I’m not exactly sure how I first heard of such a thing as deep-fried turkey. It may have been from our family’s contingent of southern in-laws or maybe on a cooking show. Somewhere along the line, my brother-in-law tasted it and was hooked. The very next holiday involving turkey at his house presented him the opportunity to try to convert us to worshipers of deep-fried bird.
First things first, you buy a turkey fryer that’s large enough for a 25-pound turkey. Armed with a cold turkey and plenty of cooking oil, brother-in-law heads outside to the patio where the fryer is set up for cooking. Place turkey in fryer, cover with oil, party with guests for three hours, and presto, deep-fried turkey. Or not. If you have a bit of cooking experience, you’re probably wondering if I forgot to mention heating the oil to temperature before dropping in the bird. I didn’t, and he didn’t, and dinner was a few hours late. Deep-fried turkey lesson number one: heat the cooking oil before placing the bird.
The following holiday, brother-in-law is reminded to heat the cooking oil before dropping the turkey in it. The fryer is filled to the brim with oil, and as the turkey is placed into the hot oil, it begins overflowing the fryer. Deep-fried turkey lesson number two: account for displacement.
With two deep-fried turkey semi-disasters under his belt, brother-in-law is confident that the third time will be a charm. The oil is measured for displacement and pre-heated, and while the turkey cooks on auto-pilot, the merriment begins. Many bottles of wine and many Karaoke songs later, the neglected turkey has been fried into oblivion resulting in great future gift ideas for brother-in-law: a thermometer and a timer.
For turkey attempt number four, cooking oil was poured into the fryer for heating. An hour later, it was discovered that all the oil had leaked out because the stopper on the bottom had not be reset after the last cleaning. Being that it was a holiday and most of the stores were closed, my husband was the unlucky “volunteer” who had to go out to buy eight small bottles of oil at a convenience store. Deep-fried turkey lesson number four: check the stopper on the fryer.
By now you’re probably asking why brother-in-law hasn’t given up on the deep-fried turkey idea, but the failures and mishaps have only strengthened his resolve. It was something in the man that responded to the challenge of cooking the perfect turkey that was driving him to conquer, to achieve, and to win! This Christmas Eve will be the year of the bird! Things were going fairly well for turkey number five until someone inadvertently kicked the power cord out of the fryer.
Each year after the holidays, brother-in-law writes a few personal notes about the season’s events on a piece of paper that he stows away with the Christmas decorations. As he took out the paper to add a few notes for this year, he read what he had written last year…
“Don’t cook a fried turkey.”