Comments: If you've been eager to try a fried turkey, but been put off by the videos here and there of houses bursting into flames because the fryers got out of control and were too close to the vinyl siding, you might like to bring the fryer indoors.
No, no, no – not the outdoor turkey fryer, which absolutely must be kept outside and several feet from any combustible surface (including a wood deck). We're talking about Masterbuilt’s new indoor electric turkey fryer, developed in cooperation with the people who produce Butterball turkeys.
It is essentially a very large deep-fryer, and you can use it for French fries, doughnuts, fried chicken, etc., but it is marketed as an appliance that can fry turkeys that weigh up to 14 pounds. (It can also be filled with water, and used as a steamer.)
The unit, which is clad in stainless steel, is easy to put together and take apart. The control panel (with digital timer, red "power" light, green "ready" light, and a control knob for adjusting the thermostat up to 375°F (190°C), is connected to the heating element (which sits directly in the oil), and may be the most challenging bit to clean. The lid, which folds in half, includes a viewing window and a built-in filter to reduce cooking odors. The porcelain-coated inner pot includes a built-in drain valve for removing most of the oil (once cool). The lid, the pot, and the aluminum fry basket can be cleaned in a dishwasher. A removable panel on the back stores the power cord and the detachable drain spout. The cord attaches to the fryer with magnets, so that it pulls away if something catches on it, rather than dragging a fully loaded fryer to the floor. The fryer has a capacity of 2 gallons of oil, which is half or even a third of what is used in an outdoor fryer.
The cooking process is simple enough. Make sure the turkey is completely thawed, and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Fill the pot with oil to the maximum-fill line, and set the temperature dial to 375°F. It will take about 35 minutes to heat up. The Butterball part of the partnership now wants you to inject the Butterball turkey* with Butterball Marinade and season the outside with Butterball Turkey Seasoning (we injected nothing and rubbed inside and out with a mixture of salt, pepper, sugar, and poultry seasoning). Place the turkey in the basket, breast side up. When the ready light goes on, use the included lifting handle to slowly lower the basket into the oil. Close the lid, and set the timer. When the timer goes off, unplug the fryer, and raise the basket slowly, hooking it onto the side of the fryer (so that the turkey is out of the oil but still in the fryer). Let it rest for 10 minutes before removing it from the basket (a two-person job for us), carving, and serving.
If you can verify that the turkey is thoroughly cooked with a digital thermometer, you can fry the turkey for 3-1/2 minutes per pound, otherwise, the instructions want you to fry for 4 minutes per pound. Either way, it's less than an hour for a 14-pound turkey.
The instructions advise you to wear oven mitts as you slowly lower the turkey into the fryer, and that is absolutely correct. The lowering process was a little scary and it took us about a minute to submerge the turkey in the oil. The moisture in the turkey causes the oil to bubble and we had to lower it slowly to keep the oil from splashing out of the fryer. If you're also standing there in bare feet, you'll have nearly 60 seconds to curse your stupidity as you wonder if scalding oil will spatter out on the tops of your feet (it will not, if you're careful. You may be wistfully thinking of an apron at this point, too.)
The good news is that the fryer worked perfectly. It heated the oil in a reasonable amount of time and cooked the turkey to perfection – the white meat was moist and the dark meat was thoroughly cooked. There was a frying smell in the kitchen, but it was not unpleasant. Of course you have to have space for the fryer where you can leave it after frying the turkey – it will take hours for the oil to cool to room temperature. Everything cleaned up well. We washed the fry basket in the dishwasher but the inner pot by hand, because it is so large. With the porcelain coating, though, it was clean in a flash.
The instructions include a few recipes, and timing charts for various fried and steamed foods.
Now, you may be thinking that a 14-pound turkey is too small, but we recall the omniscient chef Jonathan Waxman pontificating a couple years ago that anyone who cooks a turkey weighing more than 14 pounds is an idiot – or words to that effect. His point was that large turkeys often lack flavor, and it is nearly impossible to get the inside of a large turkey cooked without overcooking the breast meat. You can actually fry two small turkeys one by one in much less time than it would take to roast one large one. Just something to think about....
Fried turkey may not be for everyone, but so many people wish they had an extra oven at Thanksgiving, and this turkey fryer may be just what they need. With a little planning, its use could extend throughout the year.
*Obviously you can use any turkey, but outside the Thanksgiving season, we had a hard time finding a sub-14-pound turkey in our nearby supermarkets that was not a Butterball. And be aware that all 14-pound turkeys may not be shaped exactly alike. We had to work a bit to get our lanky 12-pound turkey nestled into the fry basket; we wondered how we would manage with a 14-pounder.