Tips for successfully frying or smoking a turkey
The good thing about frying or smoking turkey is that it leaves the oven empty for cooking other dishes.
"Both frying and smoking result in a tasty turkey but some extra care must be taken to assure a safe product," said Tammy Roberts, nutrition and health education specialist, University of Missouri Extension.
To smoke food safely, Roberts recommends using two thermometers: one for the meat and one for the smoker. The grill temperature at the grate should be 200 to 250 degrees.
"If you are using a charcoal smoker, add briquettes every hour to hour and a half to help maintain proper temperatures. For food safety reasons, it is best if the turkey is thawed completely and not stuffed," said Roberts.
It is also a good idea to soak the hardwood chips in water for one or two hours.
"While they are soaking, prepare the turkey by brushing the skin with cooking oil and insert a meat thermometer into the deepest part of the thigh without touching a bone," said Roberts.
Plug in the electric smoker or light the charcoal smoker about 30 minutes before cooking.
Place the foil-lined water pan in the smoker and fill the pan with water. Place the turkey on the grill and adjust the vents according to the manufacturer's instructions.
The turkey should cook to a temperature of 180 degrees and it can take up to 12 hours depending on the weather and the equipment used.
"Every time you lift the lid, you add 10 minutes to the cooking time," said Roberts. "If the thermometer does not read 140 degrees in four hours, the turkey should be finished in the oven. Temperatures under 140 degrees for too long allow harmful bacteria to grow."
Fried turkey cooks a lot faster but also requires special handling. As with the smoked turkey, start with a completely thawed, unstuffed bird. The container you fry in must be large enough to hold the turkey with enough oil to cover it.
To determine how much oil is needed, place the turkey in the kettle and cover with water one to two inches above the turkey. Remove the turkey and measure the distance from the top of the pot to the water line. The oil should be filled to the same level.
Heat the oil to 350 degrees, allowing 45 minutes to one hour for the oil to heat. Use a candy thermometer to determine the temperature of the oil.
"Peanut oil is usually the preferred oil for this process because it does well at high temperatures," said Roberts.
When the oil reaches 350 degrees, carefully lower the turkey into the pot.
It takes three to five minutes per pound for the turkey to cook.
"An indicator that the turkey is done is that it will start to float. To assure doneness when you remove the turkey from the oil, insert a thermometer in the thigh. If the thermometer does not read 180 degrees, return the turkey to the oil for more cooking," said Roberts.
If you would like to re-use the oil, let it cool and strain it through cheesecloth then cover and refrigerate. Oil can be used three to four times before it loses effectiveness.
"Add a small amount of fresh oil each time you use it for best results. If signs of deterioration occur, discard. Some signs of deterioration include darkening, foaming, excessive smoking when heated, rancid smell or failure to bubble when food is added," said Roberts.