Deep-frying a whole turkey is a Cajun tradition that produces sensationally juicy meat and delightfully crispy skin. An added advantage of cooking a turkey this way is that it takes less than an hour to cook the whole bird! Devotees of this Thanksgiving tradition swear that once you try a deep-fried turkey, you'll never cook your holiday birds any other way!
Turkey Tools
Deep-frying a whole turkey is a messy proposition, and presents some hazards, especially when doing it in an enclosed space. For these reasons, the whole operation is always moved outdoors. There is some special equipment you need in order to take on this project, and we recommend that you don't attempt this without the right tools. You will need a heavy-duty portable propane burner and a very large stockpot (26 to 40 quart capacity) or a custom-made turkey-frying pot to begin with.

In addition to these things, you're going to need some sort of contraption that will help you SAFELY lower the turkey into a vat of boiling oil, and remove it SAFELY once the turkey is done. To make your life easier, you can simply buy a specially designed tool for holding the turkey in place and moving it in and out of the pot (There are many online specialty resources for buying turkey-frying equipment). Or if you're up for the added challenge, you can fashion your own turkey holder and lowering mechanism to help you dunk and lift the turkey safely: Try a giant drain basket or a large vertical roasting stand, and twist heavy wire around one end, and around a broom handle at the other end.

Sizing Up
Once you have decided how you're going to heft and fry the turkey, you can proceed with getting and preparing the turkey. The ideal size for a turkey to deep-fry is between 10 and 15 pounds. You can, of course, choose a smaller turkey if you like, but a bird that's any larger than 15 pounds will be near impossible to handle in a deep-frying situation. If you've got more people to feed than a 15-pounder will provide for, prepare two turkeys rather than attempting one monster. The turkey should either be fresh, or completely thawed, before beginning (for tips on proper thawing, read Just Freeze it!). Check right now to see if the bird has a plastic pop-up doneness indicator. If it does, remove it.

The size of the bird you choose will determine exactly how much oil you are going to need. The most accurate way of measuring this is to place the bird in the pot you intend to use for frying. Pour in cold water until the turkey is covered by a couple of inches. There should still be several inches between the surface of the water and the top of the pot. If there's not, you need a bigger pot. Now remove the turkey and pat it dry with some paper towels. Measure the water that's in the pot -- This is how much oil you'll need, so make a note of it. To be genuinely Cajun, you need to use peanut oil for frying that bird. This kind of oil is expensive, but it gives the best flavor and will not smoke when it gets hot the way some other oils will.

Turkey Seasoning
In preparation for frying, the turkey meat is traditionally injected with a liquid seasoning blend (marinade), then the outside is rubbed with a dry seasoning blend (dry rub). To properly season your turkey, place it in a pan and load your favorite marinade (preferably a spicy one!) into a hypodermic meat injector. Inject the marinade in several places on the turkey. Do this by carefully lifting up the skin, rather than poking the needle through it. When the turkey is good and loaded up with spicy, succulent juices, massage a nice big handful of dry rub onto the outside of the bird and all around the cavity. This can be done as much as 36 hours in advance, but you should allow at least 12 hours in to give the flavors time to mingle and penetrate the turkey while it's kept in the refrigerator.
Fry Away
A couple of hours before dinnertime, put on old clothes that you don't mind getting spattered with oil: It's time to fry a turkey! Make sure your seasoned turkey is completely dry. Pat it down with paper towels, if necessary. Water and hot oil simply do not mix, and you don't want to be burned by flying 400-degree oil. Now rig up the turkey to the stand, cradle, vertical rack, basket or whatever contraption you'll be using, and allow the bird to come to room temperature. Bring out a big platter with several layers of paper bags on it. This is where the turkey will land and drain when it's done.
Clear all children, pets and other flammable or well-loved material far away from the frying area. Pour the right amount of oil into the pot and fire up the burner. Stick a candy thermometer in the pot and watch it closely. Once the temperature reaches 400 degrees F (205 degrees C), the moment of truth is upon you. Get the turkey, get some heavy oven mitts and get someone else to help you. Turn off the burner momentarily so that any splattered oil will not cause flare-ups. With one person on each side of the pot, grasping the broom handle with oven-mitted hands, and standing as far away from it as you can manage, slowly lower the turkey partway into the oil. The oil will bubble up fiercely. Hold the turkey suspended partway into the oil and gently dunk it up and down a few times. Lower the turkey a little more and dunk again. Keep doing this until the turkey is completely submerged and resting on the bottom of the pot. Now you can turn the burner on again. If the oil had a chance to cool down to below 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), crank it up high until the oil returns to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) again, and then turn down the burner to maintain the temperature. Pull up a chair and get comfortable now; you should never, ever leave a pot of boiling oil unattended.

Give in to Turkey Temptation
Allow 3 to 3 1/2 minutes of cooking time per pound of turkey. That means a 15-pound turkey will take about 45 minutes to cook. To check for doneness, turn off the burner and call your assistant out to help you pull the turkey partway out of the pot and insert a meat thermometer into the thigh. If it reads 180 degrees F (82 degrees C), that bird is done! Raise the turkey out of the pot and let the oil drip from it for a minute. The cavity may be full of hot oil, so use extreme caution when handling the turkey. Carefully transfer it to the platter you cleverly covered with paper bags, let it drain for a few minutes longer and make sure that cavity is drained. Try to resist picking at the crackling brown skin and the succulent, tender meat that lies beneath -- at least until it cools down enough to bring to the dinner table. Or maybe you should just fry another turkey.

Turkey Deep-Frying Checklist
Heavy-duty portable propane burner
Propane tank
26 to 40 quart stockpot
Turkey holder (e.g., stand, cradle, vertical rack or metal drain basket)
Lowering mechanism (e.g., broom handle)
Turkey
Marinade
Hypodermic meat injector
Dry rub
Peanut oil
Heavy oven mitts
Large platter
Paper bags
Candy thermometer
Meat thermometer
Paper towels
An assistant
A comfy chair

Recipes for Deep-Frying Turkey
When you're ready to deep-fry a turkey, try these recipes for the big bird as well as marinades and dry rubs for seasoning:

Carolina Rub

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups prepared mustard
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup beer
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke flavoring
1 teaspoon Louisiana-style hot sauce


Directions
1 In a heavy non-reactive saucepan, combine mustard, brown sugar, vinegar and beer. Season with chili powder, black, white and cayenne pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat. DO NOT BOIL, or you will scorch the sugar and peppers. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
2 Mix in the Worcestershire sauce, butter, and liquid smoke. Simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes. Add a few dashes of the hot sauce to taste. Pour into an airtight jar and refrigerate over night to allow flavors to blend.

Honey Burbon Fire Sauce

Ingredients
1 onion, chopped
4 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup premium bourbon
32 ounces honey
1 (16 ounce) jar salsa
1 (12 ounce) jar hot pepper sauce
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
1 cup tomato-vegetable juice cocktail
2 tablespoons ground black pepper


Directions
1 In a large saucepan over medium heat, saute the onion and garlic for 10 to 15 minutes, or until onion is caramelized. Reduce heat to low and pour in about 1 cup of bourbon to deglaze the pan. Return saucepan to medium high heat, add the remaining bourbon, and bring to a slow boil for 5 to 10 minutes, allowing the alcohol to cook out of the bourbon.
2 Add the honey, picante sauce, hot pepper sauce, tomato paste, tomato-vegetable juice and ground black pepper and stir well. Bring this mixture to a slow, rolling boil for about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and cool in the refrigerator.
3 Marinate your meat in a separate large, nonporous bowl for 3 to 4 hours, pouring sauce over meat. Boil remaining sauce for 10 minutes and serve with meat, if desired. Discard any excess marinade.

Conway Dry Rub
Ingredients
8 tablespoons paprika
3 tablespoons cayenne pepper
5 tablespoons ground black pepper
6 tablespoons garlic powder
3 tablespoons onion powder
6 tablespoons salt
2 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 1/2 tablespoons dried thyme


Directions
1 In a medium bowl, combine the paprika, cayenne pepper, ground black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, oregano and thyme. Mix all together well and store in a cool, dry place in an airtight container.

There you go... Happy Thanksgiving....