Smoked Vs Fried Turkey (See Which One I Prefer)

Wondering if you smoke your turkey or deep fry it? A big reason why I love cooking is creativity but for you, it might be convenience. So below I’ll compare the pros and cons of smoking a turkey compared to frying it. 

So hopefully it helps you to decide which method to go with, let’s compare! 

Comparing Smoking & Frying A Turkey

Below I have set out the key differences between each of these methods. Which are in chronological order of cooking. From the preparation to some safety advice.

Each of these methods has excellent flavor. The aim is to base opinions on personal circumstances.Do you want a quicker cooking time? Do you understand the dangers of frying oil?

Equipment- Smoked Vs Fried Turkey 

This covers the equipment needed when preparing to cook the turkey.

Both methods will need the standard BBQ utensils when cooking.

Both methods will require at least 2 instant-read thermometers. 

Smoked Turkey

For a smoked turkey you will need a type of smoker that is situated outside. The fuel you will use for smoking will depend on the smoker. If your using a pellet smoker you’ll need to pick a complementary flavor of pellets, I recommend apple wood or cherry wood

Charcoal briquettes are recommended for a long cooking time.

You may have to consider meat hooks or a wire rack to hang the turkey. But putting it directly on the cooking grate works fine.

Fried Turkey

For frying a turkey we recommend a special turkey fryer. This is a deep fryer made big enough to fit a larger turkey of 30 pounds!

Deep frying requires oil and lots of it! I recommend vegetable oil as it has a high smoke point.

You want to be able to submerge the bird.

A frying rod is also required to hang through the cavity. So you can safely submerge and head to the meat church!

The heat source is a propane burner. Oh, and don’t forget plenty of paper towels to remove excess oil when finished!

Seasoning – Smoked Vs Fried Turkey 

Seasoning turkey is crucial for your recipe. This meat can handle a strong spice rub or a fresh herb stuffing.

Smoked Turkey

When smoking turkey the flavors and juices have time to incorporate.

A spice rub with Cajun seasoning and brown sugar will caramelize to golden skin.

Fresh ingredients stuffed into the bird won’t burn. The possibilities are endless when seasoning a smoked turkey.

Fried Turkey

Seasoning a turkey for deep frying is different than smoking.

Do not use any fresh herbs or aromatics like cloves of garlic or fresh thyme. These will burn and can even be a safety hazard.

A light coating of a spice rub on the outside is fine. If you want to infuse flavor then use a meat injector.

Make an oil-based marinade of your choice. Olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic powder come to mind.

Inject into the thickest parts like the thighs and breasts.

The Cooking Method – Smoked Vs Fried Turkey 

The cooking method between smoking and frying is well…

Smoking and frying!

Smoked Turkey

Indirect heat and smoke will slowly cook the turkey.

Fried Turkey

Total submersion in oil cooks the turkey with direct heat.

Cooking Temperatures – Smoked Vs Fried Turkey 

The cooking temperature between smoking and frying is vastly different.

Smoked Turkey

The best smoking temperature for turkey is between 225°F – 275°F.

Fried Turkey

The oil temperature when frying turkey can reach between 350°F – 400°F.

Cooking Times – Smoked Vs Fried Turkey 

Let’s say we have a 12-pound turkey ready to cook. 

Smoked Turkey

At 225°F a 12-pound turkey will take 360 minutes. (6 hours). Which is at an average of 30 minutes per pound.

Fried Turkey

At 400°F a 12-pound turkey can take just 1 hour! Which is at an average rate of 5-10 minutes per pound.

Taste – Smoked Vs Fried Turkey 

The taste will depend on the seasonings used in the recipe.

Smoked Turkey

A smoked turkey will have a rich flavor from the slow cooking time, the flavors have had more time to develop.The additional flavor from the charcoal or wood pellets impacts the taste.

Turkey is lean primarily but does contain fat and connective tissue. Smoking renders these down into juicy meat and its how to crisp up the skin on a smoked turkey so that it becomes caramelized and golden.

Fried Turkey

A fried turkey will take on the flavor of the oil you use.

I also think the natural flavor of the meat is more prominent.

The gamey taste of the dark meat in the thighs. Or the delicate and sweet taste of the white meat in the breasts.

Not forgetting the decadent crisp skin.

Nothing compares!

Texture – Smoked Vs Fried Turkey 

The texture is a key part when enjoying any recipe. The meat texture is very similar with the only contrast in the skin.

Smoked Turkey

Smoked turkey done right is moist and tender. The long cooking time causes it to fall apart.

The skin transformed into a golden brown crust. 

Fried Turkey

Break into the crispy turkey skin and reveal succulent meat. The moisture evaporation from the proteins is stopped when the skin seals. So the meat has steamed in its juices.

Safety – Smoked Vs Fried Turkey 

This is a very important part when cooking on any device. 

Smoked Turkey

A well-built smoker is easy to maintain and can even be left when cooking.

Just make sure you have enough fuel to last the cooking time and you have followed the proper cleaning and maintenance procedures.

You should always smoke outside and in a well-ventilated area. Have a fire extinguisher ready or a gallon of water if your smoker isn’t electrically powered.

Fried Turkey

Fry turkey with extreme caution. Not to dramatize but it can be very dangerous.

Even a little excess moisture can cause a fire or explosion.

Designate an area for the fryer that only you have access to. Make any guests aware of the dangers and be careful of children.

Have an extinguisher on hand. Remove any ignition devices from the propane tank.

Do not keep any water near the fryer and monitor the weather.

Dry out the turkey in the fridge the night before. Make sure it has fully thawed.

If you drop a frozen turkey into the oil it can explode.

The Internal Temperatures For Turkey Meat

There are 2 types of meat in a turkey.

These both need different internal temperatures before eating. Always use a meat thermometer to know check.

Food poisoning from poultry is no joke!

The digital probe in the dark thigh and leg meat should read 180°F.

The digital probe in the white breast meat should read 165°F.

Pros & Cons Of Smoking A Turkey

Pros

– Smoking is a safer method.

– More ways to incorporate flavor. 

– Higher moisture retention in the meat.

– Can prepare in advance with less supervision.

Cons

– Need a specialist smoker to fit a turkey.

– Longer cooking time and planning.

– The skin has a higher risk of going soggy.

Pros & Cons Of Frying A Turkey

Pros

– Quick cooking time.

– A delicious and satisfying crispy skin.

Cons

– Limited seasoning and flavor infusion.

– Constant supervision due to the dangers.

– Requires specialist turkey fryer and equipment.

Smoke On!

Charlie

Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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