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Fall is a time of football, cooler weather and of course, the holidays. As we head into the holiday season, we anticipate great Thanksgiving food like deep-fried turkey. Before we decide to deep fry, however, it is best to consider cooking safety. Each year on Thanksgiving Day, approximately 2,000 residential fires cause about five deaths, 21 injuries and property losses of $21 million, according to the US Fire Administration. The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) estimates that more than $15 million in property damage occurs each year due to turkey fryer fires The NFPA feels so strongly about turkey fryers that use hot oil that even a “well-informed and careful consumer” should avoid using them, they write.
If you are still convinced that deep frying is the only way to produce a moist Thanksgiving turkey, here are some tips on turkey fryer safety.
Never fry a frozen turkey. Completely thaw and dry your turkey to reduce the chance of excessive hot oil splatter before you place it in the turkey fryer. Hot oil burns can cause serious injury. You can find the National Turkey Federation’s recommended thawing times for frozen turkey here.
Always place the turkey fryer outdoors and away from your home. Find a flat concrete surface far from overhanging rooflines or trees. Fryers also have a tendency to collapse. With large quantities of hot oil involved, serious damage or injury can occur.
Never fry a turkey in bad weather. Rain and blustery weather can cause exposed hot cooking oil to steam or splatter. Either can result in serious injury.
Use caution when placing the turkey in the fryer. Turn off the fryer flame before immersing the bird. This prevents oil that might run down the sides of the fryer from catching fire and igniting the balance of the oil in the fryer.
A majority of fires occur due to filling the fryer with too much oil. Complete a turkey “test run” with water prior to cooking the bird to determine the proper amount of oil to use. Place the turkey in the fryer and fill it with water until the turkey is covered by 1-2 inches. Remove the bird, mark the water line, empty the water and then fill the fryer with oil to that mark.
The turkey frying process heats oil to an average of 350 degrees Fahrenheit. However, Underwriters Laboratory (UL) warns that because most fryers lack a thermostat, they may overheat oil. This overheating can also cause vapors to reach combustible temperatures. In fact, due to the lack of safety precautions on turkey fryers, UL does not certify nor affix their label to any turkey fryers.
Never leave a turkey fryer untended. Always keep children and pets a safe distance from the turkey fryer. If the worst does happen, never use water on an oil fire. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby just in case.
Once you remove the turkey from the fryer, be sure to properly dispose of your cooking oil. It can stay dangerously hot, even hours after you unplug the fryer. Never discard oil in a household drain because this can cause plumbing problems.
Give your fryer plenty of time to cool. Be sure to disconnect the fuel tank or unplug the electrical cord from the heating element before emptying the oil and storing the fryer.
The holidays can be a time of great food and family fun, but some key safety tips help to ensure your family’s safety. The majority of fires or injury occurs due to inexperience. With these tips, if you do decide to fry your holiday turkey, you should have a safe and savory holiday.