I know, I know ... you're shaking your head, horrified. "Those guys down there will batter and deep-fry anything that isn't nailed down!" you shriek. Well, don't panic -- there's no batter involved here, just one of the best ways of cooking a turkey I've ever tasted.

Deep-frying whole turkeys has become fantastically popular in southern Louisiana over the past several years. The turkey is anything but greasy; the deep-frying process seals the outside and the turkey remains incredibly juicy, while the skin gets wonderfully crispy.

Just be careful you don't do like my friend Rick did and set your pot of oil on fire ... more non-klutzy people manage to do just fine with this. Seriously, be careful and always always do this outdoors only. A few people have burned their houses down trying to do this indoors or under a carport. Done carefully and outdoors, this is a safe and wonderful way to make turkey.

There are a zillion ways you can season this with the injector -- some folks like using the liquid seafood boil seasoning (which I do not recommend ... that stuff is for boiling seafood, not frying turkeys), but there are as many different ways as there are Louisianians. For instance, Bill from Bunkie, La., who fries turkeys frequently, wrote in and said that for injecting he uses one bottle of liquid garlic juice, one bottle of Tiger Sauce, one bottle of Cajun Sunshine sauce, and two tablespoons of red pepper. Try anything you like. Your mileage may vary.

Another Gumbo Pages reader says, "I have been deep frying turkeys now for about 3 years. Basically I use 5 gallons peanut oil heated to 375 degrees. This allows me to cook turkeys up to 20 lbs. My equipment is an outdoor stove outputting about 180,000 BTU's and a 60 quart pot with strainer basket. I have just been seasoning the turkey with a rub comprising of salt, garlic and pepper. Usually I will do from one to three turkeys at a setting, using less seasoning on the second and third turkey. I have found if the oil is strained through cheese cloth it can be used if stored in a cool place for up to 6 months."

Kevin Jolley writes in to say, "I just wanted to write to correct a few things about your fried turkey recipe. 1. keep your oil temperature to between 325-350; 2. turkeys 12 lbs and under 2-1/2 minutes per pound, and 12 lbs and over 3 minutes per pound; 3. if your turkey is floating it is overcooked. We always use a Cajun Injector and an injector sauce."

You can buy the turkey-frying (and seafood-boiling) apparatus called "King Kookers" -- burner, pot, lifting rack, thermometer -- all over the place now. Home Depot has been selling them for the past year or so, varying in price from about $70-80 depending on the time of year. A lot of local barbecue accessory places (like Barbecues Galore) are carrying them, too. If you can't find them anywhere locally, I'm told that they can be ordered from Metal Fusion in Louisiana, telephone (504) 736-0201 or (800) 783-3885. I haven't patronized the business nor used the product, and am unfamiliar with the company, so I'm not recommending or endorsing them, just passin' it on ...

When you're finished and the oil has cooled, you can filter, store and reuse the oil for other frying, or for frying more turkeys. "According to the Texas Peanut Producers Board, peanut oil may be used three or four times to fry turkeys before signs of deterioration begin. Such indications include foaming, darkening or smoking excessively, indicating the oil must be discarded. Other signs of deteriorated oil include a rancid smell and/or failure to bubble when food is added."

NOTE ABOUT PEANUT OIL: I've heard from many people who've told me that either they or their children are severely allergic to peanuts and any peanut product. It's not necessary to use peanut oil to fry the turkey; it's just what's commonly used in Louisiana because of its flavor as well as its very high smoking point; you don't want your oil catching fire. Any cooking oil that's good for deep-frying and has a high smoking point (450°F, preferably) will do -- corn oil, safflower oil, even canola oil. To learn more about cooking oils and their smoking points, see this web page on cooking and frying oils.

Special thanks to Althea Stokes for her turkey-frying tips.

First, of course, you need the equipment to cook the turkey on and in. Try a gizmo called a King Cooker for outdoor use; it heats and cooks using a propane tank and stand. Otherwise, use a large, TALL, thick stockpot, preferably 30-quart sized or larger.

The way to determine how much oil to use is to put the turkey in the pot, fill with water to barely cover, then remove the turkey and note the amount of water remaining. (Remember displacement, Archimedes, "Eureka!" and all that?) Do not fill the pot more than 3/4 full of oil.

Heat the peanut oil to 350-365 degrees -- use a deep-fat frying thermometer clipped onto the side of the pot. Be VERY careful not to exceed this temperature, as the oil can begin to smoke and actually catch fire. Keep constant watch over the temperature and you'll be okay.

Using a flavor injector (available from cooking and restaurant supply stores and gourmet shops) inject your favorite marinade throughout the turkey.

Make sure the outside of the turkey is completely dry (you know what happens when water hits hot oil). Sprinkle the entire turkey generously with your favorite dry rub, Creole seasoning, Paul Prudhomme's Poultry Magic or Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning. Sprinkle with kosher salt (omit if using Magic or Tony's, which is salty already). Rub the skin to make sure the dry rub sticks.

When the oil hits 350 degrees slide that baby in -- gently, or you'll fry your feet if they happen to be near the oil that will splash out if you throw it in. (This was my friend Althea's mistake during her first turkey frying). The best way to get the turkey into the oil is to use the coat-hanger-shaped apparatus that comes with your frying rig.

Cook for about 3 minutes per pound for a whole turkey, approximately 45 minutes for a 15 pound turkey, only 36 mintues for a 12 pounder!. (Individual turkey parts such as breast, wings or thighs require slightly longer cooking time, 4-5 minutes per pound.) Remove the turkey from the oil carefully, and immediately wrap it with aluminum foil. LET THE TURKEY REST FOR 30 MINUTES before carving. Carry-over cooking will finish cooking the turkey outside the oil, bringing it up to the proper temperature and allowing the juices to circulate back through the meat.

Carve and serve as usual, and serve with Shrimp-Andouille Dressing, Spiced Baked Sweet Potatoes and Pears with Bourbon-Cane Syrup Glaze and some crispy haricots verts (steamed in a little stock) for a grand Creole holiday feast. And how about some pecan pie for dessert?


Chef Williams' Deep Fried Turkey,
Cajun Injector® Style

I've gotten many requests about how to find the Cajun Injector®, which is like a big hypodermic needle you use to inject a flavorful marinade right into your turkey before frying. Lisa Dufrene, who works with the Cajun Injector folks, was kind enough to offer this recipe from her client's website to share with Gumbo Pages readers.

1. Remove giblets and rinse turkey with warm water. Drain cavity completely.

2. Attach needle to injector by turning clockwise until snug. Do not over-tighten needle.

3. Shake marinade well. Pour needed marinade into separate container and draw into injector.

4. Inject turkey with approximately 4 ounces of marinade into breast. Inject breast at three different points on each side of breast. Insert injector at an angle completely into each breast. Push plunger down slowly while pulling injector slowly out of breast. Apply same injection technique into thigh and drumstick. Inject 2 ounces of marinade into each thigh and drumstick. Use about 16 ounces of marinade per turkey. Use about 12 ounces of marinade for a bone-in turkey breast.

5. Sprinkle outside of turkey and cavity generously with Cajun Shake® (seasoned salt) -- rub in well. Caution: Make sure all water is drained from breast cavity before deep-frying. Heat 3-4 gallons of peanut oil to 350°F.

6. Place whole turkey or turkey breast, breast side down into fry basket. When oil has reached 350°F slowly (very slowly) lower basket into oil. Use of cooking mitts is highly recommended for lowering and raising fry basket out of oil.

7. Deep-fry whole turkey at 3-1/2 minutes per pound and deep fry a bone-in turkey breast at 7-8 minutes per pound at 350°F. A breast takes longer to cook because the whole turkey has a large cavity which when filled with the oil helps the bird cook from the inside as well as the outside. (In a similar manner, if you're going to deep-fry a chicken or a Cornish game hen, the cooking time is 9 minutes per pound.)

8. When desired cooking time has been achieved raise basket out of oil. Allow excess oil to drain from basket. Remove turkey or turkey breast from basket and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes. ENJOY YOUR DELICIOUS FRIED TURKEY.


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Chuck Taggart   (e-mail chuck)