How Long To Cook a Turkey Per Pound

November 25, 2009 by  

Cooking the Thanksgiving turkey in the oven takes so long and it’s so boring. There is a way to make it much more exciting.
Try frying the turkey instead.

When you bring up the idea of frying the turkey, you will hear the typical worries that you hear from your other projects:
“Don’t hurt yourself.”
“Don’t burn down the house.”
“Don’t let kids catch on fire.”
“Don’t destroy our dinner.”

Done wrong, frying a turkey can be a disaster. Done right, you get a delicious turkey, cooked in less time, with some excitement in the cooking process. My kids love watching the turkey fry. Instead of just our kitchen smelling like turkey, with a gentle breeze, the whole neighborhood gets to smell your turkey.
What you need:

* A big pot
* Propane tank
* Protective goggles
* fire extinguisher (just in case)
* Heavy gloves
* Peanut oil
* Turkey

Dangers (with video examples):


The key to successful turkey frying is understanding the Archimedes’ Principle and displacement. Too little oil in the pot and part of the turkey will be above the oil level and not cook. Too much oil in the pot and it will spill out, leaving a pool of boiling oil and possible ignition. You should not guess how much oil you will need in the pot.

I use turkey brine to measure the displacement. On Wednesday, I put the thawed (or mostly thawed) turkey in the pot and fill the pot with water, salt and spices. Make sure the water level in the pot is a few inches below the rim of the pot. I let the turkey sit in the brine overnight, letting the seasons flavor the turkey and the brine tenderize the meat. On Thursday, I take the turkey out. Mark the level of the brine inside the pot. That will be the line to fill up the pot with oil.


It’s not fun to have to call the Fire Department on Thanksgiving. The result of liquids being suddenly immersed in boiling oil is volcanic. Oil will bubble out of you pot and spill on to whatever is under the pot. If there is enough oil spilling it will come in contact with burner and ignite. (I speak from personal experience.)

Make sure the turkey is thawed. Frozen turkeys put into boiling oil will usually explode.

Make sure the turkey is  as dry as possible. Make sure liquids have drained out of the cavity and pat dry the inside of the turkey. Any water on the outside of the turkey or in the cavity will instantly be turned to steam. Too much water, means too much steam, which means an explosion of steam and boiling oil.

Be prepared and be safe. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby.

I use Welding Gloves to hold the hanger for the turkey. It does a much better job than an oven mitt of keeping the flesh on your hands separate from the boiling oil. (They also look cooler.) For the extra geek factor, I also wear Lab Safety Goggles. Boiling oil in your eye will wreck Thanksgiving.


Whole fried turkey is the best illustration of just how delicious and grease-free fried food can be. Once you’ve tried frying your Thanksgiving turkey you’ll never go back to roast turkey.

It’s fast. It only takes 3 or 4 minutes of cooking time per pound of turkey. So your typical 12-14 pound bird will be cooked and delicious in about 45 minutes.

Other Frying Fun

Now that you have a fryer it’s fun to experiment with other foods.  There are always the classics like french fries and fried shrimp. But there also lots of options. Fried Twinkies are a fun treat. There is the odd fried Coca-Cola that won an award at the 2006 State Fair of Texas. People have tried lots of odd fried food.

Turkey dinner image is by Zeetz Jones: CC BY 2.0

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