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What oil is best for frying a turkey?

Frying a turkey has become a popular cooking method for the holidays in recent years. Done properly, deep frying can cook the turkey faster and produce a juicy, crispy, golden bird. But choosing the right oil to fry your turkey in is critical for safety and maximizing flavor. The oil acts as a heat transfer agent and contributes greatly to the final taste and texture of the fried turkey. So what is the best oil for deep frying turkey? There are a few factors to consider when selecting an oil:

Smoke Point

The smoke point refers to the temperature at which an oil starts to smoke and degrade. For deep frying a whole turkey, you need an oil with a high smoke point above 400°F. Heating oil past its smoke point releases free fatty acids and results in a burnt flavor. It also starts to break down the oil through oxidation creating harmful compounds. Popular high smoke point oils include:

  • Peanut oil – smoke point 450°F
  • Corn oil – smoke point 450°F
  • Canola oil – smoke point 400°F
  • Sunflower oil – smoke point 440°F
  • Soybean oil – smoke point 450°F
  • Cottonseed oil – smoke point 420°F

You want to keep the oil between 325-375°F while frying, so you need a good safety margin above that temperature range. Peanut oil is commonly used by restaurants for frying turkeys because of its versatile flavor profile and high smoke point.


Frying olive oil imparts a heavy olive flavor, while vegetable oil may leave a greasy aftertaste. Peanut oil has a more neutral flavor that doesn’t interfere with the turkey’s taste. Corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil and sunflower oil are all light tasting as well. You want the rich, creamy, turkey flavor to shine. Stay away from strong flavored oils like sesame, grapeseed or extra virgin olive oil for frying turkey.


You’ll need a lot of oil – about 4-5 gallons to properly cover and fry a whole turkey. Cooking oil can get expensive, so cost is a practical consideration. Corn oil and soybean oil are inexpensive options. Peanut oil provides the best value for a higher quality, versatile oil. Extra virgin olive oil would be an expensive choice at around $80-100 for the amount needed.


Oil burns and fire safety is also critical when deep frying a turkey. Choose an oil with a high flash point. The flash point is the lowest temperature at which the oil’s vapors can ignite. High flash points above 600°F are recommended. Peanut oil for example has a very high flash point of over 600°F. Here are some other safety tips:

  • Use a well-insulated container and high quality cooking thermometer
  • Don’t overfill the pot – leave space for the turkey and oil displacement
  • Keep the hot oil away from kids and pets
  • Have a fire extinguisher nearby just in case
  • Let the turkey thaw completely before cooking
  • Lower and remove the turkey slowly to prevent splattering
  • Monitor the oil temperature carefully throughout
  • Recycle the oil properly after cooking and don’t reuse it

With proper precautions, deep frying can be done safely for delicious golden turkeys.


You don’t want to reuse the same oil over and over again for food safety and quality reasons. But some oils can be stored and reused once or twice more before disposal. Peanut oil has good stability for reuse compared to oils like canola that degrade after one use. Here are some tips for storage:

  • Let the oil fully cool first before storing or reusing
  • Strain out any particles of food debris with cheesecloth or filter
  • Store oil in an airtight container like a Mason jar in a cool, dark place
  • Refrigeration can help extend shelf life
  • Use within a few months for best quality and freshness

Properly stored oil may retain suitable properties for reuse. But the flavor and integrity will deteriorate over time. It’s best to use fresh oil whenever possible.

Top 3 Best Oils for Frying Turkey

Based on smoke point, cost, flavor, and safety – here are the top oils to use for deep frying turkey:

1. Peanut Oil

Peanut oil is the ideal all-purpose oil for deep frying turkeys. It has a high smoke point of 450°F, neutral taste, and high flash point over 600°F. Though more expensive than other vegetable oils, peanut oil is cost effective when bought in bulk. The flavor is clean, allowing the turkey’s natural flavors to dominate.

2. Canola Oil

With similar health properties as olive oil, canola oil is another common choice. It has a smoke point of 400°F making it suitable for frying. Canola oil is also versatile for other cooking uses. The price is budget friendly, though the taste is not as neutral as peanut oil.

3. Corn Oil

Corn oil is inexpensive, has a high smoke point of 450°F, and neutral taste. The flavor profile won’t compete with the turkey. Keep in mind the flash point is slightly lower than peanut oil. Go for refined corn oil which has a higher smoke point than virgin varieties.

Other Oils to Avoid for Frying Turkey

Here are some oils you should avoid for deep frying whole turkeys:

  • Olive Oil – Has a strong flavor and low smoke point. Refined versions can reach 400°F but extra virgin olive oil starts to smoke around 375°F.
  • Vegetable Oil – Typically a blend of soybean, corn and canola oils. The smoke point can vary widely and it has a greasy flavor.
  • Grapeseed Oil – Too low of a smoke point at only 390°F.
  • Sesame Oil – Overpowers the turkey flavor with its distinctive nutty aroma.
  • Butter – Milk solids burn quickly at only 350°F.
  • Lard or Shortening – Imparts a chicken fried flavor instead of crispy and crunchy turkey skin.

Stick to high heat oils like peanut or corn oil for the best fried turkey results.

Review of Top Temperature Ranges

Here’s a review of the optimal oil temperatures for frying a whole turkey:

  • 325-375°F – Best oil temperature range for frying
  • 400°F+ – Minimum smoke point for frying oil
  • 600°F+ – Recommended flash point for safe frying

Monitor your thermometer closely and adjust the heat to maintain the right zone. Taking the oil’s smoke point into account allows for error and safety.

Key Factors in Summary

To summarize, here are the key factors to consider when selecting the best oil for deep frying turkey:

  • High smoke point above 400°F
  • Neutral flavor that enhances but doesn’t compete with the turkey
  • High flash point above 600°F for safety
  • Reusability for a few more fry uses
  • Good value – higher quality without breaking the bank

Based on these criteria, peanut oil is highly recommended for deep frying whole turkeys to crispy crunchy perfection.


Deep frying turkey allows you to cook a moist, golden bird in less time compared to roasting. But the type of oil you select can make all the difference. Choosing an oil with the proper smoke point, flash point, affordable cost, neutral taste, and reusability provides the best results. Peanut oil takes the top honors for being the ideal oil to use. It has a high resistance to heat while providing light flavor. Follow safe usage tips, use a high quality thermometer, and enjoy your crispy fried holiday centerpiece. With the right oil, your turkey will turn out juicy, golden brown, and incredibly flavorful.