Fry, Turkey, Fry

The Kitchen

GUESTS: Woman #1 [presumably Wilma]

WOMAN #1: Betsy, where's the turkey? We should have had it in the oven hours ago.
BETSY: Oh, Barney's taking care of it.
W#1: Not more grilled turkey?
B: No, he's frying it. He says it's going to be perfect. He says, "Delicious in the inside and golden brown on the outside."
W#1: But still, frying. All that oil. And I just read how dangerous it is.

[a fire flares up, off camera]

Woman #2: What is that going on ...

[a man screams]

W#1: Oh no. I think the turkey's coming!

[a very burnt turkey flies in and lands on the kitchen counter, the camera pans to AB who was been splashed with food]

    Every year, more and more cooks decide to deep fry the turkey. And every year, more and more cooks end up in deep, deep trouble. Now since hot oil is so efficient, you know, at conducting heat, it can produce a tasty bird in a fraction of the time required by any other cooking methods. But deep frying is potentially dangerous business. Each holiday season sirens sound and flames—and sometimes poultry—fill the sky.
    Now, can we break this cycle of destruction? I think we can. We just have to be willing to get creative with the physical realities of the situation. Sure, it's going to take a little effort, but the results will indeed be ...

["Good Eats" theme plays]

Art Gallery

Norman Rockwell's Actual
Freedom from Want

    Most of the turkeys cooked up in this country are, in a word, disappointing. I blame that painting. [camera shows a representation of Norman Rockwell's "Freedom From Want"]
    I suspect that, upon seeing that image, American turkey breeders set out to make it a reality. The result? Today's factory-grown megamart bird can barely walk and is completely incapable of mating. Which is sad, when you consider how little a commercial turkey has to look forward to. Just look at those preposterous proportions. It's not natural. Such birds are usually labeled as "self-basting" meaning they've been injected with fat and brine and what-not so they'll stay juicy after the long hours of cooking necessary to get their ponderous bulk up to a reasonably safe temperature for consumption. By the way, do you think a woman of that size could hold a bird of that dimension at that angle? [AB pulls out a remote, hits a button, and the "painting" comes to life, the woman drops the turkey, and the contents of the table spill off as well, to the dismay of the other people in the scene.] Heh heh heh heh. Me neither. Hee hee, that's funny.

    [AB walks towards a cage containing a stuffed turkey] Here we see an approximation of the space a commercial turkey has to call its own. Now some folks feel better about buying free-range birds which they assume live happily in the open playing poultry games and developing a lot of flavor. But according to the USDA., free-range birds are only required to have access to the outdoors. How much and how long is up to the grower. [opens the cage] Okay, break's over. [closes the cage]

Meleagris Gallapavo

    Now pasture-raised birds are free to roam around and eat bugs and grass and what-not, which is closer to what nature intended. The problem is, the word "pasture" is no more regulated than the word "range". And one man's pasture could be another man's postage stamp. Sorry, buddy.
    Heritage turkeys are descendants of the birds that were strutting around America back when the Mayflower landed. Raised on small farms, these rare varieties, like Bourbon Red, and American Bronze, looked nothing like factory Frankenbirds, nor do they taste like them. [AB walks by a more abstract painting that is supposed to be of a turkey] Do you see it? I don't see it.

The Kitchen

    If you are a fan of this show, then brining is probably not an alien concept to you. The idea is that, by soaking your bird in a salt solution, you can actually denature some of the internal proteins which will ensnare moisture helping you to keep the bird moist during the cooking process. Of course, the seasoning doesn't exactly hurt the flavor either.

    Now my fry brine is just Zen simple. It begins with six quarts of hot water in my construction-style [one found on a construction site] cooler; which I like a lot because of the little easy drain down here. Now, to that we will add a pound of salt, and a pound of brown sugar. So easy, it's not even worth writing down, is it? Now just give that a good stir to make sure all the grainy stuff is dissolved, and then just leave this alone to cool down for a few minutes. Fifteen minutes, half hour, doesn't really matter. There. 6 Quarts Hot Water
1 Pound Salt &
1 Pound Brown Sugar
    As for the bird itself, big birds take too gosh darn long to cook and they tend to dry out even when you brine them. So, I never go beyond 15 pounds. If you need more than that, then the way I see it, you should get yourself another turkey. 13-14 Pound Turkey

    Now the only prep that is really necessary is to remove whatever little goodies have been stuck inside, kind of like necks and things. Of course, you don't want to throw these away. They'll be good for, I don't know, another show. If you've got one of these nasty little thermometer things, get that out too. It's worthless. Next up, we need the ice.

    Five pounds of ice, to be exact. How much water would that be? You're right, five pounds. And how much is that? That's right, five pints. Because a pint's a pound the world around.

5 Pounds Ice

    Time to introduce our poultry to its home for the next eight to sixteen hours. Perfect fit. Just make sure that it is good and sunk, and it is. Now as long as you leave this lid on, this guy will stay nice and cool during that brining period. We just need to find a good place to ... a good place to stash ... [finds a floor-level cabinet space] There we go  I'll be back!

Ragsdale Ace Hardware
Marietta, GA – 10:15am

    Now that our bird is safely soaking, it is time to contemplate frying. Now frying a turkey is going to require a lot of oil, and we're going to have to get it really hot. We're talking four gallons, probably, 375 degrees. Now even if your home range possessed the firepower needed, this is not the kind of activity one would want to do indoors. It's just very very dangerous. Nope, we are going to need a ...  come on, come on, come on ... we're going to need an outdoor cooker. [the camera follows AB, but cannot keep up] What are you doing down there? Come on, come on.
    Now when you go shopping, you are going to be tempted. Very tempted, to get yourself a turkey frying kit. Fight this urge, okay? I can almost promise you that you will find better components if you shop à la carte.
    First step, we must find an outdoor cooker, the actual burner. What we are after? Versatility and stability. Now let's have a look at this model. Now this round burner assembly means it only holds this pot, which isn't very versatile. Oh, and check this out. It has only three legs and they connect with screws. Huh. Is that stable? [kicks one of the legs which collapses the whole thing] I have two words for you, Burn Ward.
    Here, have a look at this. This is what I'm talking about. It's nice and broad, squat, heavy, stable: kind of like me ... except for the stable part. As opposed to screws, the legs are welded into place. The burner has two rows of jets. Great for heat distribution. No fancy schmantzy controls, just an airflow adjustment; and we'll get to that later. Best of all, it is nice, wide, and square, which means that it can hold a wide array of vessels. Speaking of ...

In 1511, the king of Spain ordered each of his ships returning
from the New World to bring back ten turkeys.

Ragsdale Ace Hardware

    [indoors] At 15" x 13", and holding a whopping 30 quarts of liquid, this aluminum vessel will do very nicely. Notice the large handles. Four-rivet connect, very beefy with enough loop to grab with heavy pot holders or gloves. Now, when pots get this big, they usually come with accessories. And that's a good thing, especially if said accessory looks like this. This is a turkey lifter which we will definitely be pressing into service. And no, it's not a unitasker. Last stop, fuel.

Due to safety concerns, Underwriters Laboratories (UL)
has never certified a turkey fryer.

Ragsdale Ace Hardware

    Ever wonder why propane tanks are always kept outside? That's right, they're chock full of highly flammable, pressurized hydrocarbon gas. Now many hardware stores used to fill empty tanks on premises. But these days, most retailers only offer new tanks and trade-ins, which is fine. But you should always inspect the tank that you're being given for rust and signs of wear and tear, especially around the nozzle and the valve assembly. If you see a little bit of rust on the outside of the tank, that's no big deal. They pretty much all have that. It's just the nature of steel.
    Now if you want to make sure that you're getting a full tank—and, you know, it's not necessarily a bad idea—what you want to do is just kind of lay the tank over like this, pour some hot water or even hot coffee down the side, right the tank, and then feel for a temperature change. Wherever the gas line is, it'll feel cold compared to the rest of the tank. And you should feel that line about right here, at the bottom of the shoulder. This baby's full. Come on home, I've got a turkey to introduce you to.

AB's Car

    [in the parking lot, the tank is strapped into a child's seat] There. Now, when transporting propane, you always want to keep the tank upright and fully secure. I find that one of today's newfangled, you know, 15-point child seats does the job very nicely. Where do you keep the kids? What do you think the trunk's for? Nyah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah ...

Propane powers over four million vehicles in more than 38 countries.

The Backyard

    Our first concern when dealing with large-format frying, location, location, location. Besides never frying a turkey in your house, you're also going to promise me that you'll never fry a turkey in your garage or on your patio or deck or in any other wooden structure, for that matter.
    Now you might think that your driveway is a grand fry-cation, but remember, driveways are really good places for things like tricycles and Big Wheels and balls and what-not, so [a ball bounces by] ...  And odds are good that some oil is going to get dripped somewhere along the line, and oil on concrete is a little tough to clean up. As the owner of a vintage British motorcycle, believe me, I know.
    Now grass. Well, not only does grass hide spills, it provides a little extra anti-scoot protection for the cooker. And, of course, it is not a preferred Big Wheel surface. So, we are all hooked up here according to the manufacturer's instructions. And I have checked for gas leaks using my nose, which is very good at detecting ethyl mercaptan, which is added to odorless propane because it is so gosh darn stinky.
    Now, time to add the oil, right? Sure, if you've got an appetite for destruction! Come on.

Cobb Public Safety Training Center
Marietta, GA - 2:15pm

GUESTS: Firefighters #1 with Pole
             Firefighter #2 with Propane Take
             Firefighters #3 & #4 with Fire Extinguishers

    Let's be very clear about something, shall we? Frying turkeys can be dangerous. Not perhaps as dangerous as attempting to milk a wild cape buffalo during mating season, but pretty darn dangerous nonetheless. What can go wrong? Well, what if you happen to have that oil too high in the pot? What if it was heated to over 400 degrees Fahrenheit?

AB: [to the FF #1] Go ahead there. Go ahead.
FF #1: [enters and take lid off pot with pole]

    What if your turkey happened to be wet? And what if, heaven forbid, your turkey still had ice in it? It might look something like this.

[a frozen turkey is lowered into the hot oil, the oil ruptures onto the ground and all of the cooking equipment is set on fire]

    Do we have your attention? Good. Because the rest of this show is about keeping that from happening to you.

AB: Alright, snuff her out, boys.
FF #3 & #4: [extinguish the flames]

The Kitchen

    There. Our bird is out of his briny bath. I have inserted the lifter that came with our pot. And since the limbs were sticking out a little bit, I decided to tie on a little bit of butcher twine.
    Now, the next important step is a little displacement test. A lot of fires start because people put too much oil in the pot. Then they drop in the bird, the oil goes over ...  So the only way to really know how much oil you're going to need is to do a little test. I have here a gallon pitcher of water. I'm going to see how many it takes to just barely cover the turkey. That way, I'll know how much oil to place in there and I'll also be making sure that the pot is large enough for the job.

The principles of buoyancy were laid out by the
Greek mathematician Archimedes who died in 212 B.C.

The Backyard

    Well, there we go. Our oil is in the pot. The pot is on the burner. We have a frying thermometer standing by to monitor the temperature of the fat. Here I have a little table with my heat-proof gloves, an instant-read thermometer for the meat, a fire stick. I've got a little timer, a lovely beverage, a lounging device, and a side towel.
    Over here, we have a cooler with the poultry standing by, and we have the only unitasker allowed in my kitchen, the one thing I hope to not need here today [a fire extinguisher]. And I've even wrapped my propane hose with aluminum foil, just in case any oil decides to hop out of the pan.
    We are ready to get to frying, right? Not on your life. I mean, think about it. When this four gallons of oil comes up to, you know, 300 degrees, even if I had a cunning, clever device, like this [coat hanger] to lift this bird out with, I would still have to come right over here [stands right next to the hot pot of oil] to drop it in. Fire. Hot oil. Wet poultry. I'm not going to do it. I don't want to be Johnny Human Torch.
    As a matter of fact, I would venture that this is an impossible task. It can't be done! It shouldn't be done!! It'll never be ... Hold that thought.

A high smoke point and neutral flavor make peanut oil perfect for frying.

The Backyard

GUEST: Bigfoot

    With the exception of this ladder, the turkey derrick may be assembled with parts from the hardware store, costing not in excess of 20 dollars. Alright, maybe 21.
    First step: take a piece of cotton sash cord, about 50 feet long, and attach it to one side of the ladder, using a secure knot. I like the bowline, but it's just the Boy Scout in me. Good.
    Next, we need one small pulley, hooked on to any type of carabiner-like device. [AB uses a Quick Link with a threaded hex nut] We will thread the sash cord through that pulley, thusly.
    Now, next step – take a cable tie or a zip tie and attach a swivel-top pulley to the top step of the ladder. Easy. Now thread the sash cord through that.
    Last, but not least, install yourself a window cleat to the side of the ladder—you can get those at just about any hardware store—and tie the sash cord around it, locking it, with what sailors call at a cleat knot, see? Handy, huh?
Of course, if you have time, you could always add a few extra accoutrements as safety precautions. [attaches some safety chains and puts an emergency beacon on top of the ladder] Then simply attach the handle portion of the turkey lifter to the carabiner-like device, and you are done.
    Hah hah hah. Behold, ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, citizens of the universe, The Turkey Derrick! Hah hah hah hah hah hah. You want to see it work? You want to see it work, don't you? I want to see it work. Fire first. [lights the burner]
    Okay, from now until the end of the cooking process, you will remain within a ten-foot perimeter of that burner. I don't care if your beverage runs out. I don't care if Ed McMahon is beating on your front door with one of those big cardboard checks. I don't care if you need to run in and grab your camera so you don't miss that picture of Bigfoot crossing your yard.

BIGFOOT: [crosses the yard]

    Nope, I don't care. You stay put. Because walking away from fire and hot oil is just not real bright. Bad things happen when you do that, okay? So, here we are.
    Now, the target temperature right now, 250 degrees. Kind of low for frying. But by inserting the turkey when the temperature is relatively low, we'll help to guard against boil  overs, which are one of the things that definitely start fryer fires. Once the turkey's in, we'll boost the heat.
    Excellent. We have reached 250 degrees. Now I will remove the thermometer momentarily. Time to deposit the poultry. Hah hah hah hah hah hah. Obviously, you want to have a good grip on this line, as you uncleat. Assume a safe distance, II'd say, about here, and slowly deposit. Hah hah hah hah.

AB: [to the turkey] You'll be talking soon, Mr. Turkey. Oh yes. Hah hah hah hah hah.

    Right into ze hot fat. All the way down to the bottom, until you feel it bottom out, and then I like to bring it just up a little bit, so we make sure that nothing sticks. There. Now we tie off again, using the same cleating knot, and reassemble the thermometer. Now I'm going to let the heat stay on high, until we reach 350 degrees.
    Now, set your timer to 30 minutes, and then go inside and watch some TV, right? NO! You stay put! Drink your beverage!

Benjamin Franklin preferred the turkey over the eagle as our national bird.

The Backyard

    Once the cooking is about half over, the oil temperature will start to rocket upward, because there is less moisture cooking out of the turkey to cool it down. So watch your thermometer and adjust the flame accordingly. If you don't, the oil could cross over the 400 degree line and that would be a bad thing. Because it creates nasty flavors, and well, hot oil sometimes catches fire. Watch it.

President Truman granted the first
Thanksgiving Presidential Turkey Pardon in 1947.

    [AB is now sharing his beverage with Bigfoot] Times up. Now by this point in the process, you'll probably have plenty of bystanders around wanting to help you extract your poultry. Do not allow them inside the derrick perimeter. If you go in there alone, you'll know that no one is around in the unlikely event of a hoisting mishap.

AB: Sorry, big guy.
BIGFOOT: [groans]

    [AB lifts the turkey out of the pot] Now in the end, we're going to be looking for 161 degrees. But remember, about ten degrees of that should be from carryover. So, we're looking for 151. There's only one way to find it. {sticks a thermometer into the turkey]

AB: [to the turkey] You're going to feel a little stick.

    And ... well, 151. That should do nicely. Try one in the thigh. Good, good. One at the top of the breast. Excellent.
    Now, we're going to let carryover do the rest of the job here. So I'm going to put the lid on this pot. Well actually, I'm going to let it kind of drain out for a few minutes just to get the rest of the excess oil out, and then we'll put on the lid. Set your timer for 30 minutes. No cheating!
    When it's time to dismount your turkey, just lower it onto the lid that is on top of your pot and remove. Now remember, although the heat's been off on that oil for a good half hour, it is still plenty hot, so be careful. Remove your carabiner-like device and get yourself something that'll make it easier to pick up that lifter. I think a nice heavy-duty coat hangar does the job very nicely indeed.

The Kitchen

    Well, there we have it. A beautiful fried turkey delivered safely to the table in just over an hour. Oh, I know, there's the brining time to be considered. But come on. You're going to brine the turkey no matter how you cook it, right?
    Oh, and remember this guy [the turkey lifter]. You thought it was a unitasker? [shows that it doubles as a paper towel holder] I think not.
    Oh, and as for the oil? Don't worry about the oil. Once it cools down, you can filter it through some cheesecloth, and use it one more time for frying. Or, it's biodegradable. Just go pour it up in the corner of the yard. It's not a problem. Maybe pour it in your neighbor's yard. That might be a problem. Well, some community centers are starting to accept it because it can be converted into bio-diesel. So not only are you doing yourself a culinary favor by frying your turkey, you're doing the world a favor.
    See you next time, on "Good Eats".

The Backyard

BF: [looks around and then pours out the oil from the pot into the backyard ... of his neighbor?]

Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010