Fried Turkey Gets Nutrition Nod

Elizabeth S. Reames, Claesgens, Mark A.  |  11/10/2007 3:35:27 AM

Holiday News You Can Use Distributed 11/09/07

“It’s not as unhealthy as it sounds,” says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames about fried turkey, “if you don't eat the skin of the bird.”

When frying a turkey, it is imperative that the bird be completely thawed, or the oil will "boil" when the bird touches it – possibly causing injury or fire. To thaw a turkey in the refrigerator safely, leave it in the original wrapping, place it on a tray and refrigerate. Allow five hours thawing time per pound.

For faster thawing, place the whole turkey in its original wrapping in the sink and cover it with cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes to maintain low temperature, and allow 30 minutes per pound to thaw the turkey.

“Don’t leave turkey – raw or cooked – at room temperature for more than two hours,” Reames cautions, adding, “Be sure to remove the giblets and neck from the interior of the turkey.”

If you choose to inject the turkey before frying, you will need an injection kit, which is available at most grocery stores around the holidays. Marinades also are available at the grocery, and the kit includes instructions on injecting the meat properly. Be sure to keep the turkey refrigerated while it is marinating.

The amount of oil needed to fry a whole turkey will vary, depending on the size of the bird and the size of the pot used to fry it.

Most pots require 5 gallons of oil. To determine the amount of oil to use, place the turkey in the cooking pot and add water to cover it by 1 to 2 inches. Then remove the turkey and measure the amount of water used. This is the amount oil to use. Be sure to drain and dry the cooking pot thoroughly before adding the oil.

Many Louisiana residents use a crawfish boiling pot with a butane burner and a clean jambalaya stirrer to fry turkey. Reames recommends oils with high smoke points, such as peanut, canola, safflower or sunflower. Peanut oil is the most popular due to its abundant flavor.

Heat the oil to 350 degrees – the point where it almost is smoking. To reduce spattering, thoroughly dry the interior and exterior of the bird. Ease the bird into the heated oil and cook 3 to 4 minutes per pound.

A food thermometer is the only way to make sure that turkey has reached a high enough temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. Use an instant-read thermometer and check the bird after removing it from the oil. To make sure a whole turkey has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees, insert a food thermometer in the thickest part of the inner thigh without touching the bone. After cooking, let the turkey stand about 20 minutes before carving and eating.

Leftover fried turkey should be removed from bones and stored in small shallow containers in the refrigerator.

Plan to buy at least 1 pound of uncooked whole turkey per person to assure a moderate amount of leftovers.

Don’t forget food safety, Reames warns. Be sure to wash hands, utensils and cutting boards thoroughly before and after handling raw meats. Also, never leave turkey – raw or cooked – at room temperature for more than two hours.

Although this cooking method may produce a great-tasting bird, safety experts at Underwriter's Laboratory warn consumers to use caution. If you use a turkey fryer, here are some UL tips:

Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other material that can burn.

Never use turkey fryers on wooden decks or in garages.

Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.

Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you don't watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.

Never allow children or pets near the fryer when it is in use. Even after use, never allow children or pets near the turkey fryer. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot hours after use.

To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.

Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.

Be sure to completely thaw the turkey to prevent splattering.

Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire.

Remember to use your best judgment when attempting to fight a fire. If the fire is manageable, use an all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call 9-1-1 for help.

For related stories about holiday food safety, visit the LSU AgCenter homepage, at www.lsuagcenter.com. Also, contact the LSU AgCenter extension agent in your parish.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com

Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3929, or breames@agcenter.lsu.

Editor: Mark Claesgens (225) 578-2939 or mclaesgens@agcenter.lsu.edu

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