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Food & Drink

The Fried Turkey Tradition

Bird’s the word, as long as it’s Cajun-fried.

popeyes-cajun-turkey
A fried turkey from Popeyes. (Photo via Popeyes)

In our house, we have a theory: If the pilgrims and the Indians had shared fried turkey on the first Thanksgiving, things would have been a lot more congenial between the two groups in the years that followed. There is nothing on earth that will put you in a better mood than Cajun Fried Turkey on Thanksgiving Day.

So what if you can’t put stuffing in the turkey? We’re talking about one day. One day in paradise. One taste of that moist, juicy, perfectly seasoned bird with that yummy, crispy skin, and you’ll never go back.

Fried Turkey Without the Fuss

Visiting New Orleans, but don’t have access to a driveway or a pot? Copeland’s and Popeyes both sell whole fried turkeys around the holidays, Part & Parcel features a fried turkey sandwich called the T.A.S.T.E. that’ll put you in the holiday spirit (and it’s available year-round), and Langenstein’s and Dryades Public Market have pick-up options for the big day. You can also have a Cajun deep-fried turkey delivered to your door from cajungrocer.com, cajun-shop.com, or cajunturkeyco.com. Of course, the best way is to DIY…

The T.A.S.T.E. sandwich at Part & Parcel features fried turkey, avocado, sprouts, tomato, and a fried egg topped with chipotle aioli and served on ciabbatta from local bakery Gracious Bakery. (Photo via Facebook)

DIY Fried Turkey

One of the great things about fried turkey is that it frees up the oven for casseroles and other holiday favorites. Put out an ice chest and a flat screen or a laptop, and enjoy the outdoors as you fry away.

Here’s what you’ll need:
One or more turkeys (14-15 pounders)
Peanut oil (Approximately 3-5 gallons)
Frying pot (Typical kits come with pot and lid, thermometer, turkey stand and lift hook – you can get the whole rig for just under $50. Google “turkey fryers.”)
Burner with propane tank (If you’ve boiled crawfish, you’ll probably have this, but don’t use the crawfish pot. It’s too wide, uses too much oil, and tends to cook the turkeys unevenly.)
Creole seasoning rub (try Tony Chachere’s)
Finely ground pure Cayenne pepper

Don’t sacrifice safety for tasty: 

The perfect setup for fried turkey. (Photo courtesy of Lori Archer)

Before you start, here are a few common-sense guidelines to keep your turkey frying as safe as it is delicious. Make sure you follow all the manufacturer’s instructions and warnings included with your deep fryer. Never fry a turkey inside or too close to any structure. Never spill oil into the flame. Don’t allow children or pets to go near the rig, and make sure your turkey is dry and free of ice before lowering it into the pot (ice and 350-degree oil are not a happy combo). Here’s an easy trick to keep your hot oil from overflowing: before you fill your pot with oil, fill it with water. Then, lower the cleaned turkey into the pot. Remove water until the turkey is just covered. Mark a fill line on the pot. Empty the pot, and fill it with oil up to the mark. Voila!

Turkey in the fryer. (Photo courtesy of Lori Archer)
A finished, crisp, and juicy fried turkey. (Photo courtesy of Lori Archer)

Let’s get cookin’:

  • Fill your pot with oil up to the mark you measured earlier, and begin heating the oil.
  • Start with a fully defrosted, ice-free turkey. Use paper towels to dry it fully both inside and out. Massage a light covering of oil onto the turkey. This will help the seasonings stick to the bird. Then, apply the dry Creole seasoning mix liberally to all sides of the turkey, and add a dusting of the Cayenne pepper.
  • When the oil reaches 350 degrees, slowly lower the turkey into the hot oil, very carefully, making sure it is fully submerged but does not overflow.
  •  Fry turkey for 3 minutes per pound plus 5 minutes (about 50 minutes for a 15-pound bird), maintaining the oil temperature at between 325-350 degrees.
  • Use your lift hook to remove the turkey from the oil and drain on paper towels.

As long as you’ve got the oil in the pot, drop another turkey or two into the fryer so everyone in your extended family can go home with leftovers (Trust us, they’re going to want leftovers for sandwiches). Turkey gumbo is a staple in many New Orleans homes after Thanksgiving as well.

Try a “Pickin’ Turkey”:

In our family we deep fry three turkeys. We call the first one out of the pot the “Pickin’ Turkey.” Guess why. No one can resist sneaking a taste of that golden crispy deep fried skin. Even our pets line up for treats. We carve the second turkey for dinner, and the third is purely for leftovers.

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