Deep-Fried Turkey with Southern Rub

Ingredients (8)

For the rub:

  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons dry mustard, such as Colman’s
  • 6 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons filé powder
  • 2 teaspoons hot paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the turkey:

  • 1 (15- to 18-pound) fresh turkey
  • Peanut oil for frying (about 4 gallons, see intro)
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Deep-frying a turkey is one of those things that turns you from skeptic to convert the first time you try it. Not only is your bird done in 40 minutes, but it ends up amazingly juicy, not at all greasy, with skin that’s crispy beyond belief. Smearing the turkey with a rub and letting it penetrate overnight is essential. We’ve put together a few more tips on deep-frying a turkey (including what not to do), and a step-by-step guide on how to fry a turkey too (you can never be too careful with this method).

Look for a fresh turkey—they seem to end up crispier and tastier than previously frozen ones. If you’re forced to use a frozen turkey, make sure it’s completely thawed before frying (this will take several days in the refrigerator). Filé is powdered sassafras leaves, a popular spice in the South, especially in Louisiana, where it’s used as a condiment and thickener for gumbo. Here it imparts a slight woodsy flavor to the rub. Look for it in the dried-spices section of grocery stores. And Peanut oil is best for frying because it has a very high smoke point and a neutral flavor. To figure out how much oil to use, try this displacement trick: Before unwrapping your turkey, place it in the frying pot and add enough water to cover it completely. Remove the turkey from the pot and measure the water: That’s how much oil you should use.

Special equipment: A propane turkey fryer like this one from Bayou Classic was all we needed to make a crisp, succulent turkey. It comes with the base, pot, turkey rack, and thermometer, plus a bunch of accessories. We wore heatproof rubber gloves and safety goggles to protect our hands and eyes while we fried (safety first!). And on that note, it can’t hurt to have an all-purpose fire extinguisher on hand, just in case.

Game plan: Be sure to leave ample time to completely thaw your turkey and then give your rubbed turkey a full night in the fridge to allow the flavors to fully penetrate. Also, at frying time, give your oil plenty of time to heat up. It took ours about 40 minutes to come to temperature each time we tested. And be sure to thoroughly read through the instruction booklet that comes with your fryer before use!

For more, we recommend our easy guide on How to Smoke a Turkey.

And see our Ultimate Thanksgiving Guide for more tips, tricks, and recipes.

Tips for Christmas


Make the rub:
  1. 1Combine the rub ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Rub and cook the turkey:

  1. 1Remove the bag of giblets and the neck from inside the turkey. Reserve in the refrigerator until ready to prepare the gravy. Rinse the turkey inside and out and pat it dry with paper towels. Trim most of the excess fat and skin from the neck and cavity (this allows for better frying). Make a 3-inch-long cut on either side of the turkey through the skin where the leg meets the breast. This will allow the oil to drain away and the thigh meat to cook completely.
  2. 2Place the turkey on a cutting board or baking sheet and coat it evenly with the rub, including inside the cavity. Place the turkey in a plastic bag and allow to rest in the refrigerator overnight.
  3. 3Heat the oil in a turkey fryer until it registers 350°F. (This takes about 40 minutes.) Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Remove it from the bag and lightly blot it with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Place the turkey on the frying rack, drumsticks pointing upward as though it’s doing a headstand. Use the grab hook to very slowly lower the turkey into the heated oil; this takes at least 90 seconds. The oil will boil furiously; this is normal. Wear heatproof gloves and safety goggles, and do not drop the turkey.
  4. 4Once the turkey is completely submerged, remove the hook. Fry for about 3 minutes per pound or until the juices run clear and a thermometer inserted into the inner part of the thigh reads 155°F.
  5. 5Use the grab hook to slowly remove the turkey from the oil, allowing sufficient time for the hot oil to drain away. Place the turkey and rack on a rimmed baking sheet set on the ground, and let them sit a few minutes before moving to allow any extra oil to drain. Let the turkey rest for at least 15 minutes. Remove it from the rack and carve.
Deep-Fried Turkey with Southern Rub
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