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Thanksgiving

Turkey Boiled in Oil

November 22, 1998

Fried turkey? Why not? We fry chickens, don't we? The only problems are getting a large enough pot, a hot enough fire and a way of moving the big bird into and out of the oil.

So the New Braunfels Smoker Co., maker of backyard barbecues and smokers, sells a turkey-frying kit: a 26-quart stock pot, a 14-inch gas ring turning out 160,000 BTUs, a rack for lifting the turkey and a thermometer. Now all you need is one propane tank, one turkey (up to 14 pounds) and enough oil to cover it.

Here are the steps:

* Make sure the turkey is fully thawed and at room temperature. Blot it inside and out with paper towels to get it thoroughly dry.

* Figure how much oil you need. The company suggests lowering your turkey (on its rack--otherwise you won't get the right reading) into the empty stockpot, covering it with water, removing the bird and marking the water level that results. Then you wipe the pot dry and fill it with oil to that level. (Hint: A 12-pound turkey needs 14 quarts of oil.)

* Bring the oil to 325 degrees. This will take 20 or 30 minutes. Check the thermometer often, because it's dangerous to let the oil get over 375 degrees.

* Then lower the bird--carefully--into the oil, which will boil furiously. The manufacturer recommends wearing gloves and an apron against spitting oil, but the danger is actually slight as long as the bird is good and dry.

* Cook 4 minutes a pound (3 1/2 for turkeys under 11 pounds), making sure the oil temperature doesn't get much above 325 degrees. The meat will end up at least 165 degrees everywhere, even in the deepest part of the breast.

* Like all cooked turkeys, it should rest for 10 minutes before you carve it.

* Give the cooking oil a couple of hours to cool down before pouring it out or otherwise handling it.

The upside: The bird comes out wonderfully moist and flavorful, your oven is free for other tasks, turkey becomes something like fast food and your guests are dazzled.

This frying kit would also be useful for other large boiling or frying jobs you don't want cluttering up your range, such as making stock, boiling a mess of crabs or simmering a country ham. Or smelly cooking jobs that stink up a kitchen--namely, boiling tripe.

The downside: You can't use the cooker indoors, kids should be kept well away from it and it uses an ungodly amount of oil.

But you can reuse the oil, particularly if you're cooking for a crowd. In fact, once you've fried one turkey, it's hard not to toss in another.

New Braunfels Universal L.P. Burner and Turkey Fryer, about $109, at most barbecue supply stores.

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