A favorite during Thanksgiving, turkey fryers typically consist of a large pot set atop a heating element that is often connected to a propane gas tank. While there are also models designed for use indoors (which do not use a propane tank), we found users don't cite any real taste differences between the two. It's also important to note that these appliances, which specialize in producing crispy poultry, can also be risky to use thanks to their high operating temperatures and powerful heating elements. Due to this, safety experts advise consumers to employ extreme caution during use.
Among turkey fryers, we found the best reviews for the Masterbuilt Butterball Professional Series Indoor Electric Turkey Fryer (*Est. $150), according to reviews. The Butterball is distinct from most other turkey fryers in that it's made for use indoors -- no propane required, just plug it in. Several reviewers say this alone is enough to recommend it, as weather and wind are removed from the equation. The Butterball fryer can accommodate a 14-pound turkey and features a digital timer, lights that indicate when the oil has heated up sufficiently, and an adjustable thermostat. There is also an oil drain and fold-away lid with viewing window. The company also claims the unit requires one-third less oil than other turkey fryers -- and users agree. Many say the Butterball will successfully fry a 14-pound bird with roughly 2 gallons of oil (compared with the 3 gallons needed in most propane-powered deep fryers).
The Butterball turkey fryer has also attracted many positive owner reviews. For instance, more than 80 reviews on Amazon.com cite moist, deliciously fried turkeys and chickens, easy cleaning, and the superior safety of using this indoor unit. Several other reviews also contend that the Butterball outperforms other conventional turkey fryers. Scott Anderson, the associate food service director at Shepherd University, says it recovers quickly when food is added; he also says that it's generally easy to clean, except for the fry basket, which requires extra attention. However, Masterbuilt's warranty coverage for the Butterball turkey fryer is only 90 days, much shorter than what other manufacturers offer.
If you don't want to spend so much on an appliance you might only use once or twice a year, conventional, propane-powered turkey fryers like the Bayou Classic 30-Quart Outdoor Turkey Fryer Kit (*Est. $65) cost much less. Numerous user reviews say this unit will get the job done, although it presents some risks. The kit requires a canister of propane and about 4 gallons of oil. Many reviews on Amazon.com caution that the pot is easily dented, and that many arrived in beat-up condition; another common complaint, more serious, concerns paint burning off during the first use, which smells bad and, according to some reviews, may cause the unit to catch on fire. Interestingly, many of the more positive reviews on Amazon.com involve owners repurposing the Bayou Classic to brew beer, although there are also several that say the fryer did a good job of delivering a deep-fried turkey. Bayou Classic also makes a larger 32-quart version, the Bayou Classic 32-Quart Outdoor Turkey Fryer, which gets similar feedback from owners. Both are covered by a 1-year warranty.