Masterbuilt, Butterball bring turkey frying indoors

The joys of dropping a turkey into a pot of piping hot oil aren’t just for the backyard anymore.

Butterball, a North Carolina-based turkey producer, and Masterbuilt, a Columbus-based maker of cooking appliances, are launching this holiday season an indoor electric turkey fryer.

The boxy stainless steel machine, which retails for between $119 and $159, can sit on a kitchen counter-top and handle up to a 14-pound turkey. It’s billed as a safer, easier way to fry up the Thanksgiving centerpiece.

Masterbuilt hopes it makes turkey frying more accessible to people who don't want to take the outdoor route, said Masterbuilt President John McLemore.

“Instead of hassling with going outside, especially during Thanksgiving or Christmas when it might be rainy or cold, they can enjoy doing this recipe in their kitchen,” McLemore said.

This year’s turkey fryer isn’t the first indoor fryer from Masterbuilt, which makes a range of smokers, grills and fryers. It launched its original indoor turkey fryer in 2003.

The latest version, though, is the first to be co-branded with Butterball, a company that accounts for more than 20 percent of U.S. turkey production.

The new Butterball Turkey Fryer, which hit store shelves in mid-October, has some upgrades over the previous design. It has a porcelain-coated pot that's dishwasher-safe and can be used for steaming and boiling, in addition to frying.

The new fryer includes a drain valve to make clean-up easier and only needs two gallons of oil, compared to three gallons for the older unit. It also has an adjustable thermostat and a digital timer, features from the old version that help make indoor frying simple.

Butterball was attracted to the Masterbuilt machine because it provides a safe way to fry turkeys, said Mary Clingman, director of the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line. Clingman and her crew of 55 experts take calls each year on turkey frying questions and dilemmas.

About 10 years ago, the Butterball group noticed that calls about turkey frying were spreading from Louisiana, where it's become a Cajun tradition, to the rest of the South and beyond.

At first, the Butterball experts were reluctant to answer questions, Clingman said. The outdoor fryers, a metal pot with a gas burner underneath, can become fire hazards.

The new Masterbuilt indoor fryer addresses those concerns, Clingman said. It has a back-up thermostat that prevents overheating and a quick-release power cord that pops out if someone trips on it.

“If this is the way they want to cook the turkey, this really answers a lot of the issues that would be nice to put behind us,” Clingman said

Masterbuilt said it’s glad to have the Butterball name on its latest machine. “It allowed us to partner up with the best name and most trusted name in turkeys,” McLemore said.

Masterbuilt recently started running 30-minute infomercials on the machine leading up to the year-end holiday stretch.

The company, though, is hoping the fryer makes the process easy enough for people to use the machine even after Thanksgiving and Christmas. It also hopes customers will use it for more than just turkeys.

Masterbuilt has used the appliance to fry doughnuts, fruit turnovers, chicken, fish and Cornish game hen. It can steam or boil six to eight pounds of crab legs too, McLemore said.

“It’s No. 1 purpose is to safely fry and perfectly fry turkey, but it’s versatility lends itself to people using it year round,” he said.