Do you still use your oven to roast the turkey on Thanksgiving? If deep-frying a turkey sounds too dangerous or complicated, these fryers might change your mind!
Before you can choose a fryer, though, here are a few things to consider:
- Pot size: You can cook all sorts of food in a fryer, but at least once a year, it has to swallow a large bird. The ideal maximum size of a turkey you intend to fry is around 14 to 16 pounds. You want to get plenty of meat from the finished product, but if you choose a turkey larger than 16 pounds, you’ll sacrifice moisture on the outside to fully cook the meat on the inside. This is why we recommend a fryer that can hold 20 to 22 pounds. Expect more people to show up next year after your friends and family spread the word about your fried turkey.
- Heat source: Electric cookers take longer to heat up, but you can use them indoors, as you control the oil temperature with a thermostat. Electric deep fryers also tend to use a lot less oil than the propane models. Propane deep fryers heat oil much faster, and you can use them outdoors while tailgating or camping. However, you do have to closely monitor the oil temperature for safety. You have to operate some oil-free fryers outdoors because they use propane to generate heat but, because no oil is involved, they’re much safer to operate.
- Oil versus oil-free frying: It’s a trade-off! If you oil fry, it produces a turkey with skin that tastes almost like bacon, and a juicy interior (if done right). If you go oil-free, it’s safer and produces good flavor, but without the extra fat and calories you get from oil.
- Additional features: In a bid to add value to a turkey fryer, manufacturers often include additional features and functions. For example, many turkey fryers double as steamers and boilers. Some oil-free fryers can also infuse smoke into the final product.
To select the best turkey fryer, you just have to prioritize the features above. For the picks below, we prioritized safety, easy and predictable cooking, and the overall flavor of a fried turkey.
Best Overall: Masterbuilt MB23012418 Butterball XL Electric Fryer
The Masterbuilt XL electric turkey fryer can handle a turkey up to 20 pounds. While it takes a bit longer to heat the oil with the 1,650-watt heating element, the thermostat maintains the oil temperature, so you can safely deep-fry your turkey, with repeatable results every time. Also, electric deep fryers usually require less oil than the propane models.
You lay your turkey flat on the included wire basket for frying. This might leave some fried turkey skin behind for the chef, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing! You can deep fry anything in the basket, steam your favorite vegetables, or even boil up some seafood.
Cleaning is easy—the pot and basket are dishwasher safe, and the fryer includes a built-in drain valve.
Best for Outdoors: King Kooker 1265BF3 Portable Propane Deep Fryer Kit
If you’re a fan of portable propane-style deep fryers, the King Cooker 1265BF3 Portable Propane Outdoor Deep Frying/Boiling kit is a great value. Of course, you’ll want to carefully manage the oil temperature on your journey to a great fried turkey, but you can’t beat the go-anywhere nature of propane models.
The King Cooker includes a primary, 29-quart aluminum pot that can fry a turkey that weighs up to 20 pounds. It also includes a punched aluminum basket that’s perfect for deep-frying a vast quantity of chicken wings or Cajun boiling a ton of seafood.
An 11-quart aluminum fry pan and wire basket are included for smaller, family-sized batches.
Best Propane Oil-Free: Char-Broil the Big Easy TRU-Infrared Turkey Fryer
If you want to save a few calories, but still need to be able to cook away from home, look no further than the Char-Broil Big Easy TRU-Infrared Turkey Fryer. With no oil to heat up, the Char-Broil gets to the right temperature very quickly. Infrared heat can cook a turkey that weighs up to 16 pounds very fast—around 8 to 10 minutes per pound. The heat is evenly applied to seal the juices inside, while the outside crisps and browns.
The Char-Broil includes a cooking basket that creates a gap between the turkey and the inner sidewall, further helping the turkey to cook evenly. This also works great for just about any large cut of beef or pork, including ribs. The wire mesh lid allows you to read the temperature on the included thermometer while a removable bottom tray captures most of the drips. The Char-Broil doesn’t have a thermostat to maintain a specific pot temperature, but it does have a flame control dial to increase or decrease heat.
Best Electric Oil-Free: Masterbuilt 20100809 Butterball Turkey Fryer
The Masterbuilt Butterball Turkey Fryer uses an electric heat source to provide very similar features to the Char-Broil. The big exception is the inclusion of a built-in wood chip box that allows you to introduce a little smoke into the cooking process for added flavor. It includes a punched-hole aluminum roasting basket that can keep a turkey that weighs up to 18 pounds away from the side walls.
This fryer includes a control dial to manage the heat level on the powerful 1,650-watt electric element. A tempered glass lid with a hook is also included, so you can easily read the internal temperature of the turkey with a meat thermometer.
The unit also comes with a removable drip pan for easy cleaning, and the stay-cool handles make it easy to move around.
Turkey Frying Tips
There are a few important concepts that will help you achieve a crispy, juicy turkey in a fryer. First, before you deep fry, briefly soak the turkey in warm (not hot) water. This melts any ice-crystals that might be hanging around after defrosting.
Drain the water, and then thoroughly dry the turkey inside and out before you lower it into any hot frying oil. As you probably know, oil and water don’t mix. This is even more true with hot oil. Any excess water hiding deep in the bird can cause a fountain of hot oil to spit out at you from the fryer!
The warm water bath also helps raise the temperature of the bird. When you first drop the turkey into the hot oil, it lowers the oil temperature, so if the turkey is a bit warmer to start with, the oil temp will drop less. This means you won’t have to recalculate the cooking time. If you’re tempted to just leave the turkey out until it gets to room temperature, that’s a bad idea. Bacteria in poultry can quickly multiply to dangerous levels as it warms up.
Whether you fry it with or without oil, an injection of marinade dramatically improves the flavor of a turkey. My go-to marinade recipe is one, 12-ounce bottle of Frank’s RedHot Original with two sticks of butter. Melt the butter in a saucepan, and then add the hot sauce. Heat it until it’s hot, but not boiling. Pour some of the sauce into a narrow container, and then load up a good quality injector.
Inject the sauce into many locations in the turkey (some shallow and some deep). Try to avoid injecting directly under the skin as that causes it to burn in that area. While the turkey cooks, the spiciness of the hot sauce is minimized. But the salt and fat in the butter, combined with the cayenne pepper and vinegar in the Frank’s, produce an amazing flavor. If any of your guests want a little more heat, they can grab some of the remaining sauce from the pan for dipping.
Safety is important when you work with hot oil. We recommend you wear long sleeves and gloves and always lower the turkey into the oil very slowly. If something unexpected happens, pull the turkey out, don’t drop it in! Let the oil calm down, and then try again. If you get a strong reaction from the oil, you might have too much excess moisture in the turkey.
Finally, if you’re frying with oil, you absolutely must use peanut oil for the best flavor. Yes, it’s more expensive, but the flavor with turkey is so incredible, you just have to taste it to believe it!
If you’ve never had the pleasure of eating fried turkey, pick up one of these excellent fryers and make it happen. You’ll be glad you did!