Which is the best way to cook a turkey: in the oven, in a deep fryer, or in a turkey roaster? I’ve tried all three, and I’ll share my honest observations on the advantages and disadvantages of each. Plus, I’ve added a few tips and bit of opinion for good measure!
Cooking a turkey in a deep-fryer:
Advantages of cooking a turkey in a deep fryer:
Deep frying guarantees a moist bird.
The skin is golden brown, crispy, and delicious!
Cooking a turkey in a deep fryer is the fastest method.
Using a deep fryer frees up your oven for other dishes.
If done properly, deep frying a turkey is very easy.
Disadvantage of cooking a turkey in a deep fryer:
You can’t cook a stuffed turkey in a deep fryer.
You can’t cook a turkey that’s bigger than 14 pounds in a deep fryer.
It’s dangerous to use a deep fryer indoors, so your house doesn’t get that roasting-turkey smell.
Deep fried turkey is probably the least healthy way to cook turkey.
Tips about cooking a turkey in a deep fryer:
Propane deep fryers are the stupidest invention ever sold to homeowners. A flammable liquid coupled with an open flame is a recipe for a house fire. NEVER use a propane deep fryer. Electric deep fryers don’t have an open flame, and are therefore much safer.
Follow this formula for cook time: 3 minutes per pound plus five minutes. For example, if you have a 12 pound turkey it’s 3 X 12 (which is 36) + 5 = 41. So it takes 41 minutes to cook a 12 pound turkey in the deep fryer.
You have to heat the oil in the deep fryer before you can cook your turkey. It takes about an hour for the oil to heat up.
Cooking a turkey in a conventional oven:
Advantages to cooking a turkey in a conventional oven:
You can fit a big (25 lb+) turkey in the oven.
You can cook a stuffed turkey in the oven.
The kitchen, no the whole house, heats up and everything is warm and toasty, just like it’s supposed to be on a holiday.
The house smells like roasted turkey. Nothing smells like a holiday as much as roasted turkey.
The bird looks just like the one in the famous Norman Rockwell painting- mouthwatering-ly golden brown.
Disadvantages of cooking a turkey in a conventional oven:
The turkey takes up so much room you can’t use the oven for anything else.
The turkey can get dry if you’re not careful.
Plan for a long cook time when cooking a turkey in a conventional oven. If you’re planning on an early afternoon meal, you’ll need to put the turkey in the oven before dawn.
Tips about cooking a turkey in a conventional oven:
Cook times: Cook a stuffed turkey at 325 degrees according to the following schedule: 8-12 pounds, 3 1/2- 4 hours; 12-16 pounds, 4- 4 1/2 hours; 16-20 pounds, 4 1/2-5 hours, 20-25 pounds, 5-6 hours. For an unstuffed turkey, reduce cooking time by half hour.
For a moist turkey (with no need to baste it) cook it in a paper bag or a roasting bag.
If the turkey skin is getting too dark, cover with a foil tent and continue cooking.
Cooking a turkey in a turkey roaster:
Advantages of cooking a turkey in a turkey roaster:
It’s much like using a conventional oven.
Using a turkey roaster frees up your oven space for other dishes.
You can cook a stuffed turkey in a turkey roaster.
You can cook a large (up to 24 pound) turkey in a turkey roaster.
The house smells like roasting turkey.
Disadvantages of cooking a turkey in a turkey roaster:
The turkey won’t brown. One of my friends told me that if you cover the inside of the top with foil the turkey would brown, but it turned out not to be true.
It takes much longer than using a deep fryer. See the tips section under conventional oven for cook times.
Tips to turkey roasters:
Turkey roasters are like really big crock pots. They last “forever” and you can pick one up in the $30-50 range, so they’re a good kitchen investment.
You can use your turkey roaster to cook things other than turkey: squash, potatoes, vegetables.
A turkey roaster can also be used as a warmer to keep foods hot.
General tips about cooking a turkey:
Take the neck and gizzards out before you cook the turkey- they’re stuffed into both ends.
Cut all the plastic stuff off- that includes the outer wrapper and the plastic thing-y inside.
Thaw the turkey in the refrigerator 3-4 days in advance, depending on size. The bigger the turkey, the longer it need to thaw.
Don’t always trust the pop-up timer- sometimes they’re faulty.
The internal temperature of a moist, fully cooked turkey is180- 185 degrees.
When using an oven or turkey roaster, check on the turkey about an hour before it’s supposed to be done. Sometimes oven’s are “off” and the turkey cooks faster than expected.
When the turkey looks close to being done, check on it every ten minutes so that you don’t overcook it.
Let the turkey “rest” for 15-30 minutes. (“Rest” means that when the turkey is done you take it out of the oven and let it rest on a platter before cutting it.)
My favorite way to cook a turkey is in the deep fryer. (A guilty pleasure, but I don’t do it often.) How about you? Which do you think is the best way to cook a turkey: oven, deep fryer, or turkey roaster?
The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, Revised and Expanded Edition, Hearst Books, New York, 1989
Masterbuilt Electric Turkey Fryer, Boiler, and Steamer Operation Manual (Manual Code 092503G)