While most people tend to roast a turkey, you can also smoke it, steam it, grill it, rotisserie it and, if you really want to, you can even microwave it. However, after roasting, the most common method of preparation is deep-frying, southern style, which involves submerging the whole turkey into a deep frying vat.
Nutritionally, this is not the nightmare you might imagine. “If performed properly, deep-frying does not make food excessively greasy, because the moisture in the food repels the oil. The hot oil heats the water within the food, steaming it from the inside out; oil cannot go against the direction of this powerful flow because (due to its high temperature) the water vapor pushes the bubbles toward the surface.”4 Indeed, while a 9-ounce serving of roasted turkey (mixed parts) weighs in with 548 calories and 27 grams of fat, the same size serving of turkey, deep fried in peanut oil, has about 574 calories and 31 grams of fat.5
Even though southern cooking doesn’t have a reputation for being the healthiest of American fare, “(f)ried turkey is traditionally prepared in peanut oil because it naturally maintains high temperatures throughout the cooking process and stops the oil from absorbing into the meat. This results in a bird that's crispy on the outside, moist on the inside and has a slight nutty taste. Deep-frying cuts way down on cooking time as it takes about three minutes per pound, as opposed to the hours needed to roast a turkey.” Furthermore, peanut oil is recommended as the preferred oil to deep fry a turkey in. Aside from its delicious taste,
“peanut oil is one of the healthiest oils. It is a vegetable oil that is naturally trans fat-free, cholesterol free, and low in saturated fats. Peanut oil is high in unsaturated fats, especially monounsaturated fat, like olive oil. It is also a source of the antioxidant, vitamin E and phytosterols, which benefit heart-health. Peanut oil is also a perfect choice for healthier frying because it can be heated to a higher temperature than other oils, and this results in lower oil pick up in the food.”6
If you choose, canola oil -- which is also low in saturated fat -- can be combined with peanut oil when deep frying your turkey. If this is your preference I recommend you only buy canola products that are labeled “Non-GMO.”
Whatever you choose, you can enjoy your deep-fried turkey, guilt-free!
Adapted from “Just Because You’re An American Doesn’t Mean You Have To Eat Like One!” Michele Jacobson, Nov 2011 http://www.nutritionprescription.biz/book-info.html
4 - This, Hervé Molecular Gastronomy. New York: Columbia University Press. 2006. Print. page 63.
5 - Eatturkey.com. 2010 National Turkey Federation. Web. 2011.
6 - “Peanut Oil.” The Peanut Institute.org. 2010. Web. 2011.