Where you can get a Thanksgiving Day turkey deep fried for free in DC

WASHINGTON — Not just anyone can deep fry a turkey. You need skills and equipment. But the restaurant Medium Rare in Southeast D.C. will do it for free on Thanksgiving Day.

The tradition, now in its 10th year, got started as a way to help people who had received donated birds.

“Someone who got a free turkey at one of the Marion Barry turkey giveaways wanted to know if I was able to cook their turkey at one of the restaurants for them, because they had nowhere to cook it,” said Mark Bucher, co-owner of Medium Rare.

The event is staffed by Bucher, family members and restaurant worker volunteers as a public service. But Bucher also believes deep frying birds is best left to professionals.

“If I can help it, I don’t want anyone going into the emergency room or having the fire department over Thanksgiving dinner,” Bucher said. “Let me do it.”

At last year’s event, 348 birds were cooked. So far this year, 250 people have said they’ll bring their poultry to have it cooked. If you’re interested, know this:

  • Doors open at 10 a.m.
  • Lines tend to form about 7 a.m.
  • You supply the fowl being fried.
  • Defrosted birds should not exceed 10 pounds.
  • The wait might be 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
  • The bird is wrapped up and packaged after cooking.
  • You can sit in the restaurant while waiting. Bar options include hot apple cider.
  • Doors close when the list for frying reaches capacity, usually between about 1:30 and 2 p.m.

“We try to get our staff out of there by 4, so they can all go home and have Thanksgiving with their families,” Bucher said.

While the cooking service is free, Bucher said, people who want to “give back” are encouraged to donate to Ainsley’s Angels of America.

The fry happens at the Medium Rare location on Capitol Hill, at 515 8th St. Southeast. The phone number is 202-601-7136.

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