Fried turkey sounded like the most redneck concept ever when I first heard about it. Can you really fry these things? Is there really any turkey better than a brined bird rubbed with herb butter, stuffed with lemons and herb sprigs, and basted with wine and drippings while it roasts? Is nothing sacred?
This year was the second year of fried turkey at the LoE Thanksgiving, and I am a total convert. We torched two puppies, one soaked in an herb brine, the other injected with commercial Cajun marinade and rubbed with copious amounts of Tony Chachere’s seasoning. I think this whole concept originated in Louisiana, and I’ve come to the conclusion that a. I should always trust people from Louisiana when it comes to anything food-related and b. I love redneck food.
We have a couple we’re good friends with who actually do a lot of the heavy lifting of frying turkeys. They do it as a sort of a hobby. Everybody needs friends who fry a turkey when it’s Sunday afternoon and they’ve got nothing going on. They own the fryer and know everything there is to know about frying turkeys, and like most passionate turkey fryers (I’m talking about the people, not the devices) they spread the gospel far and wide. They also make excellent Texas sweet tea. Coincidence? I think not.
We actually tried the brined vs. injected experiment at New Year’s Eve last year, but they ran out of propane before they were able to fry both all the way through, and we had to save Turkey 2 by getting it in the oven and checking it obsessively with a meat thermometer. So this Thanksgiving was the first chance I’d had to do a real comparison of the two turkey methods. I think the Tony Chachere’s blend is saltylicious, but some of the spices add a scorched effect to the skin that I dislike. The injected marinade is also a bit chemical-y, but it’s still pretty damn good. An injected, spice-rubbed turkey is seasoned properly without taking the advance planning and work of making a brine, and it’s still pretty juicy. But I do think a brined fried turkey is superior. I think it cooks more evenly, and the skin is better because it doesn’t have spices on it that can burn in the oil.
I’m not so sold on the fried turkey concept that I’m gonna buy my own setup and schlep it to my parents’ place when we finally start doing Thanksgiving at their home again (we hosted here at LoE World Headquarters for the last two years), but I might wrangle Dad into buying it for us and helping me handle the inevitable fryer-associated mess. Maybe I’ll even torch a couple of chickens in there too, see how that comes out. I bet they do it in Louisiana…