Trendy turkey frying calls for considerable amount of caution

Gary B. Gray • Nov 27, 2013 at 7:31 PM

Temperatures may be a bit chilly for this early in the holiday season, but that won’t stop fried turkey lovers determined to carry on the tasty Thanksgiving tradition from cooking large gobblers in a relatively nontraditional way.

The turkey frying trend has been gaining strength over the past 10 to 12 years, but the reward comes with responsibilities.

“It’s not a fad — it’s pretty popular,” Assistant Fire Marshal Mike Hill said. “More and more chain stores sell the fryers, as do sporting good stores. They come in different sizes, but the favorite is the 5-gallon stainless steel pot variety with a burner underneath heated by propane. It’s basically a deep fryer.”

Most people cook with peanut oil; others use canola or safflower oil. Despite these and other choices when it comes down to taste, safety also must be a consideration. Hill recommends that first and foremost people make sure to do their frying outdoors away from any buildings, and to also keep the action off decks and out of carports and garages.

“The oil is highly flammable,” he said. “A lot of fires are caused when people displace the oil with the turkey. In other words, they fill the fryer with oil and drop the bird in, causing oil to spill out. It would be a good idea to keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher on hand. You do not want to use water.”

Hill said it’s also important not to leave the fire going when cooking is complete, saying the heated oil can actually reach a temperature so high it will combust.

Deep frying a turkey for the holidays is a very popular trend. However, if you don’t take the proper precautions, you may end up with an injury or fire. Deep fryers can be dangerous because:

n Many units easily tip over, spilling the hot oil within the cooking pot.

n 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 contact the burner or flames, causing a fire to engulf the entire unit.

n Partially frozen turkeys placed into the fryer can cause an oil-spillover effect. This too, may result in an extensive fire.

n Frying units with no thermostat controls also have the potential to overheat the oil to the point of combustion.

n The sides of the cooking pot, lid and pot handles get dangerously hot, posing a risk of severe contact burns.

Here are some deep fried turkey cooking tips:

n Closely follow your fryer’s instructions.

n Only deep fry smaller turkeys — up to 12 pounds in weight.

n Use oils with high smoke points such as peanut, canola and safflower. Peanut oil adds flavor, but it can be a concern for guests who have peanut allergies.

n To determine how much oil you’ll need in the pot, 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. Pour out the water and dry the fryer completely before filling with oil.

n Remember that it can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to heat the oil, depending on the outside temperature, wind and weather.

n Before frying, pat the turkey dry with paper towels to keep the hot oil from spattering and popping when lowering the turkey into the hot oil.

n Slowly lower the turkey into the oil, and maintain an oil temp of 350 F. Fry the turkey for three to four minutes per pound, or about 35 to 42 minutes for a 10- to 12-pound turkey.

And here are some safety tips:

n Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other combustible materials.

n Never use turkey fryers on wooden decks, carports, or in garages.

n Make sure the fryers are positioned on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.

n Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you don’t watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.

n Never let children or pets near the fryer when in use. Even after use, never allow children or pets near the turkey fryer. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot for several hours after use.

n Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles to avid contact burns. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from possible oil splatter.

n Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water don’t mix, and water can cause the oil to spill over, causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.

n If the fire is manageable, use an all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call 911 for help.

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