Published November 23, 2011
Lured in by the promise of moist, sweet turkey meat, the deep fryer has become an increasingly popular way to make Thanksgiving dinner. But cooking up a Tom the Turkey in a vat of boiling oil does come with its dangers.
In fact, the dangers could amount to a national security risk -- or at least that is what Department of Homeland Security thinks. It issued a warning this week on the official DHS Twitter account with a video entitled "How dangerous can turkey fryers be?" Check out the video below.
(We particularly like the cool looking gear that could come in handy if exploding turkeys ever raised the threat risk to red.)
In all seriousness, 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.
We tried our own experiments too. As you can see in our video, dropping frozen turkeys into the boiling oil of deep fryers brings on giant flames of fire shooting up 10 feet in the air. Indoors these grease flames can easily catch homes on fire, cause severe burns, and, if nothing else, will ruing your Thanksgiving turkey.
We spoke to Tommy Steen, a 28-year veteran firefighter with the Rankin County Emergency Operations Center in Brandon, Mississippi, to find out the most dangerous mistakes first-time turkey fryers commonly make. Steen, a strong advocate of the deep-fried turkey’s delicious taste, emphasizes you don’t need to be scared of frying if you know what you’re doing. “99.9% of the time you can pull this off without a problem, as long as you do it right.”
Here are Steen’s top four “Do Not Do's” for deep-frying turkeys.
Don’t Deep Fry a Frozen Turkey Frozen turkeys are full of moisture, and we all know how water and hot oil don’t mix well, so make sure your turkey is completely thawed out before trying to fry it. “Depending on the size of the turkey it could take up to 3 or 4 days in your refrigerator from solid frozen to ready to go in fryer,” Steen suggests.
Don’t Let Oil Get Too Hot When oil gets around 400-425-degrees it can catch on fire by itself. Steen says to make sure you have a thermometer and are watching the temperature very carefully. “If you see your oil smoking, it’s too hot, you need to back off, back off the heat,” Steen says. Most oils should stay around 350-degrees, but you can check the label to see what the exact temperature limit is for your oil.
Don’t Use Too Much Oil A common, and potentially disastrous mistake people make is putting too much cooking oil in their pot. “If you overfill your pot with oil and you drop the turkey in, it’s going to spill over, and that can be almost as catastrophic as having a frozen turkey go in because you’re going to get spillage, the oil is going to run down next to the flame on the burner, which could result in a catastrophic fire,” Steen warns. To figure out how much oil you’ll need, Steen suggests putting your turkey in the empty cooking pot, filling it up with enough water to cover it, take the turkey out, and then mark the top of the water line to know how much oil your turkey will need.
Don’t Deep-Fry Indoors If something does go wrong, the inside of your home is the last place you want flames shooting up in the air. “Don’t do this in your garage, don’t do this on your wooden deck. If you’re going to do it, do it out in your yard away from anything that’s flammable that could catch on fire. And by all means do not attempt to deep-fry a turkey with this type of cooker inside your house,” Steen pleads.