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Move over Butterball, there are a few new turkeys in town and they are raring to go home all fried and crispy. If you haven’t had the pleasure of devouring a fried turkey on Thanksgiving, these fast food places got you covered. No more worrying about setting the house ablaze by frying your own –– Popeye’s, KFC and even Arby’s has all of your fried turkey troubles covered.

Before I moved to the South, I always thought frying a turkey for Thanksgiving was some sort of trendy thing (like spatchcocking). But, a trend it is not. In fact, frying turkey has been a Southern tradition since the 1980’s, when Gary Taylor, a United Press International reporter, wrote an article about a small town in Louisiana and how they celebrated Thanksgiving.  “A few daring cooks,” he reported, “have developed a new way to prepare holiday turkey. They deep fry it—whole.”

Soon after, frying turkey for Thanksgiving became a Southern tradition, so much so that local fast food chains offer it every year to help spread Thanksgiving dinner cheer.

Why fry a turkey?

First of all, if you’ve ever been to the county fair you’ll know that everything is better fried; whether it be Twinkies or Oreos. Silliness aside, one of the benefits of frying food is that it keeps all the moisture inside the meat. And what’s the main problem people face when roasting their Thanksgiving turkey? Dry meat! Many chefs and cooks (including Alton Brown, Martha Stewart and even the National Turkey Federation) claim that deep frying a turkey yields moister meat and a crispy skin. What’s not to love about that?

While it depends on where you live, many casual fast food chains are offering the fried birds semi-frozen so all you have to do is pick them up and reheat them in the oven for about an hour. One restaurant serving them up for a limited time is Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen.

The brand’s famous Cajun Style Turkey is a precooked turkey that has been hand-rubbed with a zesty Louisiana-style seasoning before being flash-fried. The turkeys range from 13 to 16 pounds when cooked and start at $39.99. Be sure to check with your local Popeyes to make sure they are available for your Thanksgiving feast.

Bojangles, Arby’s and KFC are also offering their own versions of Cajun turkey this holiday season. Like Popeyes, Bojangles and KFC offer heat and serve fried turkey, while Arby’s celebrates dark meat with their limited-time fried turkey sandwiches. What a time to be alive.

Watch: 16 Traditional, Easy Thanksgiving Sides with a Special Twist

Lyndsay Burginger is a food and lifestyle writer as well as the Managing Editor of Wide Open Eats. Lyndsay has worked for companies such as America's Test Kitchen and Disney, and holds degrees in Creative Writing and Culinary Arts. When she's not writing or cooking you can find Lyndsay traveling ...Read more
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