Let me make this absolutely clear: Deep-frying a turkey in one of the outdoor fryers is serious business. Any kind of cooking that involves a pot of boiling oil and a propane burner has the potential to turn really dangerous very quickly.
That’s why I don’t recommend it. You can get similar results with much less risk to your home and family with an indoor electric turkey fryer or an oil-free turkey fryer. While an electric turkey fryer will give you results that are very much like the Cajun-style birds you cook in the backyard in a stainless steel pot, an oil-free fryer gives you a roasted bird with a different — but very nice — flavor and texture.
Both are good alternatives to frying a turkey in a traditional turkey fryer.
Still, if you’re going to take the turkey outside and cook it over an open flame in three gallons of oil, take every safety precaution possible, including these seven:
1. Do it on the ground or driveway in the wide-open spaces. Don’t even consider using a traditional fryer on a patio, wooden deck, in the garage or near anything. But protect the fryer from wind gusts and passing animals.
2. Follow the directions, including the part where it tells you how full to fill the fryer. Overfilling causes boiling over, and that will almost certainly cause a fire.
3. Don’t leave the fryer unattended. Most don’t have temperature controls, so there’s nothing to prevent them from getting too hot and ruining the turkey or catching on fire.
4. Be sure you thaw the turkey before cooking it. It won’t cook right if it’s frozen, and it could splatter violently when you put it in the fryer if it isn’t thawed and dried.
5. Protect your arms, eyes and everything else from splatters. That’s means you’ll need to wear heavy, long sleeves to avoid nasty burns. Don’t wear shorts either. Oil splatters can cost lifelong scarring.
6. Use heavy-duty potholders and gloves when removing the turkey and handling the pot. The pot will get much hotter than regular potholders can manage.
7. Be ready for the worst. Have a fire extinguisher nearby, and carry a cell phone. You may need to call for help at a moment’s notice.
But please don’t let these tips mislead you. I’m a bit of a coward when it comes to fire, and I strongly suggest you find another way to cook your bird.
In fact, if you get an indoor electric turkey fryer, you get much greater safety and better value too. You can use those units for making fries, fish and wings year round. You can also fill many of them with water instead of oil and have a crawfish boil or make corned beef.
Oil-free turkey fryers are another, much-safer alternative to traditional outdoor fryers, but there’s no denying that turkey tastes different when cooked in one of those.
Whatever you do, whatever machine you use and whenever you do it, be safe. There’s no reason to put people and property at risk to make a turkey taste a little better.