Using A Turkey Fryer Safely

We’ve all heard it before – using a turkey fryer can be dangerous. Every year turkey fryers cause an alarming amount of fires on Thanksgiving. We see the stories on the news, or if you like, there are plenty of videos online of sensational fryer accidents. For most, it’s no secret that Thanksgiving is the most dangerous holiday to cook on. But the fear of a dry turkey motivates many unprepared chefs to try frying a turkey every year. After all, a crispy turkey can be a real crowd pleaser, but if you’re not careful, you could lose your entire home trying to make one good meal.

A good homeowners policy will cover a turkey fryer accident up to a point, but don’t take the risk. Know what you’re getting into and follow all the proper safety precautions so you and your guests can have a safe, enjoyable holiday.

Frozen Turkey “Bombs”

Whether you use a turkey fryer or the oven, proper thawing of the turkey is extremely important. A frozen turkey can take several days to thaw in the fridge before it is ready to cook. This said, it’s pretty common to forget to place a frozen turkey in the fridge several days before the morning of Thanksgiving. Instead, ill-prepared cooks try to rush it. Remember, you can’t leave a turkey to thaw on the counter and washing a turkey to encourage thawing actually creates a higher risk of creating bacteria than simply cooking it straight from the packaging. Your only other course of action is to thaw the turkey in the packaging in a cold water bath like the sink. Even so, it takes about 30 minutes per pound to do it this way.

There is simply no rushing a frozen turkey, so set a reminder! What happens when you have guests coming and the turkey isn’t thawed enough for the fryer? You wing it. But here’s a science lesson: hot oil + water or ice = fire. If you throw that semi-frozen turkey into hot oil, you may just start one mean fire. A fully-thawed, patted dry turkey is the only thing that should go into the fryer. Remember that well!

Where To Cook

It’s pretty obvious that you shouldn’t cook with a turkey fryer inside – right? This means not inside the house and not inside the garage, door open or closed. You shouldn’t cook anywhere close to the house when you set the turkey fryer up outside either. The best place to cook is a good distance away from any structure. This way if a fire does occur, you can safely extinguish it away from any other structures like your home.

turkey-fryer-1
A typical turkey fryer setup.

Other Turkey Fryer Hazards

So you’ve got yourself a dry, thawed turkey and a safely positioned fryer. Everything else is smooth sailing right? Not by a long shot. There are plenty of other things that can go wrong as you cook. Here are the big ones to be aware:

  1. Only use oil with a high smoke point. Oils with lower smoking points can start fires if too much heat is applied to them. If the oil ever begins to smoke as you use the fryer, immediately turn it off otherwise you might start a fire.
  2. Measure your oil correctly. Check the fryer’s instructions on adding oil, and if you’re adding a large turkey, account for oil overflow. The last thing you want to do is add the turkey when the oil is ready and have hot oil overflowing on the sides. Always make sure your oil will be at a safe level with the turkey in the vat before you start cooking.
  3. Keep the propane tank far away from the fryer vat. If the turkey fryer catches on fire and the propane tank is right next to it, very bad things can happen – think explosions.
  4. Buy a dry chemical fire extinguisher before you ever try to fry a turkey. Remember the science lesson. Water only makes oil fires worse. Throwing a bucket of water of a fryer fire is not going to end well.
  5. Hot oil splatters. Exercise caution when lowering and retrieving the turkey from the fryer, and do it slowly. Wear heat-resistant gloves and eye protection whenever you work near the fryer to prevent oil burns on your skin.
  6. A responsible adult needs to watch the turkey fryer at all times. Don’t leave your drunk uncle to mind the fryer, and keep all kids and pets a safe distance away. Even after the turkey is cooked, the fryer will be hot for several hours after. Continue to monitor it even when you’re sleepy with a belly full of turkey.
  7. If things get out of hand, dial 911. No one needs a hurt hero trying to save the turkey on Thanksgiving.
  8. If it rains, you’ll have to shut the fryer off finish the turkey in the oven. You can’t move the fryer once hot, and you can’t cook with it indoors.
turkey-fryer-2
One other tip, unlike the oven turkey pictured here, you can’t stuff a turkey used in a fryer.

Final Thoughts About Using A Turkey Fryer

Now that you know what you’re getting into, does frying a turkey still sound like a good idea? Can you manage it responsibly? If so, review all the precautions and read the fryer’s instructions before you cook. Exercise caution and you’ll have a beautiful turkey for family & friends. Enjoy the crispy deliciousness. We at Square State Insurance wish you a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Turkey fryer image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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