Steven Satterfield’s Savory Deep-Fried Turkey

By: The Local Palate
Steven Satterfield’s Savory Deep-Fried Turkey
Photo Courtesy of Andrew Thomas Lee

“I started frying a turkey for Thanksgiving about 10 years ago and I not only love the outcome, but it also frees the oven up for baking and reheating during the chaos of a family gathering,” Satterfield says. “We are pretty casual in our family, but we take the food very seriously. I make a dry brine for the turkey that contains salt and sugar and ras el hanout, a Moroccan spice blend that has a lot of what we might call ‘winter baking spices’ including cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, and ginger but with the addition of cardamom, turmeric, and cayenne.” If you can’t find this blend, feel free to make your own (find his recipe in Vegetable Revelations) or you could substitute garam masala for this deep-fried turkey.

Note: You always want to exercise extreme caution and gently submerge or slowly raise the bird anytime it is being moved in or out of the hot oil.  

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Serves 8 to 10

  • 1 small-to-medium-sized turkey, about 14 -16 pounds
  • 1 pound salt
  • 1 pound light brown sugar
  • ½ cup ras el hanout
  • Zest of 1 orange, microplaned
  • 12 quarts (3 gallons) canola or other neutral, high-heat frying oil

  • Special equipment: Outdoor turkey fryer kit; candy/frying thermometer with pot clip; meat thermometer

Two days before cooking, prepare the turkey:

  1. Remove turkey from packaging and make sure bird is completely thawed if previously frozen. Reach inside cavity through opening on breast side. Remove any parts like neck, gizzards, liver, etc. (If you plan on making gravy, set these aside.) Pat bird dry with paper towels inside and out.
  2. In a large container, place bird deep enough to hold snugly. (Note: If you do not have enough room to store turkey in refrigerator, be sure to have cooler ready to store bird overnight, as it will need to remain cold until time to be cooked.)
  3. In a large bowl, mix together salt, brown sugar, spice blend, and orange zest. Coat bird thoroughly with dry rub, making sure to cover every inch of turkey, inside and out. Place it in refrigerator or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and set container in a cooler surrounded by ice. (Do not let the ice melt onto dry rub, it will water it down.) Let bird sit in dry brine for 24 hours.

One day before cooking:

  1. Rinse turkey thoroughly, inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels. Keep cold but dry overnight, ideally on a rack, uncovered in refrigerator so any moisture evaporates.

The day of:

  1. Set up turkey fryer in a place that avoids any fire hazards, like concrete driveway or gravel path with no obstructions above. In a pot, place oil and turn on burner. Use candy thermometer with clip attached so base makes contact with oil to monitor temperature. When oil reaches 325 degrees, turn off heat. If kit comes with stand, insert it through cavity to make it easier to raise and lower bird. Carefully lower turkey into oil, careful not to splash. Turn heat back on.
  2. Maintain a temperature between 300 and 325 degrees while frying. (This helps ensure even browning and heat penetration to the interior of the muscle meat.) The cook time will vary, but usually ends up being between 45 and 55 minutes depending on size of bird and how cold it is when put into hot oil.
  3. Pull bird out of oil. Using a meat thermometer, measure temperature. Once internal temperature reaches 150 to 155 degrees, leaving meat thermometer in breast, carefully remove bird from oil. On a large cutting board, place bird and let sit for at least 15 minutes. Monitor temperature, it should rise to about 165 degrees. (Dark meat will always temp out higher because heat penetrates leg and thigh more quickly than breast.)
  4. Let bird rest for at least 1 to 2 hours before you start to carve it. (There is a lot of moisture in a turkey and it holds heat for a long time. If you carve into the bird too soon you will lose a lot of moisture through steam evaporation and this will significantly dry out the meat.)

Carve and serve:

  1. Carve away entire leg and thigh section on each side. Remove backbone and carve out each breast. On a cutting board, set breasts and slice them crosswise. Across a platter, shingle breast slices. Remove bone from underside of thigh, by exposing it with a knife, then pulling it out. Slice thigh and set legs and wings next to sliced meat. Serve when ready.

  • Recipe By
    Steven Satterfield of Miller Union in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Contributing City

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