Sweet Tea-Brined Fried Turkey

Letting the turkey sit before frying allows time for the coating to set and brings the temperature of the turkey up, which aids in the frying process.

Sweet Tea-Brined Fried Turkey
Yields: 6-8 servings
  • 8 cups water
  • 4 family-size tea bags
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup plus 2¼ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 4½ teaspoons ground black pepper, divided
  • 6 pounds bone-in turkey pieces
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • Garnish: chopped fresh thyme, lemon wedges, flaked sea salt
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring 8 cups water to a boil over medium-high heat; add tea bags. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep, about 10 minutes. Discard tea bags. Stir in lemon, thyme, brown sugar, ¼ cup salt, and 3 teaspoons pepper until dissolved. Let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. In a large bowl or resealable bag, place turkey and tea mixture; cover or seal and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  2. In a cast-iron chicken fryer or large Dutch oven, pour oil to halfway full, and heat over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 325°.
  3. Remove turkey from brine. (Do not pat dry.) Reserve lemon slices and thyme; discard remaining brine.
  4. In a shallow dish, combine flour, remaining 2¼ teaspoons salt, and remaining 1½ teaspoons pepper. Dredge turkey in flour mixture, shaking off excess. Place on a wire rack; let stand for 5 minutes. Dredge in flour mixture again, shaking off excess. Place on wire rack; let stand for 10 minutes. Dredge reserved lemon slices and thyme sprigs; shaking off excess.
  5. Fry turkey in batches until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest portion registers 165° (see Fry Times below), turning occasionally. Let drain on paper towels. Fry lemon and thyme until golden brown. Garnish with fresh thyme, lemon, and salt, if desired.
Since breast pieces take longer to fry, the crust can tend to get dark. For a lighter color, fry for 8 minutes, and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake at 350° until a meat thermometer registers 165°, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Fry times:

Breast 14 minutes

Thigh 12 minutes

Drumstick 10 to 12 minutes

Wing 8 to 10 minutes