***Edit**** So there seems to be much confusion about the way I worded the question and how I described the situation. So I will try to clarify. The max fill line is about halfway down the fryer. The minimum fill line is very near the bottom. I am unclear whether this fill line is for ONLY oil or for oil and food both. Originally I assumed it was just for oil. There is no marking higher up as some have asked/mentioned.

I put a whole chicken that was wrapped inside the vessel. I then covered with water until the chicken was covered by an inch or two. as I put the water in I was calculating how much water it was I added. I added 8 qts of water on top of the chicken to cover it. I then removed the chicken and noticed that by chance the 8 qts of water reached the max fill line.

A commenter mentioned that the more food you have (a turkey compared to chicken for example) the less oil it will take to cook as the item will displace the oil. This should have been fairly obvious but I wasn't thinking correctly.

The box of the fryer says 22 qt capacity. I have no idea what this references. The box mentions cooking turkeys up to 14 lbs.

At this point in time I assume the max fill line is for oil only as it is halfway down the vessel and it takes 8 qts to reach that point which isn't much.

When I buy a turkey I will do the water test again (unwrapped) and see how much oil it takes. I am going under the assumption the max fill line is for oil only. I am assuming it is possible to cook a turkey since it is marketed as such.

I am hoping for the best and if you see a plume of smoke coming from Columbus, oh then pray for me lol. Thanks to all

Hello I have an electric deep fryer that will hold a maximum of 8 qts of oil.

I put in a whole chicken (young chicken) and added water to measure how much oil would be needed to cover the chicken and it takes the whole 8 qts to cover it by an inch or two.

The problem is for thanksgiving we want to deep fry a whole turkey which is significantly bigger than the chicken. The 8 qts to cover the chicken is by chance the maximum the fryer can hold. The box of the fryer says it can fry a turkey up to 12 pounds.

I understand the oil may bubble up as it's cooking. But the 8 qts barely covers the chicken. How can we cook a turkey with the same amount of oil that barely covers the chicken?

Would it be okay to do this?

  • How much did the chicken weigh? And does the chicken plus those 8 quarts of oil actually reach the fill line? Is the 8 quarts a number from the manual or the box, or is it the amount of oil it took to reach the fill line with the chicken? You said it was a 22 quart fryer so it seems a bit odd to say it can only take 8 quarts of oil. (and... just in case, the chicken wasn't wrapped, was it? the water could get inside it?)
    – Cascabel
    Oct 14, 2016 at 3:25
  • Question title should maybe be rephrased to be more specific to whole birds - hard to generalize an answer due to lighter-than-oil foods etc... Oct 14, 2016 at 8:48
  • @rackandboneman Well, if you read all the comments it seems the question title may be misrepresenting the situation. I would definitely encourage an edit bringing all that information into the question; unfortunately it's a bunch of stuff and I don't have time just now!
    – Cascabel
    Oct 14, 2016 at 15:46

5 Answers 5


Based on the comments, it sounds like your fryer has a fill line for just the oil, calibrated so that if you use that much oil then add a reasonably-sized turkey, you'll end up with the oil still safely below the top of the fryer. You'd never actually use 22 quarts of oil; then it'd be completely full of oil, on the verge of overflowing, with no room for food.

In that case, your chicken test doesn't really tell you very much. A turkey will fill the vessel more completely, so it may well take less oil to cover it. If you end up able to put your whole turkey in, and cover it with liquid, without getting dangerously close to the top of the pot, then you're okay. I would hope your fryer has another line closer to the top to tell you what a safe margin is there.

Do note that testing with wrapped birds also is misleading. That keeps the liquid from getting into the cavity, so it'll take less liquid to fill and cover that way.

And if the turkey is too big, then filling it to that 8 quart fill line then adding the turkey could cause it to overflow. So it really seems like you need to test with the turkey first (not wrapped!), to be sure it'll fit safely.

With all that said, supposing you do actually end up in the situation you mention in the question - not enough oil to cover the food - that's not good.

If your food is sticking out of the oil, it's not really cooking. It'll be in contact with hot air over the oil, but that's nowhere near actual hot oil.

Along with that, it'd indicate you've overfilled it, which is asking for trouble. The manual for your fryer almost certainly has some really strong warnings against that sort of thing. And even if the oil stops at the fill line, you have a huge turkey in there just waiting to shift or settle a bit, displace more oil, and push the oil above the max - it's still overfilled.

Doing something like that would make it really easy to splash hot oil out of the fryer, especially while you're putting the food in and getting that burst of boiling water and steam, which is incredibly dangerous. It's probably a fire hazard even with an electric fryer. And even without a fire, it's nothing you want splashing on you.

And in general, I'd strongly suggest you look at general safety guides before you attempt to deep fry a turkey, especially if you're not sure about part of the process.

  • 1
    @061jrs the fryer doesn't hold 8 qts of oil... It holds 8 qts of everything in the pot. If you're cooking something bigger, you use less oil. You need to be sure that you still have sufficient oil to fully submerge the turkey but you probably don't need 8 qts.
    – Catija
    Oct 14, 2016 at 3:06
  • 1
    @061jrs - It may be possible, depending on the physical layout of the pan and physical dimensions of the turkey, that if a large turkey (by itself) can be placed in the fryer, and if it will fit entirely under the maximum fill line, it can perhaps be fried by using less oil than the 8 quarts, and relying on displacement to raise the oil high enough to cover the turkey. More food in the pan means less oil needed to cover it, since the food will actually displace some of the oil. Again, that depends on the actual food still fitting under the maximum fill line, though.
    – Megha
    Oct 14, 2016 at 3:07
  • 2
    @061jrs you seem to not understand how water displacement works. A bigger item put in the same size vessel will require less liquid to fill the vessel to the same level. Usually when they say capacity, that means the entire pot is 22 qts... To the brim. The fill line will be less than that. The chicken displaces all but 8 qts of the remaining volume. So, if the volume to the fill line is 18 qts, that means your chicken displaces 10 qts of volume.
    – Catija
    Oct 14, 2016 at 3:39
  • 1
    @ jefromi my assumption was the maximum fill line indicated the maximum amount of liquid to be poured in and that this did NOT factor in the food item. Other comments seem to say this is not a correct assumption. I tend to think that Megha summed it up correctly so I assume if I put a turkey and liquid in and they both fit under the max fill line then all is well??? Sorry for the confusion and thanks for taking time from your life to comment
    – 061jrs
    Oct 14, 2016 at 4:20
  • 1
    The maximum fill line is indeed the highest you want the oil to be with the food in it. The food displaces oil, yes, so you need less oil to reach the line with food in there than you would without. But yes, if it fits, it fits: if the turkey fits under the line, and you add oil to cover it and it's still under the line, then it's okay. But we're all a little baffled what you're telling us - now it sounds like just 8 quarts of water (after you removed the chicken!) reached the fill line? There's no way the fill line in a 22 quart fryer pot should be reached with 8 quarts of water.
    – Cascabel
    Oct 14, 2016 at 4:28

Lots of discussion on this. (I have weighed in, too.) The type of unit the OP is refering to is designed for safe indoor turkey frying. As in the comments, the minimum amount of oil to be used is 4 quarts and the maximum amount is 8 quarts. With 2 gallons (8 quarts) of oil, a 12 pound turkey should fry okay in this unit.

I have a same or very similar unit with the same min and max fill amounts. Mine says it will take up to a 14 pound turkey. I have only fried 10 - 12 pound birds, but haven't had any problems.

All said, it should always be 'safety first' anytime someone is working with hot oil.

Last but not least, the reason the full capacity of the unit is listed (in this case 22 quarts) is because the unit can also be used for steaming and boiling foods.


Yes, the food needs to be immersed completely.

Also, frying needs certain temperatures. If the temperature drops too much when the turkey goes in, it'll not be a good thing. The fryer might struggle to get the temperature back up quick enough. Also the size of the turkey might make that the oil can't circulate freely enough, so you'll end up with colder areas within the oil.


Overfilling a deep fryer is a bad idea. Not only can you splash very hot oil everywhere, you will also overwhelm the fryer's heating element to where it can't keep the oil hot, and you'll get a lousy result. If you want to deep fry a whole turkey there is equipment for that, otherwise joint it and cook the pieces one or two at a time.


The problem with cooking whole is the height. Cooking whole the problem is packing factor. Is it an option to cut it in half and remove the legs? If you can cut it up you will get a lot more meat under the same amount of oil.

Yes the meat needs to be totally immersed.

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