Are you thinking about tapping your maple trees and making your own delicious maple syrup? Do you only have a couple Maple trees and wonder if it is worth it? Use a simple turkey fryer to make maple syrup the easy way!
In this article I explain the 5 main reasons I personally use a turkey fryer for boiling maple sap down to pure maple syrup. I also recommend the best turkey fryer for maple syrup making!
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How Much Work is it to Make My Own Maple Syrup?
To make maple syrup, you will need access to at least 2-3 maple trees. Sugar maple trees work the best, but any maple will do including silver, red, and even box elder (in the maple family). In the spring, the maple sap runs for about 3-4 weeks, depending on your region.
Tapping maple trees for sap involves drilling a hole in the tree and pounding in a ‘tap.’ Then collecting the sap into a container.
After you have collected at least 5 gallons, you boil the sap down to a ratio of about 30:1 or 40:1.
Note: When the sap is almost complete, it is a good idea to perform the finishing boil on your stove indoors in order to have more control of the heat so you don’t burn it.
Boiling the sap down is where the turkey fryer comes in. A lot of people boil sap down on an outdoor wood fire. This is a great way to do it, and I used to do it this way myself. But there are a lot of advantages of using propane.
5 Reasons I use a Turkey Fryer to Make Maple Syrup
Here are the top 5 reasons I switched from wood burning to using a turkey fryer to boil down maple sap.
#1 – Using propane is a lot cleaner to use than wood.
When I used to burn wood to boil maple syrup, everything about the process was messy:
- Piles of wood and bark out in the yard.
- Lot’s of ash to clean out when you’re done.
- Everyone involved smells like smoke for the next couple days.
Don’t get me wrong, all of these things can be fun. But if you want to do things cleanly and neatly, use a turkey fryer with propane, and you will eliminate a lot of the mess.
#2 – Using propane doesn’t make your syrup taste like smoke.
When boiling maple sap with wood, it is difficult to control the wind and direct the smoke away from the open surface of the boiling sap. The traditional way to do this is to rig up a tall chimney to direct the smoke away from the sap, but this doesn’t always work, and usually doesn’t. The sap ends up with small bits of ash in it that cause it to taste a bit like smoke. Imagine adding a bit of ‘liquid smoke‘ to your maple syrup. This is what it tastes like.
The byproducts of propane, on the other hand, are carbon dioxide and water. Nothing that is going to give your syrup a foul odor or taste. All you taste is 100% pure maple goodness!
#3 – Much easier to regulate the temperature.
Getting the temperature just right is really helpful in getting high quality maple syrup. You want a nice sustained rolling boil for hours at a time. It takes a lot of skill and attention to keep a woodfire at a constant temperature.
With a turkey fryer, you set the valve to your desired temperature, and then just leave it there. Four hours later you turn it off, that’s it. Clean, even temperature for long periods of time. This is the way to.
One other added benefit related to regulating the temperature is that the heat intensity in BTU’s is much higher for propane than for wood. This means that you have the capability to quickly and easily increase the temperature if needed.
#4 – Can be let unattended.
Wood burning is great if you have the entire day to baby-sit the operation. But if you need to step away for 20-30 minutes, be prepared to get a helper to watch the fire and continually add logs. You just can’t leave it for long periods of time. With a turkey fryer on the other hand, you can step away and it will continue happily boiling away while you glance at it through the window.
#5 – Easier to start or stop at a moment’s notice.
This is related to the previous reason; boiling down sap usually takes at least 4 hours for 5 gallons of sap, and the more sap you are boiling down, the longer it takes. The reality is that most people have other things going on. With a wood fire, the start up and wind down process is very long. With a propane turkey fryer, you literally turn a knob to stop boiling. And turn the knob again and light it to continue boiling. This makes it super convenient to boil for a couple of hours here and there as time permits.
#6 – Bonus – Low Cost!
I couldn’t keep it to just 5 reasons. One of the main reasons is the low cost to run a propane turkey fryer! I can usually boil for about 14 hours or so on a single 20 lb tank (about 4.5 gal propane). This is enough to boil 15 gallons of sap down to syrup (I usually boil 5 gallons at a time for about 4 hours each). At the local Tractor Supply, prices for propane are $2.19/gallon, so 14 hours of boiling costs roughly $10. At the high-end ratio of 40:1 (sap to final syrup), this means it costs $10 for about 1.5 quarts of maple syrup!
The Turkey Fryer I Recommend
Any turkey fryer will do, I’ve used a couple different ones, but based on my experience, there are a couple of things you want to look for.
- Large cooking surface – lots of surface area for heating.
- Multiple burners – spreads the heat for more even boiling to avoid ‘hot spots.’
- A wind-guard to block the wind from dissipating heat. Also funnels the heat directly to the boiling pot.
- Stainless metal gas hose. Better protection from melting.
- High BTU’s. You want to have a lot of heat density, perfect for boiling sap.
For the reasons mentioned above, I really like the Bayou Classic KAB4 High Pressure Banjo Cooker. This unit checks all the boxes. Sure, there are more expensive units out there with additional features you may not need, but I’d say this is the way to!
Thanks for reading, and good luck with your maple-sugaring! If you’re still on the fence, go for it! You can do it!