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Thinking of Deep-Frying a Turkey for Thanksgiving? Stop and Read This!

Nowadays, people are jumping on the deep-fried turkey bandwagon, believing that this method of making a Thanksgiving Day turkey offers an enhanced flavor profile along with a super crispy exterior. In fact, folks are being urged to make their bird this way by many celebrity chefs on TV. But, before you do, beware! The act of deep frying can be dangerous. Not only can turkey fryers accidentally tip, but they can also overheat, spit hot oil, and even explode if improperly used – leading to serious burns, injuries, and fires. In fact, YouTube features many videos of what not to do when deep-frying a turkey. NPS.gov explains, “Frying, in general, is more dangerous than many other types of cooking since it involves using a large quantity of cooking oil, a combustible substance.”

A few vital takeaways:

  1. Understand that the use of outdoor open-flame, gas-fueled turkey fryers is not recommended by the National Fire Protection Agency. These fryers are not certified as safe by Underwriters Laboratories, the organization that verifies product safety. There are many reasons why safety experts discourage people from using fryers. Not only are they prone to overfilling and spilling, but most lack thermostat control and can overheat to the point of combustion. And, when used outside, precipitation can splatter the oil and convert the liquid into scalding steam. These are just a few examples given by the National Fire Protection Agency as to why the fryers are considered unsafe.

Should you wish to deep fry your turkey, educate yourself. Know what can go wrong and how to stay safe. For example, always use the fryer outdoors on a flat surface, not indoors, and stay away from structures like covered patios, wooden decks, and the house. Never leave the fryer unattended. Keep children and pets. 

  1. Away from the fryer, even after the turkey is done, as the oil remains dangerously hot!
  2. Follow all directions carefully – Read how to use the fryer and follow the recipe carefully safely. Make sure you are using the correct amount of oil for your fryer, and be sure that the turkey is COMPLETELY THAWED and dry to prevent splattering, a fire, or an explosion. Be sure to use safety tools when frying – including proper oven mitts, gloves, and safety goggles. Understand how to lower and raise the turkey to avoid splatters and burns and learn how to dispose of the oil safely.

Despite the warnings, should you still wish to responsibly deep fry your turkey, be sure to have the correct type of fire extinguisher(s) nearby and ready for use. Class K extinguishers are rated to combat kitchen fires. They work by employing a wet chemical agent to cool and suppress fires involving cooking fat, grease, and oil. ABC Fire Equipment Corp. explains that once a fire starts in a deep fryer, it cannot always be extinguished by traditional range hoods or Class B extinguishers. Also, per WXII channel 12, Winston-Salem NC, “A good way to ensure a potential fire will not be spread is by having an ABC fire extinguisher nearby.” Thus, it may be helpful to have both types of extinguishers on hand to combat both the fryer fire and structure fire if needed. Be reminded NEVER to throw water on a fryer fire and ALWAYS be prepared to call 911 for emergencies.

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