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Turkey Fryer

The dangers of turkey fryers

A longtime food favorite in the southern United States, the delicious deep-fried turkey has quickly grown in popularity thanks to celebrity chefs. While some people rave about this tasty creation, there’s concern among fire safety experts that home cooks may be sacrificing safety for good taste.

Why is it so potentially dangerous to use a deep-fryer for a turkey? Because of the size of a turkey, you need a much larger than usual volume of very hot oil, and a much larger cooking vessel -- your conventional countertop fryer won't cut it. Here are some of the things that can happen:

  1. If the cooking pot is overfilled with oil, the oil may spill out of the unit when the turkey is placed into the cooking pot. Oil may hit the burner or flames, causing fire to engulf the entire unit.
  2. Because oil and water don't mix, a partially frozen turkey placed into the fryer can cause a spillover effect with the oil, which again could result in an extensive fire.
  3. In addition, the sides, lid, and handles of the cooking pot get dangerously hot, posing severe burn hazards.

What can you do to safely fry a turkey? As it turns out, quite a few precautions are necessary:

  • Turkey fryers should only be used outdoors at a safe distance from buildings and any other material that can burn. Never use a turkey fryer on a wooden deck or in a garage!
  • Make sure the fryer is used on a flat surface to reduce the chances of an accidental tip-over.
  • Never leave a fryer unattended. Most turkey fryers do not have thermostat controls. If you don't watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
  • Never let children or pets near the fryer when in use -- or for many hours afterward, since it will remain dangerously hot for a long time.
  • Make sure the turkey is completely thawed, and be careful with marinades. The water in a marinade can cause the oil to spill over.
  • Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire.
  • Remember to use your best judgment when attempting to fight a fire. If the fire is manageable, use an all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call 911 for help.

To see video footage of turkey fryers being tested by UL, watch here.

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