Its Turkey Time
On Friday afternoon I ran into a friend in the grocery store and she said she was doing her Thanksgiving meal shopping. First I was stunned at her organizational skills that she would shop that far out. But then I was shocked by the fact that she really isn’t shopping that far out!
Public Service Announcement: THANKSGIVING IS THIS THURSDAY, PEOPLE!
The past few years we’ve headed to Bladenborough, North Carolina to spend Thanksgiving with Keith’s grandma and extended family. It’s quite a huge crowd and so we do things pot-luck style, so I come out easy in the cooking department. But I know that some of you out there are feverishly trying to figure out how to cook that turkey before the in-laws and various extended family members start dropping in, so I thought I’d give ya’ll some pointers. And by “thought I’d give ya’ll some pointers” I mean, “I called my dad and my brother and they had some great tips to pass along.” Full disclosure: I’ve never actually cooked a turkey. But when I do….I will absolutely follow this primer that I’ve put together for you below. I’ve eaten plenty of them cooked by the dynamic duo of Mason Daniel and Mason Daniel Jr. and I can attest to the fact that they are mmm, mmm, goooood. “Cooking a turkey” in our house means we fry it or we smoke it….and I’ve given you instructions for both below. If you’re wanting to do something that involved the oven…well…..I’m sure there are plenty of instructions out there for you….just not on this blog.
How to Cook The Perfect Turkey According to The Mason(s) Daniel
Part One: How to Fry a Turkey
Frying a turkey is great if you’re having to cook for a crowd or don’t have a whole lot of time. It can also be a super risky way to go though if you don’t know what you’re doing. Here are some tips for staying safe and turning out a tasty bird.
- Turkey Fryer – Make sure you use a turkey fryer such as this one. You can easily find them on Amazon.com, at Home Deport or Walmart or at an outdoor store.
- Peanut Oil – Use 100% peanut oil. Other oils, even blends, have a much lower flash point or ignition temperature and will catch fire.
- Thaw Your Bird -MAKE SURE THE BIRD IS COMPLETELY THAWED OUT AND YOU HAVE DRYED THE BIRD OF ALL WATER! Sorry for yelling but we don’t want oil boiling over and catching the whole fryer on fire. Turkeys not thawed all the way through can explode!
- Cook Outdoors – Set your fryer outside away from the house, preferably out of the wind. DO NOT set up in your kitchen or your garage. A driveway or similar away-from-the-house location is ideal.(My brother is a firefighter, so he’s very serious about this one. He’s seen lots of turkey-frying-gone-bad scenarios.
- Save the Neck Tag & Empty Out Your Bird- Be sure to take out all contents from the bird such as giblets, neck etc. and save the tag from your bird, it has the weight of the bird.
- 4 Minutes Per Pound – is the magic number. Be sure to cook your bird to that weight. ex. turkey weighs 18 lbs. 18 lbs x 4 minutes per =72 minutes. no more or less for a perfect bird that is done down to the bone.
- Cook at 325 degrees – it’s the magic number when frying. Most every restaurant (ie. a famous fast-food-chicken place) cooks their chicken at 325.
- Babysit Your Bird – Frying turkeys is like babysitting except you are also babysitting a stopwatch. You need to keep a constant watch on your temperature and your time.One common mistake people make when frying a turkey is in the initial dipping their turkey into the fryer, and that is they have the temp of the oil right at 325 degrees. well the problem is even though the turkey is thawed and dried it is still cold and when dipped will drop your oil temp too low to cook the you spend all this time ramping up your oil to compensate. The better solution is to INITIALLY get your temp up to about 400 degrees. Then set your turkey down in the oil,it will usually drop your temp down to guess what… 325 degrees…perfect! When removing the turkey let it drain over the oil pot until you see no more oil dripping, then carve and enjoy.
- Turn Off The Gas – Unless you have additional birds to fry….turn that gas off! My brother and his firefighters answer alot of calls for cooker fires because people go inside to eat and forget to turn the fryer off!
Part Two: How to Smoke a Turkey
Smoking a turkey is a whole different animal all together because with smoking, your pretty much duplicating what your doing in the oven but with smoke. The steps outlined below also work really well for chickens, so you can smoke poultry all year long!
- Outdoor Smoker – All the men in my family (dad, both brothers, husband) have some version of this outdoor smoker and it’s served them well. In fact, my dad has two of them so he can do multiple birds at one time.
- Beer Can Stand– Something like one of these.…or my brother says you can find them at Publix next the tongs/grill brushes etc.
- Use 1 CAN of beer – Cut the top of a beer can out with can opener and pour out 1/2 of the beer, add whatever spices you would like to use (ie. minced garlic onions etc.) into the beer can. Put it in the beer can stand and set the turkey on top of it.
- Set the smoker to 225 degrees! – Smoke at 225degrees until the internal temp is at least a 175 to 180 degrees. Keith uses this great remote controlled grill thermometer that might be something you’d want to consider.
- Cook for 6 to 7 hours – smokers differ, and temperature is important, but this is a good estimation.
- Babysit Your Bird – Just like with frying, you’ll want to babysit closely to keep an eye on temperature, fire, amount of water in the pan, etc. Smoking takes a lot longer and has to be babysat to ensure you keep that 225 degree temp 6 to 7 hours should do it but smokers differ.
The great part about smoking or frying a bird is that they keep well. Growing up my dad would smoke several chickens at once…he’d spend all Saturday in the driveway cooking. We’d eat one for dinner and nibble off the leftovers all week. But the others would go in the freezer and we’d take them out as we needed them. Also, further proof that smoking poultry runs in the family….here is my other brother and his son making a beer-can chicken.
And if cooking a turkey isn’t in your plans…well…..maybe a little re-run of “The One With All The Thanksgivings” is. You’re welcome.
Don’t you just LOVE classic Friends?