How to Build a Derrick

Turkey-Derrick

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ALTON BROWN’s TURKEY DERRICK

WARNING: Failure to follow these instructions could result in fire or explosion, which could cause property damage, personal injury, or death—not to mention ruin a perfectly good turkey.

DERRICK PARTS LIST

1 (8-foot) fiberglass ladder

15 feet of heavy-duty cotton sash cord (not synthetic rope; it can’t take the heat)

2 (2-inch) pulleys, one with swivel top (I have taken to using heavy-duty screw-closure carabiners, which, while more expensive, are multitaskers)

1 (3-inch) quick link or carabiner (a real one, not a key chain that looks like one)

2 (75-pound-test) plastic cable ties (I actually use a 10mm-wide Dynex climbing runner because it’s reusable and strong as all get-out)

1 (6-inch) window shade cleat (or you can use a small boat cleat if you have one laying around)

2 (1-by-.25-inch) bolts

2 (.25-inch) nuts

1 sturdy, high-quality outdoor propane gas burner unit with accessories: burner base should be stable, 4-legged, and welded (not bolted); there should be double rings of gas jets, and an air-flow adjuster

1 heavy-duty outdoor cooker pot with lifter/spindle insert: 30- to 34-quart capacity, at least 15 inches tall

1 thermometer with clip attachment to measure oil temperature

1 instant-read meat thermometer

1 fire extinguisher

1 tank of propane fuel filled to the shoulder of the tank

4 feet of  fuel line

1 (3-foot) piece of aluminum foil

1 heavy wooden coat hanger

Optional but recommended: Spinning emergency beacon (D-battery version) for the top of the ladder, to warn of deep-frying in the vicinity.

 

LOCATION

Large-vessel frying is serious business. It matters a lot where you stage this operation. Be sure you are at least 10 feet—yes, feet—away from any structure like your house, your garden shed, your wooden fence, your deck, carport, or garage.

Also essential is a level surface—but not a wooden deck or a paved or concrete driveway; these will show oil splatters, and kids like to play there. A patch of grass or dirt that is level and free of toys and other obstacles is ideal.

You will also need to keep everyone at a safe distance from your base of operations—10 feet away. This is no place for kids, and no time to start any holiday drinking. Until your bird is done and delivered to the table, no alcohol allowed. Period.

Your base of operations should include a chair (because you are not going to leave this site until your turkey is done and the fire is out), a table containing your heat-resistant gloves, a timer, a stick-type lighter, a meat thermometer, a beverage (remember, nonalcoholic), and, most important of all, your trusty fire extinguisher.

 

CONSTRUCTION

1.      Thoroughly read—and then reread—the instructions that came with your burner unit. Assemble the burner unit as instructed in the manual.

2.      Figure 1, inset D: Bolt the cleat to the right side of the ladder with the 2 bolts and nuts; tighten securely.

3.      Figure 1, inset A: Tie one end of the sash cord to the top rung of the left side of the ladder with a bowline knot (very important knot to know; it cannot come untied).

4.      Figure 1, inset B: Secure a pulley to the top rung of the right side of ladder with 2 cable ties.

5.      Figure 1, inset C: Thread the sash cord through pulley 1 and then pulley 2; feed out enough cord to allow pulley 1 to center over the middle point beneath the ladder, about 4 feet off the ground; secure the cord to the cleat, wrapping in a figure-8 fashion several times and tying it off so it cannot slip.

6.      Figure 1, inset C: Attach the quick link or carabiner to pulley 1.

7.      Wrap the gas supply line with aluminum foil to protect it in case of any overflow.

8.      Place the burner unit under pulley 1, centered beneath the ladder, with the propane tank on the ground as far from the burner unit as possible.


 

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