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How big of a turkey fryer do I need for a 20 pound turkey?

Quick Answer

To deep fry a 20 pound turkey, you will need a turkey fryer that holds at least 4 to 5 gallons of oil. This allows enough room for the turkey to be fully submerged in the oil. The general rule of thumb is to allow about a half gallon of oil per pound of turkey. So for a 20 pound turkey, you would need about 10 gallons of oil total. However, most home turkey fryer pots hold between 4 to 5 gallons which is sufficient. You do not want to overfill the fryer pot as oil may bubble over once the turkey is added.

Factors That Determine Fryer Size Needed

There are a few key factors that determine what size turkey fryer you need:

Turkey Weight

The weight of the turkey is the primary factor. Allow about a half gallon of oil per pound of turkey. So a 20 lb turkey will need about 10 gallons of oil. However, you do not need a pot that holds the full 10 gallons since some oil will displace and overflow when the turkey is added.

Fryer Pot Size

Most home turkey fryer kits come with pots that hold between 4 to 5 gallons of oil. This size is sufficient for a 20 lb turkey. Larger pots of up to 10+ gallons are available but not necessary.

Oil Displacement

You have to account for oil that will overflow out of the pot when the turkey is lowered in. The turkey will displace oil over the top, so leave plenty of headroom. About 2 to 3 inches of headspace is ideal.


Never fill the fryer pot to the very top with oil. Overfilling can cause the hot oil to more easily spill over the sides and poses a safety risk. Leave headroom for the oil to bubble up when the turkey is added.

Fryer Pot Size Recommendations

Based on the above factors, here are the recommended fryer pot sizes for different turkey weights:

Turkey Weight Minimum Fryer Size
10 lbs 4 gallons
15 lbs 5 gallons
20 lbs 5 gallons
25 lbs 10+ gallons

For a 20 lb turkey, a 5 gallon turkey fryer pot is ideal. This allows enough oil for full submersion while leaving 2-3 inches of headspace. A 4 gallon pot may technically work for a 20 lb turkey but it will be very tight on space.

Choosing a Turkey Fryer

Here are some tips for choosing an appropriately sized turkey fryer:

Check the Fryer Pot Size

Verify that the turkey fryer kit comes with at least a 5 gallon pot for a 20 lb turkey. Some kits include pots on the smaller side such as 4 gallons. Read product details carefully before purchase.

Consider Larger Pots

Larger pots with 7-10+ gallons capacity are available. These allow plenty of room for larger turkeys but are not mandatory for a 20 lb turkey. Just ensure the burner can heat the larger volume of oil.

Select Proper Burner BTUs

Match the burner’s BTU output to the pot size. You need about 100 BTUs per quart of oil. So a 5 gallon (20 quart) pot needs about 200,000 BTUs. Make sure the burner is powerful enough.

Go for Kits With Extras

Look for turkey fryer kits that include extras like a thermometer, hook, lifting stand, and drain pan. This provides everything you need for a complete frying setup.

Get a Heavy Pot With Lid

Choose a pot made from thick steel that retains heat well. Also look for a basket and lid for ease of use. The lid helps prevent splattering.

Oil Amount Needed

While the fryer pot size is most important, you also need to consider how much oil is required:

About 1/2 Gallon Per Pound

The general rule is one half gallon of oil per pound of turkey. So for a 20 lb turkey, you would need about 10 gallons total.

Purchase a Few Extra Gallons

Buy a couple extra gallons in addition to the amount needed per the 1/2 gallon per pound rule. Having extra allows you to top off if any oil overflows.

Peanut Oil is a Good Choice

Peanut oil is commonly used for deep frying turkeys. It has a high smoke point and neutral flavor. Make sure it is filtered, not unfiltered crude oil.

Dispose of Oil Properly After

Properly dispose of the used peanut oil after cooking. Let it cool completely and pour it into an appropriate container, not down the drain where it can clog pipes. Some municipalities offer turkey fryer oil recycling.

Safety Tips

Turkey fryer safety is extremely important. Here are some tips:

Set Up Outside

Always set up the turkey fryer outdoors in an open area away from any structures or combustibles. The oil may bubble over and poses a fire hazard.

No Water Near Oil

Keep the area around the fryer free from any water. Do not fry in rain or snow. If water mixes with the hot oil, it can cause splattering and fires.

Monitor Temperature

Use a thermometer to monitor oil temperature. Heat oil to 350°F for frying. Overheating can ignite a fire.

Slowly Lower Turkey

Use the hook and lifting stand to slowly lower the turkey into the pot. Lowering too quickly can cause hot oil to splash out.

Turn Off Burner When Cooking

Propane burners get very hot. Turn off the burner once the oil reaches temperature to avoid overheating.

Be Prepared to Extinguish Fires

Have an appropriate fire extinguisher on hand in case of oil fires. Never use water to extinguish an oil fire. Baking soda can help in a pinch.

Deep Fryer Alternatives

While deep frying is a quick and delicious cooking method, there are some alternatives to consider:

Oven Roasting

Roasting a turkey in the oven is a classic hassle-free option, though it takes longer. Use a roasting pan and rack.


You can grill smaller 10-15 lb turkeys either whole or in pieces over indirect heat. This adds great flavor.

Air Fryer

Air fry smaller turkeys up to about 8 lbs. Air frying is fast and oil-free but cannot match the deep fried flavor.


Smokers allow you to smoke flavor turkey slowly over many hours while infusing delicious smokey flavor.

Key Takeaways

– For a 20 lb turkey, you need about 10 gallons of oil total and a pot that holds 4-5 gallons. This leaves displacement room when the turkey is lowered in.

– Fryer pot size depends on turkey weight, displacement, and safety. Allow about a half gallon of oil per pound of turkey.

– Select a pot that is heavy duty, at least 5 gallons for a 20 lb turkey, and has a lid. Ensure the burner outputs enough BTUs for the pot size.

– Never overfill the pot with oil. Leave 2-3 inches of headspace. Monitor temperature carefully. Propane burners get extremely hot.

– Set up turkey fryers outdoors away from structures. Have an extinguisher ready in case of oil fires. Do not use water on an oil fire.

– Alternatives to deep frying include oven roasting, grilling, air frying, and smoking. Each has advantages depending on your preferences.