It started with Lorenzo Alexander. I had asked him if he had anything specific planned for Thanksgiving, and he ran through pretty much the basic list of things: family, food, turkey, like that. So I asked, innocently enough, if he preferred his turkey roasted or fried, and he looked at me like I was crazy.
“Definitely fried,” he said, as if there was no other way to do it.
Shaun Suisham, who you may have heard is Canadian, pointed out that this is only his second Thanksgiving, but that he had had a roasted turkey last year that he really enjoyed. I mentioned that I don’t always love turkey, and now Alexander and Suisham BOTH looked at me like I was crazy.
Suisham: You don’t?
Alexander: You don’t like turkey?
Suisham: (disbelieving) Well, you can’t dry it out.
Alexander: Yeah, you can’t dry it out. That’s the trick with that. When you fry it, there’s no chance of that happening. It’s extra juicy.
At this point, Ryan Plackemeier spoke up with something that nearly reframed the entire paradigm of the conversation. “Mom always roasted it,” he said. “Grandma always roasted it, but I have to say, I had Coach Zorn’s smoked turkey last year, and it was pretty good.”
(Much later, after practice, I was able to ask Coach Zorn about this, but his answer was a bit of a let-down. “He’s been over to the Zorn household in Seattle and we have a lot of fun,” he said, but clarified “I don’t necessarily smoke the turkey; we have a smoked turkey.” Disappointing.)
“I don’t know how they do it,” Plackemeier said, “but it was smoked turkey, and it was pretty good. I don’t know if it beats my grandma’s roasting, but it was pretty good.”
Alexander, by now the point-man for the fried turkey contingent, dismissed this out of hand. “Now that’s more memory, there, more than tastebuds. You grow up with your family eating something, you know….” He trailed off.
Plackemeier was on a roll by now, no pun intended. “The best is cold turkey sandwiches, with cranberry sauce, on some kind of herb bread, the next day.”
Suisham looked at him admiringly. “Plack’s got some thoughts about turkey,” he said.
Apparently so. Plackemeier shrugged. “Hey, I’m not 245 for nothing.”
Anyhow, the locker room clearly tilted toward frying their turkey. Chris Horton wasn’t sure what his mom was doing, but looked deeply concerned at the question. “I hope she’s frying it. Everyone should have fried turkey.”
Mike Sellers, despite being a barbecue guy in so many other ways, swears by fried turkey. “You inject it, you put your rub on the outside, and you drop it into the hot oil and it seals everything in.”
And Khary Campbell noted, “I like how fried turkey tastes. It’s different. I’m not a real turkey guy, but I went to Fred’s last year and he fried a turkey that I really liked.”
Fred Smoot fries turkeys? “Yeah,” said Campbell, so of course I had to tell Smoot that I heard he fried a mean turkey.
“Yeah,” he said, “I do.”
All right, then: defend frying vs. roasting.
“Point blank, man, when you fry it… you want to talk about getting the most out of turkey, you’ve got to fry it,” he said, and began to elaborate.
“The turkey’s gonna be juicy. Well cooked. You can eat the skin. There won’t be a piece left of a fried turkey. Roasted: longer, not really a lot of taste – it just tastes like turkey, like if you just went to Boston Market right now and got a piece of turkey. You know, turkey,” he said, turning the last word into a shrug.
Do you inject it or anything?
“I inject it, plus I go through a process that I will go through tonight called Fred-o-synthesis, where I go through it and get everything ready for tomorrow morning.”
And what is Fred-o-synthesis?
Smoot raised his hands in some kind of triumph. “It’s when the turkey turns from a turkey to THE TURKEY.”
It’s hard to argue with Fred Smoot, but I’m still not completely sold. Maybe I’m just neurotic, but I’d be terrified to fry a turkey without building the entire Alton Brown-style turkey frying rig, seen here.
But if anyone else goes to the trouble, I’d certainly be willing to have my anti-fried-turkey preconceptions tested, as long as your bird has undergone Fred-o-synthesis as well.