God bless whoever realized, "Hey, turkey is delicious. Deep-fried foods are delicious." A pause for some brooding contemplation. Suddenly, "I wonder what happens when you deep fry turkey?!?!?!?!?"
Clearly, expressed in equation form, this is what you'd get:
My first experience with fried turkey was at Notre Dame. One of the maintenance guys, a gregarious fellow of middling years with a pervert's moustache named Ross, threw some ass-kicking good tailgaters. Every year, for the last football game (you know the game, the one where Charlie Weis loses the game, honoring the seniors the only way he knows how) he'd get a half dozen turkeys and deep fry them. Since I was usually busy drinking myself into a stupor (Bob Davie was the coach...need I say more?), I wouldn't get to Ross' tailgate until all that was left of the turkeys were some well-picked-over carcasses. I will say that whatever meat I could pry from the ransacked remains of the birds was pretty effing delicious. Clearly, this is enough scientific data to support the above equation.
However, as with all good things in this world (nuclear weapons, running with sharp objects, the comedy of Emo Phillips), fried turkey has a dark side--and I'm not just talking about the legs. That's what's known as ham-fisted comedy, my friends.
No, the problem with fried turkey is that, typically, idiots are doing the frying. And when you have idiots, you have the potential for disaster.
Yes, whose drunk ass idea was that? For, I would like to salute you, Mr. Drunk Ass Genius!
Anyway, yes, I know that this was a contrived video. The people set it up so that they could send flames spewing forth into the night. My only wish is that the camera hadn't been on its side, though that angle does help with the perspective of just how effing big the fireball was. Yahtzee! That's a spicy meatball! And any other lame catchphrases you can think to insert here. BAM!
There's three main reasons for the fryer to go all napalm on you like this, and all are avoidable.
The first is fairly obvious: don't overfill the fryer with oil. But, is it that obvious? No, I don't think that it is, otherwise shit like this wouldn't happen all the time. The problem that most people overlook is that when oil is heated, it expands, thereby taking up a greater volume than what you originally put in. So, while it looks like the initial amount of oil that you added to the fryer won't cover the bird, you're probably wrong. Be sure to follow the fill line, kids. The people making the fryers actually know what they're doing.
The second biggest problem is dunking a turkey too fast. While it's true that some things are better when done fast and hard and hot and faster and harder and harder and oh God yes, yes, yes--ahem. Sorry. Got sidetracked. While it's true that doing some things faster--like driving--are really satisfying, take your time inserting the turkey into the fryer. It's not going to cook any faster if you throw that shit in there rather than slowly inserting it. Remember what Aesop and his tortoise taught us in kindergarten: slow and steady wins the race, you cocksure hare.
Now, the third problem is entirely scientific. If you put a partially-frozen or frozen bird into the fryer, you're asking for trouble. And by trouble, I mean you're going to go all Johnny Storm, without the benefits of yelling "flame on" first (and also without the benefits of diddling Alicia Masters...rowr). We'll assume, based on some of the recipes I've seen round these here innernets, that the oil bath you're dunking your turkey into is 350 degrees F. Water boils at a paltry 212 degrees F. This means that when you're frying up captain frozen poultry, you're taking ice and inserting it into an environment which is already above the temperature of its boiling point. This causes the ice to rapidly melt and form steam, which expands. Hot steam likes to rise up, and so it goes out the top of your fryer--violently--splashing oil down onto the open flames below. Oil + fire = Chinese buffet and bandages. Despite how delicious it is, no one really wants crab rangoon on Thanksgiving.
So, to review: 1) don't overfill your fryer; 2) don't dunk the turkey like an Oreo into milk; 3) don't try to fry a frozen turkey. And, just to be safe, make sure the fryer, heater and propane tank are away from any structure you feel particularly attached to.
Also, while I have your attention...please stop saying "boiling oil". Oil doesn't boil. Boiling means that you go from liquid to gaseous form. Most cooking oils (and rendered animal fats used to dissuade besieging armies) burst into flame well before they reach boiling temperatures. Thank you. I'll end my rant now.