Thanksgiving Turkey: Deep Fried Vs. Oven Baked

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As Thanksgiving approaches and you plan your holiday meal, one big question that comes up is how to prepare your turkey. Traditional oven roasting and the deep-frying method both have their advantages and drawbacks.

So, what are the benefits of each? What are the drawbacks?

Benefits Of Deep-Frying A Turkey

Deep-fried turkey has skyrocketed in popularity, becoming a trend to rival the standard method of baking turkey in the oven. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • The wow factor: Cooking a turkey in a huge backyard fryer over an open flame makes for a very dramatic presentation.
  • Speed: Deep-frying is much faster than traditional oven baking. A 12-pound turkey could be done in as little as a half-hour.
  • Flavor: Deep-frying quickly seals in moisture resulting in very juicy meat with a distinctive, crispy exterior.
  • Clean up: You won’t have to scrub out a roasting pan or deal with old turkey brining fluids in the garbage until trash pickup day.

Deep-Fried Turkey Drawbacks

If you’re considering deep-frying your Thanksgiving turkey this year, be aware of these potential problems:

  • Danger: If oil spills out onto the burner, this could cause a serious fire. Additionally, any splattering oil during the frying process could cause serious burns.
  • Expense: You’ll have to buy gallons of frying oil for this cooking method as well as the equipment you’ll need to deep-fry.
  • Weather: Unless you’ve purchased a special deep fryer designed for indoor use, deep-frying has to be done outdoors. A heavy rain could put a real damper on your holiday meal plans.
  • Mess: Spilled oil can stain your driveway or deck.
  • Non-traditional style: Some guests might miss the traditional stuffing or gravy that aren’t always served with a deep-fried bird.
  • Food poisoning risks: Even though turkey cooks fast, if you undercook it you still risk getting sick.

Deep Fried Turkey:

Why Oven Roast a Turkey?

Traditional oven roasting is a method that’s stood the test of time for a number of reasons including:

  • Economics: You don’t need to buy any additional equipment; your existing oven will do just fine.
  • Safety: Baking a turkey in the oven presents almost no fire risk as long as you are using proper methods. You also don’t have to worry about splatter burns when the turkey is slowly baking in a closed oven.
  • Tradition: This style of cooking lends itself well to the traditional fixings your guests are accustomed to.
  • Time for other things: As your turkey slowly bakes in the oven, you’ll have plenty of time for other holiday preparations and still be able to keep an eye on the turkey.

Drawbacks Of Oven Baked Turkey

Even the tried and true method of turkey preparation carries some possible drawbacks. These may include:

  • Dryness: Oven baked turkey runs the risk of drying out, particularly the breast meat.
  • A long wait: You’ll definitely need to get an early start on your turkey because it will need to cook for many hours, the exact amount determined by the size of the bird. For larger birds (18+ pounds) expect at least five hours.
  • Food poisoning risk: If you miscalculate cooking time or temperature, an undercooked turkey may carry salmonella or other organisms that could make you sick.

Oven Baked Turkey:

How to Deep Fry A Turkey

For a detailed description of how to deep-fry a turkey, click here. Here are the basic steps and guidelines to safely deep-fry a turkey:

  1. Start with a small turkey (12-14 pounds) or turkey parts. If working with a larger bird, separate the breast from the leg/thigh sections.
  2. Thaw turkey and remove giblets and neck. Dry bird completely.
  3. Remove pop up timer from breast. Don’t stuff a turkey for frying!
  4. Inject marinade deep into breast and muscle meat.
  5. Add desired seasonings and marinate 30 to 40 minutes.
  6. Fill fryer to fill line. If your fryer doesn’t have a fill line be sure oil is three to five inches from the top of fryer and covers bird completely.
  7. Deep-fry turkey in 350-degree oil. For whole turkeys, fry three to four minutes per pound. If you’re using turkey parts, fry four to five minutes per pound.
  8. Test for doneness with an internal thermometer. Breast meat is done at 165 to 170 degrees F. Thigh meat should be 175 to 180 degrees inside before eating.

When deep-frying your turkey, be sure to follow these safety tips:

  • Use fryer on a hard flat, non-flammable surface a good distance from your home, tree branches or overhanging roofs.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy.
  • Keep children and pets away from fryer.
  • Never leave fryer unattended during pre-heating, cooking and cooling times.
  • Make sure oil is completely cooled before cleaning up.
  • Wash hands thoroughly after handling raw turkey.
  • Refrigerate leftovers within two hours.

How To Cook A Turkey In Your Oven

If you prefer oven-baked turkey, click here for detailed instructions on the classic method, as well as a slow-cook option. Follow these basic guidelines for a safe and delicious meal:

  1. Thaw turkey thoroughly according to weight in your refrigerator, a tray of cold water or microwave oven.
  2. Remove giblets and cook separately.
  3. Preheat oven to a minimum of 325 degrees F.
  4. Cook turkey in shallow roasting pan on rack.
  5. Most experts recommend cooking stuffing outside the bird for safety reasons. If you are cooking a stuffed turkey, be sure the stuffing reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  6. Your turkey is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees minimum in all areas. Even if you have a pop-up thermometer on your turkey, to insure your safety, also check the temperature in the innermost parts of the thigh and wing as well as the thickest part of the breast with your own food thermometer.
  7. Let turkey stand for 20 minutes before carving and remove any stuffing from body cavities.

Whichever preparation method you choose, your guests will be able to enjoy a delicious holiday meal that you prepared with love. Happy Thanksgiving!


Last Updated: October 18, 2012
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About Roberta Pescow Roberta Pescow holds a bachelor's degree in communications from City University of New York, Queens College and is a freelance writer and editor in the NJ area. The author of "A Life In The Service" and "A Monster's Tears," she enjoys writing informative articles, personal essays, fiction and music.  Roberta is a proud mother of two. Her other interests include fitness, photography, sculpture and meditation. She is a voracious reader and holds a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do. Roberta enjoys decorating her hectic, but happy home and garden in original and affordable ways.  

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