Turkey vs Turkey
Prologue: Earlier this year, we decided to do a shrimp boil with some friends. We knew this would require a large aluminum pot. We set out shopping and quickly discovered that large aluminum pots are expensive. But we found that we could get a $60 pot in a $50 turkey fryer set which includes the lid, basket, thermometer and the burner. I never did understand this. But we always wanted to try fried turkey anyway, so it worked out for the best all around.
Let's break it down. I've always heard that fried turkey is awesome and people say once you fry a turkey, you won't want it any other way. We got a 12 lb turkey for frying and a 14 lb turkey for roasting in a turkey roaster. I'll compare the two in each of several categories.
Prep time: Roughly equal. Both birds were completely thawed. I removed the giblets, rinsed, dried and seasoned them. It took a little longer for the roasted bird only because I stuffed that one.
Cook time: No contest here. The roasted turkey took 5 hours, the fried turkey took less than 2 from start to finish, and that counts heating up the oil.
Quality: This is the most important thing, right?
As you can see, the fried turkey came out a beautiful golden brown. It smelled great too. The skin was crispy and crackly on the outside and juicy on the inside. The meat was tender and moist. It finished all the way through without overcooking.
The roasted turkey looked great also. This was cooked in a covered roasting pan with no basting. The color and smell were really good as well. The meat was tender and falling off the bone. Most of the skin wasn't crispy as you would expect. I think the meat on the roasted bird, both white and dark, was a little more tender than the fried turkey. The dark meat on the fried turkey got a little tough close to the bone. However, the fried turkey had much tastier and crispier skin. I'd call the flavor/tenderness category a tie.
Cleanup: Our roaster is easy to clean. Just remove the inner shell, put in some soap and wash it out in the sink. It's bigger than a normal dish, but it doesn't take long. The fryer is another story. After letting the oil cool, I had to dump all that into the bottle and then wash all the pieces with soap and water in the driveway. It was messy and it took a long time. The roaster wins this category going away.
All things considered, I prefer the roasted turkey. What it lacks in cooking speed, it makes up for in the cleanup phase. And the quality of the meat was easily comparable to the fired turkey, in my opinion. This isn't to say that I won't fry one again, but I haven't become a fried turkey convert.