Yardbird (Turkey Version)

Trumpet virtuoso Charlie Parker earned the nickname "Bird" because of his love of fried chicken. Well, what's a turkey if not an even bigger, more delicious chicken? These meticulously brined and seasoned turkey breasts and thighs would surely have the approval of one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time.

  • 1 12-pound turkey, butchered into 8 pieces
  • 3 cups vegetable shortening or lard
  • pinch of sea salt


  • 5 cups water
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup kosher salt
  • 3 lemons, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 5 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
  • 2 tbsp onion powder or onion soup mix
  • 1 tbsp freshly ground pepper
  • 5 cups iced water

Dredging flour

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 3 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp onion powder of onion soup mix
  • 2 tbsp dry mustard
  • 1 tbsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sage
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  1. Fill a large stock pot with 5 cups of water and add the sugar, salt and sliced lemons and the seasoning. Bring the brine to a simmer over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes, whisking to ensure the sugar, salt and spices have dissolved.

  2. Remove from heat and pour in 5 cups of iced water. Set aside until cool.

  3. Transfer the cooled brine to a large container and add the turkey pieces. Chill in the refrigerator for 16-24 hours.

  4. In a shallow baking dish or pie plate, blend together the dredging flour ingredients.

  5. Remove the turkey pieces from the brine and rinse them well with cool water. Place the rinsed turkey pieces on paper towel and pat them dry to remove any moisture.

  6. Dredge the turkey pieces in the seasoned flour until well coated.

  7. In a 12” cast-iron pan or Dutch oven over medium heat, melt the shortening to 350ºF. Use a candy thermometer to regulate the temperature.

  8. Using tongs, carefully add the turkey breasts and thighs in the pan, skin side down. Adjust the heat if needed to maintain the 350ºF temperature. Fry the turkey for 7-9 minutes, until golden brown, and then flip the pieces and continue to cook until the internal temperature of each piece is 180ºF. The thighs will typically cook faster than the breasts.

  9. Remove the turkey pieces to a plate lined with paper towel or a wire rack. Season each piece with a pinch of sea salt.

  10. Ensuring the shortening has maintained its 350ºF heat, gently add the wings and drumsticks to cook on one side for about 5 minutes. Flip and fry for an additional 4-5 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 180ºF.

  11. Transfer these turkey pieces to the paper towel or rack and season with sea salt.

  12. Serve turkey while hot to ensure crispness.