Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fat and Happy Time!

My days are definitely much different right now compared to two months ago.  Trying to get back into the swing of things training wise, but no deadlines, or target workouts which has been great.  Cooking has been a distraction as well, but this adds to the waistline.  All experts say to put on a few pounds in the "off season", but I may have overdone it.

Adding to that, Thanksgiving and Christmas are around the corner!  One thing I love about this time of year, is our annual Thanksgiving luncheon at work.  When we fist started it, nobody wanted to cook the turkey, because, well, its hard!  Adding to the fact that it would have to be cooked overnight for a lunch, it was nearly a no-go.  Then when I researched it a bit, we realized we could fry it in the morning before lunch.  I have to say that fried turkey is incredible.  The fact that it takes an hour to cook, erases pretty much any negative there is about frying since a normal turkey takes 5-6 hours when you add in everything involved.  All I do to fry it, is clean it, dump some seasoning, heat up the oil and drop it in.  When it comes to enjoying your Thanksgiving, taking away the stresses is an easy thing to do.  The big stress of day is cooking the bird, so with that out of the way, everyone is happier.  My Mom found out I could do this and she hasn't cooked a turkey since.

I do warn you though, the first time, all in, its over $100.
- $50-80 on the fryer
- $20 for the oil
- $10-30 for the turkey, given size and quality

I'll also share this as a public service announcement and some amusement for everyone who may try this:

Here is the burner I use:

Here's a price point for 4 gallons of oil, I only use 3 for a 14 pound bird:

Disappointingly, I can't try to pawn off a link to buy a turkey from Amazon, 
So, what all is involved.

#1 Buying the equipment

Most hardware stores have one or two models to choose from.  I've used three different types and none of them have any great benefit over the other, so just go with the least expensive.  One cool feature is the idiot cutoff switch they started building into the units.  This has a timer and a button attached to the fuel line.  Every 15 minutes it turns off the burner unless you are there to hit the button.  Good for distracted people, or those with kids that are urgently pulled away from the blowtorch.

When buying the fryer, it is the best time to buy the oil.  They should have 3 gallon jugs like the Crisco one in the pic right.  this is nearly the most expensive portion of the project.

#2 Buying your turkey.

Depending on how many people to cook for, I always end up getting a 13-15 pound turkey.  A lot of sources say going over 15 pounds is not safe because it may not cook properly.  At the same time, I don't think a turkey any bigger than 15 pounds fits in the standard pots that come with the fryers.  The first time we fried at the office, my co-worker was in charge of getting the turkey and she got a 25 pounder.  We had to run out the day before and try to find a smaller one, which luckily we did.  Some fun was hacking up the bigger bird in half and then frying it as well though.

It is up to your preference for "Free Range" or Organic turkeys, but the flavor and juiciness comes from the oil and seasonings when frying, so just buy the least expensive, quality brand.  I think it mirrors using really expensive liquor in a mixed drink, don't waste your money.

#3 Prepping

I had never cooked a turkey before frying one so for everyone in the same boat, get the pack with giblets and the neck out.  They will hide it in the body cavity or other places, but it is there.  Not much else to do, just make sure you have plenty of time to thaw.  This morning my turkey was still not thawed enough, so I had to pour hot water into the cavity to get some ice out.  Yes there was a block in there keeping it frozen.  Once I did that it thawed fairly quickly.  Also, the turkey must be dry.  Water or ice heated quickly to 350 degrees nearly explodes which causes most of the injuries when frying a turkey.  Once dry, sprinkle or rub in any assortment of seasonings.  I usually use garlic powder, onion powder, seasoned salt, chili powder, and this year I added one of those Starbucks Via's to the mix as a recommendation from my local Barista. 

#4 Cooking

I usually need a refresher for cooking, directions here, but it can take anywhere from 3-5 minutes per pound to cook.  You need to try to keep the oil around 350 degrees, but once you drop the turkey in, it drops 50 degrees immediately and you are trying to catch back up.  All the kits come with a thermometer, so along with the time, you have to check the temperature of the breast and thigh to make sure its cooked (180 degrees). Once done, wrap it up in foil and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.  Its is a little hard to get the turkey off the basket, so make sure you handle with care.  Mine has screws to remove the bottom brace which is handy.

Here's a quick peak at what happens when you drop the turkey into the oil for the first time.  It roils the oil, but as long as you didn't over fill the bucket, everything should be cool.  Most buckets come with a "Fill Line", so if you overfill it with oil, you've got other problems.

#5 Safety

Make sure to read the directions in the fryer box.  As a reminder, cook at least 10 feet away from the house.  Do not cook under any type of ceiling.  Never leave the fryer unattended.  Very bad things happen when oil boils over on top of a flame thrower.  Keep a fire extinguisher handy.

Once its cooled a bit, its ready to cut and serve like any other turkey and I don't care how bad it sounds, but the skin is amazing.

Enjoy your holidays and don't worry about the few pounds you may put on right now.  There is plenty of time to take them off later.  This is the time of year to enjoy life and have a bit of fun.

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