UACES Facebook Turkey: To fry or not to fry, there is no question
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Turkey: To fry or not to fry, there is no question

By Lisa Lakey

For the U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast facts:

  • Proper thawing of bird, frying oil temps are essential to safely frying turkey
  • Quickly cool leftovers for safe storage  

With the big day just around the corner, turkey is on the minds of many as preparations begin for lavish feasts and lots of leftovers. While some Thanksgiving purists might turn their noses up to anything but a traditional roasted turkey, many have found it’s hard to beat a fried bird in time and taste. 

However, there are a few precautions to take when frying a turkey. Rosemary Rodibaugh, professor of nutrition for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said it’s important to handle the turkey safely from the store to the table. For those up for the turkey frying challenge, she gives tips for ensuring a safe, succulent bird on the table right in time for Thanksgiving. 

  • Follow proper thawing rituals – “If it is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator or in cold water,” Rodibaugh said. “Allow approximately 24 hours for each four to five pounds in a refrigerator set at 40 degrees or below. Thaw in cold water by submerging the wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. Allow 30 minutes per pound. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed.” 
  • Cleanliness is key – “Wash hands before and after handling raw turkey,” she said. “Make sure all surfaces and utensils are clean. Never put cooked meat back on a tray or pan that had raw meat on it without thoroughly washing it in hot soapy water.” 
  • Proceed with caution using hot oil – “There are safety concerns when working with such a large amount of oil,” Rodibaugh warns. “Select a cooking vessel large enough to completely submerge the turkey in oil without it spilling over. The oil should cover the turkey by one to two inches. Select a safe location outdoors and several feet away from the house for deep fat frying a turkey.” 
  • Check your temperature – “Oil must be maintained at 350 degrees throughout the cooking process,” she said. “Slowly and carefully lower the turkey into the hot oil. Monitor the temperature of the oil with a thermometer constantly during cooking. The turkey is safely cooked when the food thermometer reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.” 
  • Take care with leftovers – “It’s important to cool food quickly after the meal,” Rodibaugh advises. “To do this, divide large amounts of food into shallow containers. Leftovers should be reheated to 165 degrees before eating. We recommend storing leftovers no longer than three to four days in the refrigerator. It shouldn’t matter if the food is fried or cooked by other methods.” 
  • Relax and enjoy the bird – Just to put a few minds at ease, Rodibaugh said fried turkey isn’t as unhealthy as one would think. 

“Research has indicated that most of the oil absorbed by a turkey in the process of frying is absorbed by the skin,” she said. “If you eat only the meat and not the skin there is little difference in calories and fat between the roasted and fried turkey. There will be much more fat in most everything else you eat on Thanksgiving. The best thing to do is use a small plate and take small portions of everything you really want, and don’t take foods you can get on every other day of the year.”

Home cooks can also the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline: 1-888-674-6854 (Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

For more information on safe food preparation, contact your county extension office or visit

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer. 

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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A System Division of Agriculture
(501) 671-2126

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