With Thanksgiving just around the corner, many of us will be looking forward to getting stuck into a crispy, juicy turkey with all the trimmings. For some, it will also be when our turkey fryer gets its one and only outing of the year.
While turkey fryers are undoubtedly great for cooking turkeys, as their name suggests, they're much more versatile than you may realize. The best turkey fryers can be used all year round for sides, sweets, and everything in between.
9 foods to cook in a turkey fryer
In the spirit of both culinary exploration and doing the turkey fryer's versatility justice, here are nine foods you can cook in your turkey fryer that go far beyond the humble poultry dish.
Plus, with Black Friday taking place soon, it's the perfect time to confirm whether or not the turkey fryer you've got your eye on is worth the money too.
1. Cajun chicken wings
You can fry any chicken wings in your turkey fryer but, in a nod to the turkey fryer's Louisiana roots, one of my favorite variations is cajun chicken wings.
The key to getting truly crispy wings is to add a cajun spice mix to cornflour. Coat your chicken wings thoroughly in the dry spice mix and add all the wings to the hot oil one at a time.
If you prefer juicy, saucy wings you can coat them in a cajun sauce after you take them out of the oil. You can also make your own cajun spice mix, if you want to dial up, or down, the amount of smokey paprika, or the spiciness from the cayenne pepper.
These chicken wings are not only a great side dish for Thanksgiving and beyond but they serve large groups, making them perfect for any dinner party or occasion.
2. Vegetables and veggie fries
For a twist on the traditional boiled vegetable sides, try deep-frying your veggies in your turkey fryer.
Not only does the fryer turn them into delicious, crunchy treats, but they help to add a different texture to your meal. My favorites are broccoli and carrots but you can also cut zucchini and sweet potato into strips and make vegetable fries too.
Of course, boiling is healthier but if it's the difference between getting your children – or reluctant adults – to eat vegetables versus not eating them at all, this is a great option. What's more, you can coat them in a tempura batter, or parmesan crumb to add extra flavor and finish.
Anything you can make in a deep fryer can be technically made in a turkey fryer, and this includes donuts.
The fryer's capacity and consistent high heat make it perfect for frying up a batch of sweet treats. Whether you're making classic glazed donuts or experimenting with different flavors and toppings – my favorite is pumpkin spice – the turkey fryer is a great alternative to a vat of hot oil in a pan on the stove.
The donuts can be temperamental and you need to make sure the dough is firm, the oil is hot and you turn them regularly to get an even coating. However, they're more than worth this effort.
Wondering what you can do with the leftover donut holes? Fry those too!
4. Funnel cake fries
Funnel cakes are one of my son's absolute favorites but making them from scratch can be a messy nightmare. Thankfully I've found a way to not only make funnel cake fries with minimal mess, but I can make them in my turkey fryer in minutes.
The key is to pour the funnel cake batter mix into a (clean, empty) squeezy ketchup bottle. You can then squeeze strips of the batter straight into your turkey fryer's hot oil and cook them in a similar way to donuts, turning each fry occasionally until it turns golden brown.
I love dusting them in powdered sugar and dipping them in melted chocolate sauce like I would with churros. And I only need to clean the mixing bowl, spoon, and turkey fryer!
If you're more skilled, or patient, than I am, you could also try transforming the cake fries into different shapes as you squeeze them in the fryer.
5. Parmesan cauliflower bites
Yes, these parmesan cauliflower bites could technically be filed under deep-fried vegetables but they're so delicious they're worthy of their own description.
Cut the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces and roll them in parmesan breadcrumbs – Panko breadcrumbs work best in my experience but any breadcrumbs will work. Next, put them in your turkey fryer until they turn golden brown.
Once cooked and crispy, grab a huge pot of Ranch and enjoy in front of a movie.
6. Soup and broths
It may not be the obvious choice when looking for ideas on what to cook in a turkey fryer but their large capacity and high heat lend themselves well to making soups and broths.
Throw in all your vegetables, water, and cream – depending on what you're making – bring to a boil and cook until all the flavors have infused. You can also use your turkey fryer to make broth or gravy with water and leftover bones.
The only downside is that turkey fryers typically get a lot hotter than slow cookers or pots on the stove, and it's harder to control the temperature. This shouldn't be a problem though if you keep an eye on your soup or broth and stir it regularly.
7. Seafood broils
The large capacity of the turkey fryer allows you to also make seafood broil, with a generous mix of shrimp, crabs, potatoes, corn, and sausages.
Instead of oil, fill the turkey fryer with water, bring it to a boil, and add all of your seafood broil ingredients, spices, and seasoning at once.
The high heat ensures everything cooks quickly, making it ideal for a large family gathering or a festive outdoor party. Plus, the ease of cooking and clean-up makes it a hassle-free way to enjoy a seafood feast.
Top tip: Add garlic butter and a squeeze of lemon juice to take your seafood broil to the next level.
8. Apple cider or mulled wine
A sweet take on the savory broth, you can use your turkey fryer to make batches of warm apple cider or mulled wine. This is a particularly great choice if you have an outdoor turkey fryer and are hosting large yard parties.
You can just use the turkey fryer to keep the cider or wine warm, or you can add in spices like cinnamon, cloves, and star anise as well as fruits like oranges and lemons to create a warming, flavorsome and festive brew.
9. Fruit fritters
In the same way you can turn the humble vegetable into a crispy, tasty treat in the turkey fryer, you can transform fruit into fried treats too.
Fruit tends to fall apart easier than vegetables so, while you can try adding them straight to the oil, you might end up with a fructose mess.
Instead, dip slices of apple, or peaches, or even whole bananas in a light fritter batter and deep-fry them until golden brown.
As I've hopefully demonstrated in this guide, turkey fryers' versatility extends far beyond just cooking a turkey. And far beyond Thanksgiving.
From seafood boils to sweet treats like donuts and funnel cake fries, turkey fryers can handle a wide range of tasks.
Whether you're hosting a large gathering or enjoying a meal with loved ones, a turkey fryer can be a surprisingly useful tool in your cooking arsenal.