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Cooking a whole turkey the traditional way—namely, roasting it in the oven—is not exactly a breeze. But immersing your precious turkey in a huge vat of oil to fry may seem like an intimidating alternative. However, there are so many great benefits to using turkey fryers: crispy skin, juicy flesh, and of course, superior taste. And, they make the process easier because they usually come as a set with all the items you’ll need (think gas cooker, stockpot, grab hook, and thermometer). They also make it easy to adjust the temperature to get your turkey perfectly cooked and juicy faster than you could in the oven.
Plus, many models of turkey fryers, specifically electric, indoor ones, have added safety features that don't sacrifice the quality of the cooked turkey, says Jessica Randhawa, head chef and writer for The Forked Spoon, a recipe website. In addition to its safety features, Randhawa values ease of use and cleaning (including dishwashable parts), adequate capacity (or extra-large capacity when needed), and a well-engineered oil drain.
No matter how much space you have in your kitchen or your level of experience with deep fryers, there's an option for you. Here, the best turkey fryers that take into account everything from taste to capacity.
Best Overall: Bayou Classic 32-Quart Turkey Fryer
What We Love: Durable stainless steel, huge variety of accessories, fits a 20-pound turkey
What We Don't Love: Requires a separate burner
A classic turkey fryer for a reason, the Bayou 32-Quart Turkey Fryer uses stainless steel for maximum durability. It’s very easy to clean and versatile, with the perforated lid allowing for steaming and boiling, along with frying.
It does require a separate propane burner, though, which can be a little frustrating. However, provided you buy one with 55,000 BTUs or lower, you can easily fry a 20-pound bird with ease in about an hour. The grab hook also allows for easy retrieval once your bird has been cooked, so you don’t have to worry about hot oil spilling out everywhere.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 12 x 12 x 17.5 inches | Capacity: 32 quarts | Power: N/A (separate propane burner required) | Dishwasher-Safe? Yes | What’s Included: thermometer, seasoning injector, detachable three-piece skewer set, perforated poultry rack and lift hook, vented lid, perforated basket
Best Propane: King Kooker 29-Quart Aluminum Turkey Frying Cooker Package
What We Love: Comes with a complete kit
What We Don' t Love: Can only be used outdoors, lower BTU than comparable brands
This outdoor propane set has everything you need for frying a bird, stat. It functions pretty much like an outdoor grill: Attach the propane tank to heat up the oil, and then insert the turkey. This set comes with a thermometer and timer for perfect crispiness, and it has the ability to fit a 20-pound bird with ease. It has a lower BTU than other options (38,000), which means your bird will take a little longer to cook, but the end result will be absolutely perfect.
Dennis Capone of My Kitchen Toolkit has the following advice about how to look for the right turkey fryer: “At a base level and in terms of common sense, a good fryer needs to be powerful enough (we're talking at least 35,000 BTUs, minimum) to cook your turkey in under an hour. A good fryer also needs to be responsive to precise temperature regulation. If your temperature is too low, the turkey will take too long to cook and come out tasting oily, and if it's too hot, you'll burn the exterior of the turkey while the inside remains raw. You are looking for an internal temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit in the thigh, and 170 in the breast.”
Dimensions (DxWxH): 13.75 x 12 x 27.5 inches | Capacity: 29 quarts | Power: 38,000 BTUs | What’s Included: Cast burner, aluminum turkey pot with lid, turkey rack, lifting hook, thermometer, regulator with battery-operated timer
Best Electric: Masterbuilt MB20012420 Electric Fryer Boiler Steamer
What We Love: Can be used both indoors and outdoors, comes in a complete set, easy cleanup
What We Don't Love: Cooks turkey more slowly than a traditional fryer, aluminum not as long-lasting as steel
Several people prefer electric turkey fryers because they tend to be safer than traditional ones—and can be used both indoors and outdoors. This incredibly powerful option can fit a 20-pound turkey (though some noted that birds on the larger end may require wings and legs to be broken off), and it includes a removable, hinged lid and drain valve for easy cleanup.
Since it has an automated thermostat of 375 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s a breeze to use for people who are intimidated by more traditional turkey fryers, and the fact that it's electric should ease some people's concerns about safety. It’s also incredibly versatile: It can be used as a steamer and boiler, too (clam bakes, anyone?). It does use up quite a good amount of oil, however—one user said that they needed to use at least 11 gallons for the fryer to work effectively.
Dimensions (DxWxH): 18.4 x 18.4 x 14.8 inches | Capacity: 10.6 quarts | Power: 55,000 BTUs | What’s Included: Pot, basket, lid, drain, drain clips, valve
Best Budget: Bayou Classic High-Pressure Propane Burner
What We Love: Adjustable burner, lots of power, no assembly required
What We Don't Love: Pot and accessories sold separately, some users say burning paint gives off bad smell
Yes, you’ll have to buy the pot separately, but if you already have one at home, this burner is the perfect budget buy. Thanks to its 55,000 BTU capacity, it can heat large batches of oil very quickly, and the durable legs give it the stability to hold a pot of up to 120 quarts.
Reviewers like that there's no assembly required and that it's sturdy, well-built (with its steel frame and cast iron burner), and that it comes to a rolling boil super fast, which is great for uses such as brewing beer.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 14 x 14 x 12 inches | Capacity: 120 quarts | Power: 55,000 BTUs | What’s Included: One burner
Related: The Best Turkey Basters
Best Oil-Less: Char-Broil The Big Easy Oil-Less Turkey Fryer
What We Love: Front-access grease tray helps with cleanup, no need to buy gallons of oil
What We Don't Love: Takes a long time to cook, won’t fit an extra-large bird, can only be used outdoors
Yes, oil-less turkey fryers are a thing: Basically, they are connected to liquid propane tanks for heat, but the oil never touches your turkey—think an air fryer on steroids. I love this option because it uses infrared technology to heat up the bird instead of oil (great for those who want to reduce their oil intake), while the thermometer lets you know when the bird is done.
It fits a 16-pound bird and will take a little longer to cook due to the lack of oil, but you get the benefit of added safety (no hot oil!) and not needing to buy tons of oil—and the machine still gets the job done of crisping up your turkey. Plus, thanks to the front-access drip tray, cleanup is that much easier (compared with having to dispose of gallons of hot oil).
Dimensions (LxWxH): 20.75 x 16.25 x 23.5 inches | Capacity: 16 pounds | Power: 16,000 BTUs | What’s Included: Fryer, meat-probe thermometer, basket
Best Large Capacity: Enterprises Turkey Deep Fryer
What We Love: Easy to use, very quick to heat up to temperature
What We Don't Love: Pot isn't secured tightly to burner, no timer included
Having a massive party? This is the perfect turkey frying set for you. The 44-quart stainless steel pot is durable and has a huge capacity—it can fit up to a 25-pound bird easily. But not only that, it's versatile enough to be used to cook other dishes for large gatherings, such as boiled peanuts, steamed crab, multiple batches of chili, and even beer brewing at home.
The set also comes with a poultry rack for easy insertion, a thermometer, and an insulated glove, which, in addition to the burner having a low center of gravity, makes frying safer. And, burner’s adjustable knob allows for complete flame control. Just note that because of the pot's size, it requires a lot of oil to submerge a large turkey—about 6 to 8 gallons of it, according to several reviewers. Others note to keep a careful eye on the unit while it's frying, because the pot isn't secured very tightly onto the burner (although some also mention that with enough oil to weigh it down, it becomes more stable).
Dimensions (DxWxH): 16 x 16 x 21 inches | Capacity: 44 quarts | Power: 55,000 BTUs | What’s Included: Burner, fryer pot, poultry rack, thermometer, seasoning injector, insulated glove, ventilated lid, grab hook
Related: The Best Deep Fryers
Our pick for the best turkey fryer is the Bayou Classic High-Pressure Propane Burner: It's durable, versatile, and includes many useful accessories, including a grab hook, a seasoning injector, and skewer set. It also fits a 20-pound bird comfortably (view at Amazon). If you're cutting down on oil, the Char-Broil The Big Easy Oil-Less Turkey Fryer is for you. It still cooks up a tasty, crispy turkey, but thanks to the infrared technology you don't risk the hassle of buying and cleaning gallons of oil (view at Amazon).
What to Look For When Buying a Turkey Fryer
There are three main types of turkey fryers—propane, electric, and oil-free.
Propane turkey fryers work similarly to your outdoor grill and come with a heavy-duty hose that connects to a propane tank. They are usually incredibly powerful and effective, but they can only be used outdoors and can be a bit dangerous: Since huge vats of boiling oil are used to fry your turkey, there is a risk of it splattering everywhere.
Electric turkey fryers are basically like deep fryers, and many can be used indoors. They are considered to be the safest option because they normally come with a built-in thermostat that manages the temperature and an automatic timer to make sure the oil doesn’t get too hot.
Oil-free turkey fryers work similarly to air-fryers: They also attach to a propane tank, but they instead rely on circulating hot air to cook a crispy turkey. While the turkey is not immersed in oil, some oil is needed to rub on the bird to get it crispy. This is generally the healthiest option, but it does take a bit longer to cook. Like propane turkey fryers, oil-free fryers can only be used outdoors.
You have to look at your needs carefully to figure out which turkey fryer works best for you. Depending on how much oil you want to use, how fast you need the bird to cook, the size of the turkey, and your ability to be able to cook the bird outdoors, any of the options can work—you just have to see whether they match your needs closely.
Capacity matters when it comes to picking a turkey fryer—after all, if you’re having a huge party, you need a pot that will be able to hold all that bird. As a general rule, the turkey needs to be fully submerged in oil, so if you’re buying a turkey that’s 20 pounds or larger, an outdoor turkey burner is most likely your best option: It will be able to hold your turkey easily. Consider a container of upto 44 quarts if your bird is between 20 and 35 pounds.
Because turkey burners deal with huge vats of boiling oil, safety is paramount. Electric turkey burners are usually safer than propane ones, according to Jessica Randhawa, head chef and writer for The Forked Spoon, a recipe website. But, not to worry, she adds; the indoor, electric turkey fryers still make "the crispy, deep-fried turkey skin cherished among turkey-frying connoisseurs." So, if your bird is on the smaller side and you aren’t in a rush to cook it too fast, then an electric burner works.
If you choose to go the outdoor, propane route, make sure that the fryer comes with a few non-negotiable safety features: First, you want a vented lid so no steam gets trapped inside during cooking (this may cause a burn), and you also want to make sure that you have a poultry rack with a lifting hook, so you can pull the turkey in and out of the hot oil safely, without splattering oil everywhere. Some other nice-to-have safety features include automatic switch-off capabilities and built-in thermometers.
Most turkey fryers are measured in power with regard to their heat output, which is measured in BTUs (or British thermal units). A BTU is defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit, and the higher the BTU, the faster the oil will come to temperature—meaning your turkey will cook faster. Higher BTUs also mean better control of the temperature, so it’s recommended to get a turkey fryer of 35,000 BTUs or higher.
How much peanut oil should I use in a turkey fryer?
This depends on the size of your turkey and pot, but here’s a good rule of thumb. Use water first to determine how much oil to put. To do this, you’ll want to place your turkey in the fryer pot and fill it with water until the turkey is fully submerged (you’ll want the water rising at approximately 2 inches past the top edge of the turkey). Then, remove the turkey from the pot and pat it dry.
Next, using a waterproof marker so you don’t miss it, mark the water level on the pot with the turkey removed. Discard the water, wash and dry the pot, and then add oil to that level so you’ll know the turkey will be submerged accurately.
How do I use a turkey fryer?
To use a turkey fryer, fill it with oil and place your turkey inside, making sure it’s submerged enough to have 2 inches of oil past the top of the turkey. Then, either turn your fryer on (if it’s electric) or light it manually. To do the latter, turn the cylinder valve to the open position, and then slowly open the regulator valve until the burner ignites. Carefully place the pot filled with oil on the burner, and adjust the air shutter on the cooker for a blue flame. Adjust the regulator control for flame height, making sure you have a low-blue flame. As for temperature, you’re aiming for about 375 degrees Fahrenheit for the oil, and 165 degrees Fahrenheit for the turkey to be completely done.
Are propane or electric turkey fryers better?
Honestly, it depends on what you need: An electric turkey fryer will use less oil than a propane turkey fryer, but it will also take longer to cook your bird. It can be used indoors (propane fryers can only be used outside) and is traditionally safer since you don’t have to worry about oil splattering everywhere. In fact, many electric fryers also come with built-in thermometers and automatic on-off switches for that very reason. But since they aren’t as fast as propane fryers, they may not work for extra large gatherings.
Are turkey fryers worth it?
If you want crispy skin and are okay with the extra oil, absolutely. The moist inside and delicious taste will definitely win you over, and the correct turkey fryer will make the process fast, easy, and efficient. And, as a bonus, so many of them can be used as other appliances—like steamers and boilers—so they can be multipurpose, depending on which one you buy.
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Nikhita Mahtani is a freelance journalist with expertise in small home and kitchen appliances. She previously worked as an editor in New York for six years, where she reviewed ingredients, kitchen appliances, new home collections, and more. She has a roster of experts on file who she can always rely on for the best recommendations, and that’s definitely made her kitchen adventures a whole lot easier!
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