Talking Turkey

Talking Turkey

Tis the season for turkey­, and if you want to ensure your fowl is fabulous (and not foul at all) then why not follow Gallery’s alternative guide to perfect turkey and deep-fry it. Yes, you heard us.  It’s a concept that began in the southern states of the USA, where people will deep-fry just about anything – but it’s getting more and more popular as an easy way to end up with crispy on the outside, moist on the inside, perfectly cooked turkey in a fraction of the time.  And it’s not at all greasy.
Marcus Calvani from La Cantina Restaurant took a break from serving wonderful pizza and pasta and turned redneck for the day especially for Gallery Magazine to show us how to deep-fry ourselves a turkey.  Yee-haw!

Before you start
Try your turkey out for size in the turkey fryer, and fill up with water until it’s completely submerged. Take the turkey out and the amount of water left is your oil level.  Mark it with a felt-tip pen and when you pour in the oil, fill to just below that level (as oil expands when it gets hot).  Make a note of the weight of your turkey, and allow 3.5 minutes of frying time per 1b. (a 15lb bird would take around 53 minutes).
Prepare your turkey – brine it in salt water, you can also add flavour to your brine with ingredients such as: garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, cloves, rum etc. for a day. Take it out of the salt water an hour before you’re going to cook, and allow it to rest and dry it thoroughly.  Water and hot oil don’t mix! For extra flavour you can inject your bird with marinades (there’s an injector in the Bayou kit).  Marcus: “I used Jack Daniels today for a bit of extra redneck flavour, but you could also try a mix of orange juice (the acid tenderizes the meat) rum and stock.”

You will need…
One super-duper turkey fryer (Ours was a Bayou Classic, converted for UK propane use and we got it from where the whole kit sells for £89)
BBQ propane gas tank
A catering-size container of vegetable oil
Heavy duty oven mitts / construction gloves or proper heat-resistant mitts (Marcus uses silicone gloves).
Apron and safety goggles
Your turkey
Redneck – optional!

Ready to start cooking?
Pour in the oil and fire up your turkey fryer outside, somewhere nobody will trip over it and where you have plenty of space to stand clear while you’re frying.  It takes 20-30 minutes to get up to 350º which is the temperature you’ll be frying at.  Place the bird on the turkey stand that’s included with the kit, drumsticks up and neck down and put on your heavy duty oven mitts. When the oil has reached 350º, turn the burner down for a minute and use the hook to lower the bird slowly into the oil.  Really slowly.  Oil will probably spill over the top of the fryer, so stand back.  When the turkey’s in, turn the burner up again and get the oil back and stable at 350º.  Now grab a Bud and watch your turkey fry!*
When the cooking time’s up, put your oven mitts back on and using the hook, carefully lift your super-bronzed turkey out of the pot.  Hold it over the oil to drip for a while (puncturing a few holes in the skin under the thighs before frying helps this), and get someone to test the temperature with a meat thermometer. It should be 160º.  If it’s not – put it back in for a few more minutes.  
Place the turkey on a chopping board and cover it with aluminium foil for around 20 minutes or so.  The turkey will carry on cooking on your sideboard and get up to 170º.  Try to resist breaking off some of the delicious crackling-style skin – it’s very hot…
Don’t forget to turn the turkey fryer and gas off, and keep people away from it until it’s cooled.  You can put the vegetable oil through a sieve when it’s cool, pour it back into the container, seal it up and reuse it for your next turkey frying session.
When you’re ready to serve, carve the turkey, giving everyone some of the delicious skin, and serve with a couple of redneck classic sides like sweet potato with marshmallow topping, green bean and cream of mushroom soup casserole (yes really!) and plenty of cranberry sauce.

The verdict
The best turkey we’ve ever tasted.  Perfectly cooked, mouth-wateringly moist and bursting with flavour.  It was a world away from the flabby, flaccid birds we’ve all been faced with on those disaster-style Christmas dinners.  And forget having to interrupt your lie-in to put the turkey in the oven, our bird (17lbs) cooked in exactly an hour while we kicked back with a couple of beers.  It’s definitely one of redneck America’s better exports!
Marcus says: “This is how we did our Thanksgiving turkeys back in the States for the past nine years, it started with us trying it for fun along with barbecued turkey and traditional roasted turkey and unquestionably, fried turkey is the favourite.  Even in the middle of a Wisconsin winter, I’d be outside with the family, in the snow frying turkey and drinking chilled beers.   I love this way of cooking turkey because it instantly seals the skin, locks in the natural juices, crisps the skin and cooks the turkey evenly, you never get dry breasts and semi-cooked thighs this way. Injecting flavours into the meat before cooking is also a great way to create your own delicious experience, play with different mixes, you really can’t go wrong. I love taking all these exciting different ways of cooking and then creating a more gourmet experience with them, can’t wait to show you some other classics like beach clam baking and smoking!”

What to do next
Put your name down for the Bayou Classic Outdoor Turkey Fryer, converted for use with UK propane tanks and available from at £89 + delivery to the Channel Islands. Marcus pointed out “It’s not just a fryer – you can use it for boiling and steaming too, so you can cook yourself lobsters, crabs, fry whole fish or other poultry, and make proper feed-a-crowd curries, chillies and soups!”
Go behind the scenes and check out the rest of the turkey frying photos along with all the other exciting cooking at La Cantina Restaurant’s Facebook site.  
*Word of warning.  This is potentially a highly dangerous procedure involving a vat of boiling oil (never a good thing), so read the safety instructions which accompany your turkey fryer very carefully.  Never attempt to do this without using the proper equipment and keep pets, children and smokers well away from the fryer. 

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