Chosen Bites: Thanksgivukkah spectacular

Crispy skin, tender juicy meat and short cooking time. Fried turkey for this year's hybrid holiday of Thanksgivukkah seems the best choice.

Thanksgivukkah spectacular (photo credit: Laura Frankel)
Thanksgivukkah spectacular
(photo credit: Laura Frankel)
Let’s face it, anything fried is amazing. We have performed this simple test in my professional kitchen many times. Take a bunch of bored cooks on a slow day, a handy commercial fryer and tons of fryable foods and see what happens. Mountains of delicious fried goodies appear and we eat.
When I first heard about fried turkey, the light bulb went off. Crispy skin, tender juicy meat and short cooking time, YES! I have tried many turkeys over the years and arrive at the same conclusion every time: Fried turkey is the bomb.
This year with the hybrid holiday of Thanksgiving and Hanukka, fried turkey is practically a must for many.
The process is simple and the cooking time is relatively short. There are many safety tips though and I encourage anyone thinking of frying a turkey to heed each of the below tips.
• Get a real turkey fryer. Don't try and use a stock pot. Don't use something that the turkey barely fits in. Don't use a hot plate. Don't put your pot on a grill. Three gallons of hot oil is nothing to fool around with, so start with the right equipment.
• Safety first. Make sure that your frying area is not near any structure or trees. Cook over stone, dirt, sand, or some other non-flammable surface. Keep children and pets away at all times. I use a large dog fence to cordon off the frying area. Have grease fire extinguishers handy, and above all, be careful.
• Use a small bird. Using a large bird will only exacerbate the uneven cooking problem. Additionally, you run the risk of burning the skin before the center cooks through. A 10 to 12 pound bird is ideal, and should feed eight to ten people.
• Use peanut oil. Peanut oil is one of the most highly saturated vegetable-derived oils and as such, produces crisper results. It also has a very high smoke point, which means that it's got a longer life, allowing you to reuse it multiple times before you've got to discard it.
• Defrost the bird! Frozen turkey + hot oil = disaster.
• Brine, inject, or season as desired. A brine or injections is not necessary for a juicy bird (I prefer mine without), but it's extra insurance from overcooking and can add flavor to your bird if you're into that. Either way, pat your turkey dry before frying it.
• Measure your oil before you heat it. Nothing is worse than lowering a turkey into the fryer only to realize that you haven't added enough oil and the top of its sticking out. Ok, perhaps lowering it and having the oil overflow is worse. To avoid either of these problems, place your turkey into the cold fryer and add oil until the turkey is just covered. Remove your turkey, and heat the oil up to 350°F. You are now ready to cook, and have the exact right amount of oil.
• Turn off the flame. If there's one safety tape to take home, let it be this one. By shutting off the flame under your pot before lowering your turkey, you can absolutely prevent your pot of oil from catching on fire—an all-too-common mishap. Shut it off, and then relight it using a long match or long-tipped lighter after the turkey is safely in the pot.
• Lower the bird slowly. It should take at least a minute to get your turkey into its hot oil bath Any faster, and you seriously risk boil overs.
• Use a thermometer, not a timer. A timer is good for general guidelines, but a thermometer is the only way to guarantee that your bird is cooked to the right degree. Start checking the bird about 25 minutes into cooking. You want the coolest part of the breast to register 145°F before extracting it. Your oil temperature should be maintained at between 325 and 350°F while frying.
• Let it rest. This is absolutely essential. Cut it open immediately and your exterior will be dry as all the delicious juices run out and your center will be undercooked. Allowing it to rest allows the temperature to equilibrate and for the juices to redistribute to make sure that every bite is relatively even in terms of moisture.
Serves 8-10 plus
1 10-12 pound turkey
1. Rinse and pat dry. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking.
Place the oil into a 28 to 30-quart pot and set over high heat on an outside propane burner with a sturdy structure. Bring the temperature of the oil to 121C degrees F. Once the temperature has reached 121 C, slowly lower the bird into the oil and bring the temperature to 350 degrees F.
2. Once it has reached 176 C, lower the heat in order to maintain 176 C. After 35 minutes, check the temperature of the turkey using a probe thermometer. Once the breast reaches 151 C. gently remove from the oil and allow to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes prior to carving. The bird will reach an internal temperature of 71 C due to carry over cooking. Carve as desired.
Chef Laura Frankel is Executive Chef for Spertus Kosher Catering and author of Jewish Cooking for All Seasons, and Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes.
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