Deep-Fried Turkey Brined in Cayenne and Brown Sugar

Active Time:
1 hrs
Total Time:
1 hrs
10, with leftovers

Cooking a deep-fried a turkey for Thanksgiving isn't as hard as it sounds (though it does require caution). And there's a great payoff: an exquisitely moist, crispy turkey. Many people who try deep-frying a turkey for Thanksgiving never go back to a roasted bird.

New Orleans chefs Allison Vines-Rushing and Slade Rushing created this recipe, which starts with a flavorful brine that includes brown sugar, mustard, garlic, and cayenne pepper. Letting the turkey brine in this mixture for 35 hours ensures it comes out full of flavor. Be sure to thoroughly dry your turkey — inside and out — with paper towels before frying it. Even a small amount of moisture will cause the oil to bubble up.

You can use different kinds of equipment: a stockpot, an electric fryer, a pot-and-propane setup, or a deep fryer. The best deep fryers come with a thermostat and a metal basket for lowering the turkey into the hot oil and removing it once it's done. Whatever equipment you use, the procedure is the same: Heat the oil — it can take up to an hour — then slowly lower the turkey into it. A 12-pound turkey cooks in just 36 minutes, following the timing of three minutes of frying per pound or turkey.  


  • 3 cups packed light brown sugar (about 1 1/4 pounds)

  • 1 ½ cups Dijon mustard

  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons salt

  • 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper

  • 2 gallons cold water

  • 1 bunch of thyme

  • 1 head of garlic (separated into cloves and crushed)

  • 12 pound turkey

  • 2 ½ gallons vegetable oil


  1. In a large stockpot, whisk the brown sugar with the mustard, salt and cayenne. Gradually whisk in the water, then add the thyme and garlic. Add the turkey, cover and brine in the refrigerator for 35 hours.

  2. In a turkey fryer or an 18-quart or larger stockpot, bring the oil to 400°; this can take up to an hour. Remove the turkey from the brine and pat it dry inside and out with paper towels. Transfer the turkey to a frying basket, breast side up.

  3. Lower the turkey into the hot oil and fry for 3 minutes per pound, 36 minutes. Lift the basket out of the fryer and drain the turkey on a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet for 15 minutes. Carve and serve.

    Deep Fried Turkey Brined in Cayenne and Brown Sugar
    Petrina Tinslay

Suggested Pairing

Rich, robust Zinfandel: 2019 Robert Biale Black Chicken Zinfandel

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