Once You Try a Cajun-Fried Turkey, You Will Never Want It Prepared Any Other Way...And Neither Will Your Friends or Family
The cajun-fried turkey has become the focal point of our family’s Thanksgiving feast. If you want juicy, melt-in-your-mouth poultry goodness with a perfectly crispy skin, this is the only way to go. Ten years ago, I embarked on a mission to eradicate the same old dry, tasteless, oven-roasted bird from our Thanksgiving repertoire and decided to find out how to deep fry a turkey. The results were astounding and I haven’t looked back since.
What You Will Need (Aside From The Bird Itself)
This is the backbone of your turkey-frying setup. It’s is going to include your propane burner, pot, fry basket or frying rack and your lifting hook. While you can purchase all of these items individually, you can usually find a good deal on a decently priced kit at your local sporting goods retailer or even online. Check out this budget-friendly starter kit from King Kooker. It’s basically the newer version of what I started out with 10 years ago and it has held up through 15+ turkey fry’s and 20+ crawfish boils. You will also need a solid thermometer to ensure the oil is kept at a consistent temperature throughout the fry. Something like this with a 12″ probe is perfect for the 29 quart fry pot. Oh, and don’t forget to have a full tank of propane on hand. That’s pretty important.
When deep-frying a turkey, you will want to go with peanut oil. And you want to make sure you have plenty of it. Trust me, peanut oil is not the easiest thing to find on Thanksgiving day. But in the weeks and days leading up to the holiday, you should be able to find it in abundance at your local grocery store or sporting goods retailer or you can get it delivered to your door here. I usually get two 3 gallon jugs just to be safe.
The Injectable Marinade
Prepping the bird is pretty straight-forward. No brining, no stuffing…just injecting and rubbing. Injecting the marinade is what gives the meat its buttery flavor and I always go overboard. There is nothing wrong with that. If you are feeling adventurous, go ahead and make your own…just be sure to include plenty of butter and garlic. But if you want the tried and true, do like I do and get yourself some Creole Butter from Tony Chachere’s. Just for reference, I injected 4 bottles of this into our 21 lb. turkey last year.
The rub is what flavors that crispy, crunchy skin so I don’t need to tell you how important it is. I like to keep it consistent and go with the O.G. of cajun seasoning…Tony Chachere’s Original. It’s the creole seasoning that started it all…and its good on everything, not just Thanksgiving Turkey.
Safety, Safety, Safety!
I cannot stress this enough. Don’t be a statistic and wind up ruining Thanksgiving for your whole neighborhood. Remember, this is a somewhat-complicated outdoor operation for the novice turkey fryer. And not outdoor as in on your apartment’s balcony or the roof of your building. I mean outdoor like in your backyard, front yard, driveway or anywhere with plenty of open space and as far away as possible from any structures or flammables.
Make sure your turkey is completely thawed and free of excess moisture at least 12 hours prior to submerging it in boiling hot peanut oil. This is the number one way to prevent a huge fireball from erupting out of your fryer pot. Oh, and if you get your turkey from the grocery store, be sure to remove all of the plastic or twine holding the bird’s legs together as well as the little plastic bag holding its innards. As far as anything else goes, always remember to use extreme caution and always have a back-up plan. If you cannot comprehend the basic safety principles necessary to carry something like this out, do yourself and your family a favor and find someone that knows what they are doing or a local business that can fry your turkey up for you.
Prep Your Cajun-Fried Turkey
Grab your completely defrosted turkey from the fridge first thing Thursday morning. With the plastic still on, drop it in your pot and pour in tap water until the turkey is completely covered. Remove the turkey from the pot and mark the water line. Remember this mark and make sure you do not go above it when you are pouring in your oil later. Once you are done determining the amount of oil you will need to fry this sucker, peel off the outer plastic, remove the plastic or twine holding the legs together and dig out the plastic bag of innards. Pat it dry with paper towels and let it sit out on the counter for a couple hours.
Now comes the fun part. Injecting the marinade. I usually enlist the help of some of the younger family members as they think its fun to play doctor and give the turkey a shot. Inject the marinade all over the turkey. Front, back, side to side. In the wings and in the legs. Double up on the white meat for maximum juiciness. As I said earlier, it’s best to be liberal with the marinade, so plan on injecting at least two of the 17 ounce bottles into a decent sized turkey.
Once you are done injecting, lightly pat it down and wipe off any of the remaining marinade. Grab your Tony’s Creole Seasoning and start rubbing it down. Inside and out. Don’t overdo it with the rub. Nobody likes a salty bird.
Prep The Fryer
Put the pot on top of the burner and pour in the peanut oil. Open the valve on the propane tank and the regulator and get the fire going. Adjust the regulator as needed to get the oil to around 325°F. It could take anywhere from 30 minutes for an hour for this to happen, so make sure you time it right. A good rule of thumb is to start the burner around two and a half hours prior to eating.
Drop It In
Carefully…very carefully. You want to minimize the amount of oil that bubbles up out of the pot, thus minimizing the chances of fire. And here is how you do it. Put the turkey in the fry basket or frying rack and set it to the side. Cut off the burner completely by closing the propane regulator valve as well as the valve on the tank. Carefully lower the fry basket or frying rack into the oil with the lifting hook until it reaches the bottom of the pot. Let it sit for a few minutes and bubble out. Start the burner back up and do your best to get back to the original 325°F as quickly as possible. Fry the turkey for anywhere between 3-4 minutes per pound and be sure to keep your eye on the oil temperature and regulate as necessary. Another very important element.
Take It Out, Carve It Up, Enjoy & Thank Me
When it’s done frying, cut off the burner completely by closing the propane regulator valve as well as the valve on the tank. Using the lifting hook, lift the frying rack or fry basket out of the pot and place onto solid ground nearby. I like to use a combination of old cardboard and newspaper so I don’t get peanut oil all over the place. It also makes for an easier cleanup. Transfer the cajun-fried turkey to a pan or a carving board and let it sit for about 20 minutes. Ensure the internal temperatures check out. Dark meat should be between 175°F to 180°F. White meat should be between 165°F and 170°F. Carve it up and enjoy! You can thank me for the following…
- The fact that the turkey is absolutely amazing. The white meat is actually juicy. The skin is crispy and perfectly seasoned. There is not a bad cut of meat.
- All of the compliments you get from family and friends. The proof is in the pudding. What does your leftover situation look like vs. the last time you had traditional oven roasted turkey for Thanksgiving?
- This literally takes a fraction of the time it takes to traditionally roast a turkey in the oven. An hour cook time vs. a 3- 4 hour cook time? Forget about it.
- And that my friends, is how to deep fry a turkey…cajun style.