Thursday, October 18, 2012

As The Flames Climbed Into The Clouds

We've started to get one of the most tantalizingly risky consumer products there is in at work on the loading trucks: turkey deep-fryers. Without fail, every year someone improperly uses a deep-fryer, and when they do, they've got themselves a massive grease fire that can easily end up burning down their entire house. The weather's getting colder. Let's not have anyone lose their home at this time of year.

So today, we're going to run through how to properly deep-fry a turkey. We're not interested in how well it tastes afterwards; I'm not claiming to be any sort of cook. We're just focused on doing it correctly and safely. If you want to cook it well, there are plenty of recipes out there.

Sam Sifton of Bon Appetit has one such recipe. He also does so on video.

The first thing you've got to do is... well, the first thing you've got to do is be sober during this process. Drunkenness and deep-fried turkeys do not mix. Get the deep-fryer well clear of the house. Ideally, find a clear patch of open dirt that won't catch fire just in case something goes wrong. Make sure it's a flat patch, and lay down a nonflammable flat surface to cook on. (Deep-fryers have a high center of gravity, and if yours tips over, you're in deep trouble.) Wear gloves and safety goggles. Sifton also advises wearing shoes, though if you're outside at this time of year, shoes are a given. Get a very long thermometer so you can keep your distance when taking the temperature.

Also: have fire extinguishers handy and ready to go if anything goes wrong. A hose won't work; oil fires don't get put out with water. Be ready to dial 911 on a moment's notice.

Now, as far as how much oil you'll need, don't go overboard. First, place the turkey in the deep-fryer, then fill it with water, then take out the turkey. How much water do you see in the deep-fryer? Don't put in a drop more oil than that. If you do, the oil is going to overflow, and that's exactly what you're trying to avoid. Bad things happen the second the oil comes out of the deep-fryer. If any of it gets on the burner- and if you're doing things wrong, it will get on the burner- you've got real problems.

After heating the oil, which you'll have to measure with the thermometer because there aren't really temperature controls on these things (don't let it get over the oil's smoke point, aka the point at which the oil starts to smoke and flavor begins to break down, and gets easier to burn besides; 350 degrees is generally an ideal temperature), put the turkey on the provided rack. Make sure the turkey is fully thawed out (allow 24 hours per five pounds), because otherwise the extreme shock in temperature change is going to cause the oil to bubble and splash uncontrollably, making hot oil fly everywhere. When you've got the turkey hooked and racked up, make sure your gloves and goggles are on, and then slowly lower the turkey into the oil. Slowly is the keyword here. You're going to need about a minute for the lowering process, because again, you'll have bubbling and splashing. You don't need to introduce any more splashing than absolutely necessary by trying to divebomb the turkey into the fryer.

Allow the turkey to cook (allow about 3 minutes, 30 seconds per pound). Then bring the turkey out of the oil. Let some excess oil drip back off the turkey before removing it and carving/eating it.

You're not done yet. You have hot oil to deal with now. Let it cool down on its own; allow 6 hours for that. Do not attempt to speed along the process by dropping ice into the fryer. To do so will have the same effect as if you had dropped a frozen turkey into the fryer earlier: the temperature difference will cause uncontrollable bubbling and even with the turkey out of the picture, it will still splash far above the rim.

As State Farm demonstrates, and no, no I couldn't get through this article without the inevitable video of deep-fryer horror. You've been patient enough.

Once it's cooled down, if you want to be green about things, you can put it to further use, including saving it to cook again with, but if it's become too degraded to cook with, you will need to dispose of it. You can look up your local disposal policies, but if you own a diesel car, you can filter it, pour it into the gas tank and drive on it. You've heard of biodiesel, right? That's biodiesel.

Which makes for a nice getaway method after the guy next door burns his house down.

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