Friday, November 28, 2008

Frying a Turkey ~ Day 1

Frying a Turkey ~ Day 1: Preparing the turkey

The first thing to do when preparing to fry a turkey is to plan ahead. First thing to be considered is the maximum size the turkey fryer can safely cook. Ours happens to be 14 pounds, so when I was shopping I was sure to check the weight of the birds. I ended up choosing 2 fairly nice less expensive Butterball brand birds that each weighed about 13.5 pounds. I cooked one already for Thanksgiving, but saved this one for the weekend. Frozen turkeys need anywhere from 2 to 3 days to fully defrost while refrigerated. They can not be left out to thaw. I prefer fresh turkeys for this reason.

It takes a lot of oil to cook a turkey. We picked up a 5 gallon container of peanut oil. I think we used about 4 in the fryer. So it's good practice to be sure there is lots of oil on hand as not to be caught short.

The first step I undertook was obviously unpacking the turkey and preparing it for injection. I removed the packed in giblets and neck and then cleaned it thoroughly inside and out with running cold water then allowed a moment for excess water to run off and out of the bird. In order to allow the marinade to really get to soak into the meat I injected the turkey this evening, about 24 hours in advance of when I plan to fry it tomorrow night.

While a fried turkey alone is probably quite delicious, we prefer ours to be flavored. In the conventional oven baking method many people use stuffing inside the turkey to help promote flavor and keep the bird moist during cooking. Well with frying you can't exactly use stuffing, and as for moisture, it's no problem since it is never exposed to air during the cooking process. Fried turkey is probably one of the most delicious and moist servings I've ever had. So in order to provide additional flavor in frying we inject marinade directly into the flesh of the turkey. In this particular case we've selected Lawry's lemon pepper marinade as seen in the picture above. You can also see the device we use to inject the marinade into the turkey. The Crisco pure vegetable oil was used purely to lubricate the injection plunger. I wiped a liberal amount around that yellow sealing ring to allow it easy fluid motion once inserted into the tube. Without the oil the plunger can become excessively difficult to use, jam, and sometimes the sealing ring can come off the plunger completely. To help allow the marinade to pass more easily through the injector needle I cut it with a little bit of water. About 4 parts marinade to 1 part water.

I put the mixture in a measuring cup, primarily to keep the marinade to water ratio correct as I was mixing it. Once I had it all stirred up and ready to inject I pushed the plunger of the injector all the way down, inserted the needle into the cup of mixture, and drew the plunger up slowly to fill the syringe. The mixture contains small amounts of solids, mostly pepper. These can be filtered out before hand, but they add so much flavor and removing them would be a shame. With these solids present they can sometimes jam when entering the needle. I would just eject a little back into the cup and then start pulling again to loosen most of the jams. In the 2 cases of severe jams I had I emptied the mixture in the syringe back into the cup then placed the needle in a bowl of fresh water and used vigorous but not overly forceful plunging to dislodge the offending blockage.

On to the injecting. During all injections I used the same procedure. I pushed the needle all the way into the meat and then slowly withdrew it while gently pushing the plunger to leave behind a trail of marinade. In the rare case I got a blockage in the needle from a solid in the mixture I simply pulled the needle all the way out, pulled on the plunger a little, and then resumed. This action cleared all blockages I had while injecting the marinade into the turkey. I used about a half a cup of mixture per breast, so from the approximately 1.8 cups of total mixture I had from that bottle mixed with water, the breasts got a full cup of it in total.

I just love the dark meat of most any poultry. So of course I was sure to get an ample amount of the marinade into the legs and thighs as well. Here I am lifting the leg up after I've already injected it so that I can get access to the thigh beneath it. I used about 80% of the remaining mixture after doing the breasts on both legs and thighs. The last remaining little bit went into the wings. After frying the tips are very crispy, but I don't marinate them. I do inject the drummette and the link between it and the tip.

And here it is after it had been completely injected. A little marinade had escaped from the injection sites. This is pretty typical. Any extra bit of marinade that was in the cup which I could not get into the syringe I just dumped into the chest cavity. It was probably less than an ounce in total.

And here it is all wrapped up in aluminum foil ready to placed in the fridge. I put it in the fridge where it will continue to marinate for about 24 hours before I remove it tomorrow to fry it.

I'll document the frying process and post about it here, probably on Sunday. Happy belated Thanks Giving and have a wonderful weekend!

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