The Bayou Classic 44-Quart “Big Bird” Kit had the best heating and recovery time of the fryers we tested and yielded crisp skin and moist meat – all while maintaining the experiential essence of turkey frying.
Factors to Consider
Although most turkey fryers can also boil and steam, let’s limit this discussion to, well, frying turkeys. Consider the biggest turkey that you’ll want to fry, then ensure the pairing of the pot, which will hold the turkey and oil, and the burner are compatible for accommodating that size and the requisite amount of fat, reaching frying temperature, and recovering from the inevitable temperature drop that occurs when you add the turkey. Too small, and you’ll have poor results or a dangerous boilover. Too big, and you’ll spend unnecessary money on fryer oil (an expensive commodity) and LP gas.
At their simplest, turkey fryers consist of a large burner ring and a pot to place on top of it. They have a control knob that regulates the flame size, but they require temperature monitoring via a long-stemmed candy thermometer. Hitting the target temperature involves playing with the burner nob until you hit the sweet spot. They also contain few, if any, safety features to ensure the hot pot of oil stays where it’s supposed to on the burner stand. If this sounds good to you, you’ve found a match. There are more sophisticated fryers out there, such as the Masterbuilt MB2001 Electric Fryer, that have temperature controls, grease draining and filtration systems, and other niceties that improve the ease of use but also take away from the authentic outdoor turkey frying experience. It’s a matter of personal preference.
We designed our tests to replicate the consumer experience as much as possible. So, the first category we scored was how easy or difficult the turkey fryer was to set up and how clear the instructions were. Next, we filled the fryers and measured the temperature at preset intervals, ultimately measuring how long it took them to reach frying temperature (350°F). Then, we dropped a turkey into the fryer and measured how far the temperature dropped and how long the fryer took to recover to frying temperature. Then, we measured the time it took for the turkey to cook and gathered observations on its crispness, moistness, and overall flavor. After cooking, we rated the fryers on how easy it was to empty the fryer oil and clean the fryer in general. We then scored each category on a scale of one to five and averaged the category scores to arrive at the final rating.
Other Turkey Fryers We Tested
CreoleFeast Turkey Fryer Set ($120 at Amazon)
The CreoleFeast is another traditional stand fryer with a 30-quart capacity. It scored fairly well in the setup department, and it heated the 3.75 gallons of oil to 350°F in just about 30 minutes. But it dropped 60 degrees over six minutes following the turkey drop and never recovered temperature in the time it took to finish cooking. The turkey was very moist, but the skin wasn’t particularly crisp. The manual doesn’t state the maximum turkey size for this cooker, but a 12-pound bird caused some oil to pop over the top. It’s not a bad fryer, but it has size and heating limitations that took it out of the running.
What Didn’t Make the List
Unfortunately, not every fryer we tested could make the list of Top Picks. We had to recognize the shortcomings of a couple of models. For a traditional, no-frills setup, King Kooker Outdoor Turkey Fryer ($139 at Amazon) struggled to maintain heat, resulting in a painfully dry turkey, mostly because of the pot’s flimsy aluminum construction. The Bayou Classic 30-Quart Aluminum Turkey Fryer Pot ($82 at Amazon) gave better heating and retention results, but it was hamstrung by its small turkey capacity, maxing out at 13 pounds, and the single-purpose set of tools it comes with. Other sets include steamer baskets and tools for frying whole chickens, while the Bayou Classic is strictly for turkey frying.
Greg Baker is an award-winning chef, restaurateur, and food writer with four decades of experience in the food industry. His written work appears in Food & Wine, Food Republic, Serious Eats, Tasting Table, and other publications.