monitor oil temperature carefully; it usually comes with the deep fryer kit. Heat to 375℉/190℃.
- Insert the hanger through the turkey and firmly attach the turkey to the fryer.
- To prevent fire hazards, turn off the fryer right before adding the turkey. That helps prevent flare-ups from oil spilling over, just in case.
- Insert the hanger through the turkey and firmly attach turkey .
- Wear heavy oven mitts, long sleeves (no skin visible), and close-toed shoes for extra protection.
- When ready, carefully place the turkey in the fryer basket, then slowly it into the hot oil, pausing every 15 seconds until the turkey is submerged in the hot oil.
- Relight the deep fryer and fry for 3 minutes per pound (35 minutes or more, depending on the size of the turkey). You might have to monitor the temperature of the oil. Turn the fryer off, wait a few minutes, and relight the fryer once or twice to prevent the turkey from burning. Use your best judgment.
- Lift the basket from the fryer and drain the turkey on a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet for 15 minutes. Carve and serve.
- Do not use a deep fryer indoors – only use it outside for safety measures.
- Do not move the pot or burner after the oil heats up. The slightest movement can tip it over, causing a hot oil spill or mess.
- Before lowering the turkey into the hot oil, turn off the propane and remove the thermometer from the rim of the pot. That will prevent any potential overflow from catching on fire and keep the thermometer from breaking. Relight the fire and reinsert the thermometer after the turkey is safely in the pot.
- If the turkey browns too fast, lower the temperature (if the oil gets too hot, turn the deep fryer off for a few minutes, let the oil cool slightly, then turn it back on). Watch the temperature, and don't walk away from the fryer.
- Place your deep fryer far away from powerlines and trees (especially with low-hanging branches or leaves).
- Have kids stay away from the fryer when deep-frying turkey.
- If possible, always have a fire extinguisher nearby in case of a fire. Safety first.
Optional Injector Marinade
- In a medium saucepan, add butter, chicken stock, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, onion and garlic powder, thyme, oregano, sage, chicken bouillon powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and salt.
- Place over medium-high heat, stir until the butter completely melts.
- Remove the marinade from the heat and allow it to cool for 8-10 minutes.
- Draw up the marinade to fill your syringe or meat injector. Expel excess air from the injector. Carefully inject a small amount of the marinade into different parts of the turkey.
- Let the turkey marinate in the fridge for up to 48 hours.