Safety Tips for Deep Frying a Thanksgiving Turkey

  • November 17, 2009
  • Blog

The latest trend in preparing a Thanksgiving turkey is deep frying. The results can be delicious but it can also be dangerous. (1) Without adhering to certain safety precautions, you may end up with an injury or fire. (2)

Deep Fryers can be dangerous for a number of reasons:

  • The fryer units can easily tip over, spilling the approximately five gallons of hot oil contained within the cooking pot.
  • Overfilling the pot with oil can result in oil overflowing out of the unit when the turkey is placed into the cooking pot. This oil may hit the burner or flames causing a fire to engulf the entire fryer unit.
  • Partially frozen turkeys placed into the fryer can cause a spillover effect also resulting in a fire.
  • With no thermostat controls, the fryer units have the potential to overheat the oil to the point of combustion.
  • The sides of the cooking pot, lid and pot handles can become dangerously hot, and pose severe burn hazards.

Following the few precautions and safety tips described below can help ensure a safe and happy Thanksgiving if you are deep-frying a turkey this year. (3)

Deep Fried Turkey Cooking and Safety Tips:

  • Read and follow all instructions that come with your fryer.
  • Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors, placed on a level surface, and located a safe distance from buildings and other material that can burn.
  • Do not use a turkey fryer on a wooden deck, wooden surface or in a garage.
  • Never leave the fryer unattended. (4)
  • Carefully monitor the oil temperature to avoid over heating. If the oil continues to increase in temperature it could catch fire.
  • Only deep fry smaller turkeys–up to 12 pounds.
  • Use oils with high smoke points such as peanut, canola and safflower. If considering using peanut oil, make sure none of your guests have a peanut allergy.
  • To determine how much oil you’ll need, put the turkey in the basket and place in the pot. Add water until it reaches one to two inches above the turkey. Lift the turkey out, and use a ruler to measure the distance from the water to the top of the fryer. This will be the amount of oil you should use. Pour out the water and be sure to dry the fryer completely before filling the pot with oil.
  • It can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to heat the oil, depending on a number of factors including outdoor temperature, wind and weather.
  • Make sure the turkey is completely thawed. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels before placing in the fryer to keep the hot oil from spattering and popping.
  • Be sure to lower the turkey VERY SLOWLY into the hot oil.
  • You should maintain an oil temp of 350ºF. At that temperature, fry the turkey for three to four minutes per pound. For a 10-12 pound turkey, the cook time is approximately 35 to 42 minutes.
  • Do not allow children or pets near the fryer when in use or hours after use while the oil is hot and dangerous.
  • Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety googles.
  • Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby at all times. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. If the fire is manageable, use an all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call 911 for help. (5)

(1) In 2005, U.S. fire departments responded to 146,400 home structure fires that involved cooking equipment in 2005. These fires caused 480 civilian fire deaths, 4,690 civilian fire injuries, $876 million in direct property damage. And Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires in the United States.See NFPA 2008 Report at http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/PDF/Cookingfactsheet.pdf.

(2) The National Fire Protection Agency posts the following warning on its website: “NFPA continues to believe that turkey fryers that use oil, as currently designed, are not suitable for acceptably safe use by even a well-informed and careful consumer. Consumers may find packaging of turkey fryers displaying independent product safety testing labels. NFPA is familiar with the details of these test standards and does not believe that they are sufficiently comprehensive regarding the different ways in which serious harm can occur, and, in some cases, regarding the different parts of the turkey fryer that need to be tested.” See more at http://www.nfpa.org.

(3) Here’s a link to an entertaining video with safety tips on deep frying a turkey: http://www.blogcatalog.com/search.frame.php?term=thanksgiving+safety&id=f81a21f6407a83b24067af668d31ebb7.

(4) According to the USFA’s National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) data, from 1999 to 2003, cooking equipment had been left unattended in 37 percent of the reported home cooking equipment fires overall and was a factor in 45 percent of deep fryer fires. Unattended cooking equipment is the leading cause of home cooking fires. See U.S. Fire Administration 2007 Report, “Behavioral Mitigation of Cooking Fires”, at http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/downloads/pdf/publications/cooking/fa-312.pdf.

(5) According to the USFA’s National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) data, from 1999 to 2003, 55 percent of the people who were injured in U.S. home cooking fires were injured when they tried to fight the fire themselves.