Thanksgiving 2017 has come and gone and now we’re working on the last of the leftovers. Since Thursday our family has enjoyed turkey and cranberry sandwiches, turkey a la king, turkey and rice soup, and mounds of reheated cornbread dressing. Of course we ran out of turkey gravy way before we ran out of turkey. Or green bean casserole. Or sweet potatoes. Or dressing.
Dixie was chief chef for our bird. She was assisted by our oldest daughter, her husband, two granddaughters, and me. They did the prep and cooking, I provided insightful advice. At least I thought it was insightful until I was told by all, “Tom, go to the family room and watch football!”
Sauntering dejectedly off to the family room with a few of our golden retrievers (they were yelled at too) it struck me that Thanksgiving has pretty much always been this way. Well, except for one time.
Back many years ago I read about deep frying a turkey in peanut oil and just how unbelievably good it was. And, according to the article, it could be cooked in an hour or less and would be jucier with lots of crispy skin. And, oh my, do I absolutely L-O-V-E crispy turkey skin.
Further studying this new technique I found out I would need a really big pot, an big propane burner on a tripod, a propane tank with hose and regulator, and gallons and gallons of peanut oil. OK, that sounded doable
After trips to the hardware store, propane depot, local warehouse club, and the butcher shop I was armed for Thanksgiving. Now all that needed to be done was get everything ready and cook that bad bird when the day arrived.
Through all this my wife of now over 50 years had been less than enthusiastic. Frankly, the word “skeptical” comes to mind here. But she accepted my enthusiasm and planned her activities around the dishes that would accompany our feast.
Thanksgiving morning arrived as if Winter had been in an all night fight with Fall. Winter had won. It was gray, windy, and unusually cold. And here I was cooking this beautiful fresh turkey outside by the garage – on the leeward side, of course.
I set up the tripod burner, connected the propane tank, and poured the peanut oil in the big pot. I opened the tank valve slowly at the same time I struck my “strike anywhere match” on the edge of the burner. Poof! She lit right off and we were in business.
Now for those of you who have never deep fried a turkey there are certain rules you need to be aware of. And the most important of those is only fill your pot with enough oil to allow the pot to accomnodate the volume (size) of the turkey. And don’t get the oil too hot, even in the cold wind. And, don’t put your outdoor cooker and pot close to anything that might burn.
Given I was an early pioneer of this cooking technique, knowing such information was not something that was inherent to my character or accumulated knowledge. My strategy has always been, “It’s always better to overdo and underdo.” Deep frying a turkey would prove to be the exception to this rule.
I checked the oil by flicking some water in it. It seemed ready when the oil rejected the water flicks with loud pops, so I dropped the bird into the oil pot. Safe to say that’s when all Hell broke lose!
The oil exploded over the top of the pot, hit the propane flame, and instantly caught on fire as if I had poured a cup of gas on a brush fire. Quickly it spread in all directions. Over the concrete toward the grass, toward the trash can, and toward my freshly vinyl sided garage. With the wind whipping. Holy crap!
The real dilemma was what to save first! How about the propane tank? Not so much saving the tank as saving the garage and me. Twisting the valve, the burner went out, but not so for the flames on the oil. They were licking at the grass, trash can, and garage. And all at the same time with me standing in the middle of the turmoil. So how do I deal with this?
Hindsight, and I do mean hindsight, is you throw some sort of material such a corn starch, sand, flour, or whatever on the flames. You do not use old old car wash towels. Or brooms. Or screaming for help. All of which I was guilty of at the time.
By the time I had a sack of flour, a sack of corn meal, and who knows what else to extinguish the flames the vinyl siding on a fair portion of our garage was “drippy” and very close to ignition. The plastic trash can was (literally) toast. And the grass and concrete saturated. But with some effort from several of the family we got the fire out.
It was an interesting Thanksgiving from this point on. The turkey was salvaged albeit a bit greasy with some overcooked areas and specks of flour and corn meal and towel threads here and there. The fixins were fine and dinner was served after added thanks to The Lord given the earlier events of the day.
When desert came I tried to sneak an extra glass of wine, but apparently everyone else had beaten me to it! Guess that confirms we had had a very memorable Thanksgiving. One that since then has never included a deep fried turkey!
All of us here at American Legacy Fishing & Outdoors wish all of you a memorable Thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for. This country, our freedom, all those who fight to protect us, our family and friends, our wonderful forests and waterways, and the abundance that God has provided.
Wishing all of you the best holiday season ever,