Plus, how to fry a turkey — safely!
Cooking a turkey ain't no easy feat. "Is it cooked? Did it come out too dry? Will my guests like it?" are questions we've all asked ourselves at one time or another during Thanksgiving dinner. While our go-to is a simple dry seasoning of salt, pepper, thyme and oregano, and the instructions included on a Butterball, there are many ways to cook a turkey, including deep frying.
In the Good Housekeeping Institute Kitchen Appliance Lab, we scoured the market for the best turkey fryers to round up those with high user ratings and reasonable ease of use. We prefer large capacity fryers because they grant more leeway when it comes to filling the pot with oil, which means fewer accidental spills. We also favor indoor fryers that perform similarly to deep fryers; they have less of a learning curve and can be used indoors. Below are our top picks:
Best Overall Turkey Fryer: Bayou Classic 1118 32-Quart Stainless Steel Turkey Fryer
Best Value Turkey Fryer: Farberware Extra Large Capacity Deep Fryer
Best Outdoor Turkey Fryer: King Kooker 1265BF3 Portable Propane Outdoor Deep Fryer
Best Indoor Turkey Fryer: Masterbuilt MB23010618 Fryer
Best Oilless Turkey Fryer: Char-Broil The Big Easy TRU-Infrared Oilless Turkey Fryer
Most Versatile Turkey Fryer: Cuisinart CDF-500 Extra-Large Rotisserie Deep Fryer
Easiest to Clean Turkey Fryer: King Kooker 30-Quart Aluminum Stock Pot
Most Powerful Turkey Fryer: Concord Cookware 16" Banjo Single Burner Stove
Best Turkey Fryer for Dual Cooking: Gas One Double Burner on Wheels
Deep frying turkey is risky: turkey fryers don't meet the standards for certification from UL (the company that deems appliances safe for home-use), stating, "UL considers turkey fryers to be dangerous to use presenting numerous safety hazards to ... And, as a result of these tests, UL has decided not to certify any."
That said, if you are set on turkey frying at home, make sure to follow these safety tips:Only use propane tanks outside. Never use an outdoor cooker inside or in a garage, even if the garage door is open.Never deep fry a frozen turkey. Make sure your turkey is completely thawed before frying.Invest in an oil thermometer. Most oils can catch fire over 400°F.Set up your fryer on a flat surface away from all foot traffic, and especially far from kids and animals. Hot oil can cause severe third-degree burns even hours after use.Use protective cooking gear such as goggles and oven mitts. Hair should be tied back and you should not wear any dangling jewelry or loose clothing.Choose the right type of oil. Canola and vegetable oil have a high smoke point of 400°F, and corn oil and peanut oil have even higher smoke points of 450°F.Dry your turkey as much as possible before placing it into the hot oil. Even the smallest drops of water can cause the oil to splatter and potentially burn you. In case of fire, never use water. Prevent oil spillover by first submerging the packaged turkey in just water. The turkey must be completely submerged in the fryer, with five to six inches of clearance between the water and the top of the pot. Remove the turkey and mark the water level: This will help determine the right amount of oil and prevent spills when it's time for frying.
Propane turkey fryers function similarly to your outdoor grill. They're usually heavy duty with a hose that connects to a propane tank (not included) and ignites the propane burner. The propane burner is then used to heat a large pot filled with oil. Once the oil reaches the proper temperature, it can be used for frying. It's important to note that these propane turkey fryers can only be used outdoors, and are not recommended for roof parties or balconies where they can cause severe damage to unknowing passersby.
Oilless turkey fryers are connected to a propane tank, but do not require oil and take a bit longer to cook. Similar to air frying, they rely on circulating hot air to cook a crispy and juicy turkey. While brushing the turkey with some oil is required to help brown the turkey, this is considered the healthiest of the the three options because it uses the least amount of oil. Some people prefer a true deep fried turkey due to its crispy exterior and juicy interior, but an oilless fryer gets pretty close without the hassle of cleanup. Like propane turkey fryers, oilless turkey fryers also can only be used outdoors.
Electric turkey fryers are like deep fryers and can be used indoors depending on the model and brand. Electric turkey fryers tend to be safest: they often feature a built-in thermostat that manages the temperature so you don't have to, and they sometimes have an auto shut-off feature to help prevent the oil from getting too hot.
Indoor vs. outdoor fryers: Indoor fryers tend to be more convenient since they do not require a propane tank, can simply be plugged into an outlet, and aren't impacted by weather. Lastly, indoor turkey fryers are generally safer due to the lack of added propane which can be a fire hazard next to boiling oil.
Safety is the most important feature that should be considered when purchasing a turkey fryer. A vented lid ensures that no steam is trapped inside during cooking. A poultry rack with a lifting hook is a must-have to pull the turkey in and out of the hot oil safely with a strong grip to prevent seriously dangerous splattering.
Size: Turkeys are large, and you should look for a turkey fryer that fits your needs (and your bird). When frying, it's important for the turkey to be fully submerged in oil, so if you're used to buying a 20-pounder, an outdoor cooker is probably your best bet; indoor turkey fryers tend to be a bit smaller and can usually only handle 15 pounds max.
BTUs: BTU is an acronym for British thermal unit, and it's defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by 1°F. The higher the BTU, the more powerful and the quicker the oil will come to temperature, and the faster your turkey will cook. Higher BTUs also mean better control of the temperature.
Convenience: When handling such a massive task, you want to make the process as easy as possible with handy accessories and features like a built-in timer and auto-shut off. Look for a turkey fryer with an an oil drain: Once the cooked turkey is out of the fryer, you can use the drain to empty out the cooled tank instead of tipping the big pot over, which can be dangerous and very messy.