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Thanksgiving

After Frying Dozens of Birds, I Created a Failproof Method for Deep-Fried Turkey

Deep frying a turkey yields beautifully browned skin, juicy meat, and a showstopper for your holiday table.
By Published Nov. 10, 2022

Frying your Thanksgiving turkey is a vibe—it sets a mood that says, “I am celebrating this holiday 110 percent, but it’s going to be fun and chill, and we’re going to be outside.”

In regard to the finished product, fried-turkey enthusiasts utter a common refrain: “It’s the best turkey I’ve ever had.” They rave about how deep frying produces beautifully browned skin and juicy meat. 

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Having never tried it myself, I was excited by the prospect—but I also imagined it as a daunting, even scary, endeavor. 

After studying dozens of recipes, I fried my first turkey on Thanksgiving Day in 350-degree oil until the thickest part of the breast registered 160 degrees. 

It was drastically overcooked. 

The problem was that while the turkey rested, its temperature kept rising due to carryover cooking (an effect that causes food to continue to cook after being removed from the heat, intensified here by the heat of deep frying), leaving the white meat dried out and tough. Even so, that turkey had some truly excellent bites, and I could taste the potential of the deep-fry method in the mahogany, nicely rendered skin.

Now, after seeking out advice from a couple masters, frying close to two dozen turkeys over the course of many months, and testing every variable, I’m here to tell you: The frying fanatics are absolutely right. When done well, a deep-fried turkey is amazing. 

Tips from the Experts

While developing this recipe, I reached out to two turkey-frying experts to get some advice. Here’s what I learned. 

From Steve Cavendish, a Nashville, Tennessee, home cook and one of the biggest fried‑turkey evangelists around:

  • Before cooking, treat the turkey with a combination of brown sugar and kosher salt. The combination helps create skin that is salty-sweet and crispy. 
  • Tie the legs together to create a more compact mass that will result in more even cooking (we bind the wings too). Binding the turkey also makes it easier and safer to move into and out of the hot oil. 
  • Fry at around 300 degrees to ensure even cooking and to limit carryover cooking. 
  • Pull the bird from the oil when the thickest part of the breast registers 150 degrees; carryover cooking should bring the breast to about 160 or 165 degrees, which is perfect. 


From Hoover Alexander, owner and chef of Hoover’s Cooking in Austin, Texas:

  • Use a prebrined (or “self-basting”) turkey to ensure moist results. Alexander says prebrined birds not only “stay juicier” but also are more available and affordable. 
  • Inject the bird with flavored butter. There’s a reason a lot of turkey fryers come with large syringes for injecting the birds. “It’s about layering in flavors,” Alexander says, and the butter “ups the moisture factor as well.”

For our version, I injected the bird with an ultratasty garlic butter bolstered with fresh thyme, sage, and rosemary. I pureed the butter with chicken broth in the blender and poured it through a fine-mesh strainer to ensure that it was thin enough to keep from stopping up the injector. After letting it cool, I shot it throughout my turkey. 

Then I proceeded with the method I had nailed down through testing: seasoning the skin, trussing the legs and the wings close to the bird, placing the turkey breast side up on the vertical turkey rack to keep the legs closer to the heat source and ensure that they cooked to a higher temperature than the white meat, and frying at 300 degrees until the skin was browned and crispy and the breast registered 150 degrees. 

Six Steps to Amazing Turkey

Trim neck cavity of excess fat to ensure easy flow of oil through turkey.

Trim neck cavity of excess fat to ensure easy flow of oil through turkey. 

Inject garlic-herb butter multiple times all around turkey.

Inject garlic-herb butter multiple times all around turkey.

Oil exterior and rub with seasoning mixture.

Oil exterior and rub with seasoning mixture.

Bind legs and wings with twine to create compact mass.

Bind legs and wings with twine to create compact mass.

Place turkey on vertical turkey rack, making sure legs are pointing downward.

Place turkey on vertical turkey rack, making sure legs are pointing downward.

Slowly lower turkey into hot oil to commence frying.

Slowly lower turkey into hot oil to commence frying.

With this thoroughly tested recipe and our carefully thought-out guide, you can safely fry a turkey worth giving thanks for, one with golden skin and tender meat that’s deeply imbued with the flavors of garlic, fresh herbs, and butter. Turkey Day just got a lot more interesting.