Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Deep-Fried Turkey - mmmm Good!!!

OK, another entry that is not glass related. But it's close. I really love deep-fried turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. I don't know why, but it is much juicier and tasty than the traditional oven baked variety. I guess the dry heat of the oven dries it out. My family really devours it, and there isn't a lot of left overs.

I can't be sure, but the process of cooking it may be the most dangerous thing I've done in my life. Hey, maybe it is related to glass. Standing next to a vat of boiling oil, with a propane burner pumping out 100,000 BTU's of open flames, on a windy day, kinda reminds me of standing in front of a glass furnace. Both are hot. I can see how people burn their houses down with the process though. It isn't for the faint of heart if you value your life, limbs, and loved ones.

Anyway, I saw a TV cooking show called "Good Eats" where the host, Alton Brown, rigged up a
contraption to assist the process. It is hard to see in this picture but there is a metal cable and pulley system hanging off the bar clamp on the ladder. The turkey is brined in salt and brown sugar for 16 hours or so. No matter how well you drain it, it still has a lot of moisture in it. The oil, which I keep at or under 325 degrees, is just sitting there all nice and quiet. It looks innocent enough. But when you put the turkey in it, it turns into a roiling, spitting, bubbling monster.

Deep frying something as large as a turkey is a delicate operation and you need to GO SLOW. They don't tell you that in the directions that come with the turkey fryer. Although I'm not sure I understood a single word on the photocopied page that came with the bloody thing. Dropping the turkey in fast is a recipe for disaster. Lowering it slowly keeps the boiling over to a minimum. After a few nerve-wracking minutes, the whole bird is immersed and cooking away to a golden brown moist deliciousness.

The pictures are from last year's setup. Note the leaves - they fell early and then it was wet and cold from early October through April and the yard didn't get cleared. This year, at least, has been a nice fall and all the leaves are done - nothing to clean up in the spring. I had to clear a spot last year to set up the rig in case of fire. Note the fire extinguisher. Better safe than sorry.
This year, for whatever reason, I added a little too much oil to the pot for the size of the bird. The picture from last year is what should be the level of the oil. There is enough room to contain the boiling oil. This year, it was much, much closer to the top!

My pot holds a 12 or 13 pound bird perfectly. Any bigger and its rubbing on the sides. I measure using the "displacement" method. Oh, that's another reference to glass. That is how I measure glass for casting. Only this time, after carefully measuring, I got a little too much oil in the pot. When I lowered the bird, I immediately knew I was in danger land. It was bubbling over the top quite a bit more than usual. Luckily enough spit out and went far enough away from the flames that it didn't cause any problems.

Waiting the 30 minutes was very stressful. That's right, it only takes 30 minutes to cook the 12 pound bird. Then 30 minutes tightly wrapped in foil to rest, continue cooking, and drain any excess oil. I think the bird was tastier this year because of the excitement. I had to cook another bird for my daughter and her family. This time I took about 5 cups of oil out of the pot and it was much less stressful!

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