I have heard of deep frying turkeys but up until this Thanksgiving I had never personally experienced one. Until this year’s celebration around our house deep fried cooking has been considered nearly as sinful as Jews eating pork during the Passover. With my cholesterol count soaring out of control without daily medication Nancy holds me on a short leash when it comes to saturated fat.
We decided to share our Thanksgiving at Timber Butte this year with available family and some friends who had no particular place to go. Everyone took part preparing various dishes, but the most unique addition happened when Elliot and Marilyn Sheffield volunteered to deep fry the turkey.
Elliot is a Southerner by birth and like all folks who are raised in the south he believes that flavorful food requires deep fried cooking. I have always been told that Southerners all know that deep frying can kill you but most ignore the AMA’s warnings believing it is more important to die with a smile on your face.
All joking aside, we discovered that a deep fried Turkey isn’t unhealthy (if you stay away from the skin), but when cooked properly is amazingly delicious. Watching Elliot as he methodically unloaded his pickup bed with a high BTU propane stove, special pots, heat resistant gloves, protective glasses, an array of cooking thermometers and a large container of seasoned peanut oil made me understand that what he was about to do was not simply cooking, but rather a lifelong ritual; an art form if you will.
Elliot fired up his stove placing several gallons of peanut oil in a large pot over the flame which he heated to 400 degrees. He told me he used pure peanut oil rather than other oils advertised for deep fry cooking because it is the only cooking oil that can be heated to this high temperature without burning. After checking the temperature (which he emphasized as being a critical factor) he gingerly lowered the pre-seasoned bird into the steaming inferno. Checking again, the oils temperature dropped to 350 degrees which he said was perfect. Both he and Marilyn set timers at that moment knowing that removing the turkey 30 seconds too soon or too late would change the outcome. Timing in this process is evidentially critical. The perfect formula calculates 3 minutes and fifteen seconds of cooking at 350 degrees for every pound of turkey. Too soon and the meat will be raw under the wings and drumsticks, and too long and it will become dry.
When the timer buzzed Elliot put on his rubberized insulated concrete gloves and quickly removed the perfectly cooked turkey. It was a masterpiece that everyone acknowledged as being worth all of Marilyn and Elliot’s expertise, detail and extra work.