These things are dangerous
Using a turkey fryer can be dangerous if used improperly or indoors. Fortunately, you can find plenty of guides on the Internet that can teach you how not to set your house on fire. Be sure to read up to understand what you are getting into before you begin.
We're serious. Turkey fryers are so risky that Underwriters Laboratories, the global safety company whose UL logo certification you find on nearly every piece of technology in your house, won't certify turkey fryers. This UL video shows what can happen when you don't take the proper precautions.
Why risk using a turkey fryer?
The risks have not deterred adventurous cooks around the country from dragging propane tanks into the backyard. But even if you're not a thrillseeker, there are benefits to frying your turkey rather than roasting it. First, you get more room in the oven on a day when space for your side dishes and pies is at a premium. Secondly, a fried turkey cooks in a fraction of the time of a roasted one—about 30 to 45 minutes as opposed to three hours. Fried turkeys also have more flavor, all things considered equal.
How we picked and tested
Most reviews we read point to buying a pot made specifically for the purpose of turkey frying—it's the right shape and has max-fill line warnings, so you don't have to worry about not being able to fit the bird in or having to buy too much peanut oil. The pots themselves are pretty straightforward, with slightly different styles of turkey racks. Between aluminum and stainless, we chose aluminum, because it conducts heat quickly and is the more affordable choice.
The problem is that most of these brands make all-in-one kits with lesser-quality burners included. All three chefs we spoke with told us that the burner is where you want to pay attention to build quality—and for that, you're better off buying separately.
We considered many different outdoor cooker models from top retailers, and ultimately decided to test two fryers from Bayou. Both models had a sturdy build, a single-burner design, powerful heat, and good value. To investigate the difference between a turkey fried in an electric fryer versus one fried over a propane burner, we also tested an indoor electric fryer from Masterbuilt. (Spoiler alert: The results from the electric fryer were very disappointing).
We started by assembling each fryer, noting how easy it was to go from box to boiling. Then, we hooked them up to a tank of propane on a windless, 55 ºF night and tested how long each took to boil 6 quarts of water in a stainless steel pot, uncovered.
Finally, the fun part: turkey frying time! We determined that the performance of the two propane burners was close enough that we could get away with picking one over the other for design and stability reasons. So we fried only one 10½-pound turkey in our pot pick, and another 10½-pound bird in the electric fryer. We let each turkey cook for 35 minutes, following the recommendations of 3½ minutes per pound. That said, the breast was a bit overcooked in the propane burner, and we probably could have taken it out at least five minutes earlier.
Our pick is the Bayou Classic Aluminum Turkey Fryer Stockpot. It comes with the necessary poultry rack, hook, thermometer, and injector (which you don't need). It's big enough to hold your 10- or 12-pound turkey. It comes from Bayou, the go-to brand in the category, and the same pot (with its burner) was recommended by Serious Eats and Leite's Culinaria.
However, we prefer to pair this pot with the Bayou Classic SQ14 Single Burner Patio Stove. We eschewed the full kit's tripod for this one because this solidly constructed model has a sturdy 16-inch square base on four welded legs. It comes with a 29-inch braided metal hose, which felt sufficiently long. The double-ring burner does not have a wind protection screen, but we found that the flame got hot and spread wide, licking up the sides of the pot.
The Bayou Classic SP10 High-Pressure Outdoor Cooker was the other gas burner we tested. It's supported by a slightly smaller 14-inch-wide welded tripod frame (compared with the SQ14's 16 inches), and it has only three legs, instead of four. It also has a longer, 48-inch hose (the SQ14's is 29 inches). It took just 15 minutes to boil 6 quarts of water, one minute less than the SQ14. Ultimately, we thought the added stability of the SQ14's fourth leg and larger footprint outweighed the nominal speed boost you get from the SP10, because safety should always come first.
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