Turkey Fryer Safety

Deep fried turkeys continue to be all the rage. They are delicious, do not take up coveted oven space, and are cooked rather quickly. What some enthusiatic poultry purveyors overlook, however, are the dangers of cooking the bird in this fashion. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) discourages the use of outdoor gas fueled turkey fryers that cook the turkey in hot oil. The use of turkey fryers can lead to devastating burns, other injuries and the destruction of property. The NFPA urges those who prefer fried turkey to look for grocery stores, specialty food retailers, and restaurants that sell deep fried turkeys, or consider a new type of “oil-less” turkey fryer.”

If you decide to press on, turkey frying can be done safely, as long as the following dangers are kept in mind and steps are taken to avoid them.

  1. Hot oil may splash or spill during the cooking. Contact between hot oil and skin could result in serious injury.

  2. A hot oil spill can happen with fryers designed for outdoor use using a stand. The fryer could tip over or collapse causing the hot oil to spill. Newer countertop units using a solid base appear to reduce this risk. NFPA does not believe the risks of either type of turkey fryer to be acceptable because of the large amount of hot oil involved and the speed and severity of burns.

  3. In deep frying, oil is heated to temperatures of 350° Fahrenheit or more. Cooking oil is combustible. If it is heated above its cooking temperature, its vapors can ignite.

  4. Propane-fired turkey fryers must be used outdoors. They are very popular for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Many parts of the country may have rain or snow at this time of year. If rain or snow hits the hot cooking oil, the oil may splatter or turn to steam, leading to burns.

  5. Turkeys must be completely thawed before placing in the fryer, because a partially thawed turkey will cause the oil to splatter causing serious burns.

  6. The fryers use a lot of oil, about five gallons. Considering the size and weight of the turkey, extreme caution must be taken when placing and removing the turkey from
    the fryer to be sure its is not dropped back into the fryer, splattering the oil on the chef.

Every year deep-fryer fires are responsible for five deaths, 60 injuries, the destruction of 900 homes, and more than $15-million in property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association. So PLEASE take extreme care if you choose to fry your bird.

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  • by Christine Streich
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