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Redneck Holidays: When Cooking Is Potentially Life Threatening

Redneck Holidays: When Cooking Is Potentially Life Threatening

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We have a slightly newer tradition around the Evans household involving preparing the Christmas meal:  we deep-fry a turkey. 

When I first heard of the concept, I laughed for about 5 minutes straight.  "Only in Georgia could someone actually think of deep-frying a 14+ pound bird... whaddya stuff it with, grits?"  Further small-minded jokes about the family roasting marshmallows over the opened hood of pop's dented up Ford pickup (watch the fan belt!) or celebrating with a Christmas toast to the clank of aluminum Budweiser cans naturally followed.  After coming up with as many Jeff Foxworthy "you might be a redneck if" type jokes as I could muster, curiosity set in.  That's the true sign of being a redneck... you know it's silly, but you gotta try it anyway, and preface it with "Hey y'all, watch this!"

I started to rationalize what a fried turkey would be like, and I realized it couldn't be much different than fried chicken or those giant turkey legs that you get at the county fair.  And the cook time is 3 minutes per pound... that's a total cooktime of 45 minutes for a 15-pound bird, during which I don't have to hear anyone complain about slaving over the oven for 5 hours to cook a turkey (that inevitably comes out drier than dust).  Maybe this is worth a shot.

Being a true redneck, I borrowed a friend's turkey fryer and bought a boat load of peanut oil.  Of course I already had a spare propane tank sitting around, so I hooked it up and started the process.  Just to complete the scene, I put a country music CD into my pickup truck's stereo, turned up the volume, and cranked down the windows so that I could have the appropriate atmosphere while gripping the fire extinguisher in anticipation. 

Truthfully, I could embellish several small events from that first frying day, but it was largely uneventful.  I put the turkey into the gallons of boiling oil, left it in for the appropriate time, drank a couple Budweisers while listening to country music, and pulled out the tastiest and juciest turkey I have ever had in my life.  The rest of the family agreed that it was by far the best turkey they had eaten, and a tradition was born.

Since then, I have gotten my own turkey fryer and have fried around 10 turkeys.  If anyone is interested, the best recipe that we have found is Emeril's Cajun Fried Turkey recipe.  The bird turns out wonderful, crispy and spicy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside.  I can't wait to fire her up on Sunday around noon time.

Here are some tips in case you read this and have been debating frying your own turkey (some tips out of experience, some out of common sense, and the rest from careful reading):

  1. Do not fry the turkey indoors.  Lots of boiling oil over an open flame should make this common sense.
  2. Do not fry the turkey on your back wood deck.  See #1 above for the common sense comment.
  3. Make sure the turkey is completely dry on the inside, and completely thawed.  The single WORST thing you can do is to have lots of ice crystals on the inside of the bird.  Think about the spatters on your cooking range that occur after putting droplets of water into a frying pan with oil in it.  Magnify that exponentially, imagining boiling oil flowing over the side of the frying bucket (remember the open flame) while you race to shut the propane tank off.  I'll admit experience on this one.
  4. Take all of the stuff out of the bird.  If you have a whole bird, they usually have a plastic piece that holds the bird together that WILL MELT in hot oil.  They also have a little bag with the giblets and yucky parts stuffed down the neck that you don't want in the hot oil, either.  I'll admit experience on this one as well.
  5. Don't attempt to fry a turkey with a small animal roaming freely around.  This one is not from personal experience, but from a sad tale that a friend told me about how he spent a majority of a Thanksgiving in an animal emergency room.
  6. Don't drink too much and attempt to fry a turkey.  This one is from a nurse's account of a guy that spent most of his Thanksgiving in the emergency room.
  • I went to Costco this past Wednesday to pick up some peanut oil to fry a turkey for Thanksgiving . As

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