Fry Your Turkey … Not Your Home

Deep-frying has quickly become a popular way to prepare a turkey on Thanksgiving. But the end result, while delicious, can be dangerous to achieve.

Having heard several horror stories about turkey-frying gone wrong, we asked the experts for tips on how to fry your turkey without setting your home, and more importantly yourself, on fire:


Safety consulting company UL (Underwriters Laboratories)nbsp;has decided "not to safety-certify any turkey-fryers due to the increase of fires caused by their use," says Lt. Anthony Mancuso, director of the FDNY’s Fire Safety Education Unit. However, if you're looking to get your hands on one, Norma Farrell of the National Turkey Federation recommends checking out Consumer Reports to find a frying apparatus that's right for your needs. When you're ready to fry, here's what you need to know:

  • Never leave your cooking unattended. "Stand by your pan," says Lt. Anthony Mancuso. If you need to briefly step away, he advises bringing along an oven mitt or a cooking spoon as a reminder. 
  • Keep children away. Kids should always be at least three feet away from any cooking area — especially a pot of bubbling oil. 
  • Wear protective clothing. Wear tight-fitting clothes or short sleeves, as anything loose-fitting could catch fire, advises Norma Farrell. She also suggests wearing long oven mitts, closed-toe shoes and protective glasses for extra protection. 
  • Keep your deep fryer level. To prevent it from tipping over, always place your frying vessel on a metal stand over a non-combustible, steady surface. Farrell does not recommend placing it on concrete, as it can get stained by the oil. Try placing it over dirt or grass instead. 
  • Remove the pop-up timer, truss, and wing tips from the turkey. These can get in the way of lowering the bird into the frying vessel. 
  • Look out for licking. If the flame is licking out from under the pot, the flame is too high. 
  • Don't fry indoors. It's never a good idea to fry a turkey indoors, and it's downright illegal to use propane gas turkey fryers indoors. "Propane is heavier than air, and if it spills, it can sink into low areas like your basement. If it comes in contact with the boiler, it could explode," explains Lt. Mancuso. 
  • Place your deep fryer 18 feet away from your home. If it tips over near your house, oil could spread fire to a flammable structure, and propane could potentially leak into your basement. 
  • Can you see the sky? "There should only be sky and certainly no structure above the fryer," says Lt. Mancuso. Other no-fry zones include porches, wooden decks, patios, garages or any structure attached to a building. Be sure to visit the National Fire Prevention Association's website for more fire prevention codes and standards.


  • Use oil with high smoke points. These include peanut, refined canola, corn oil, rice oils, and sunflower. If fat and cholesterol are a concern, Farrell suggests combining canola and peanut oil. 
  • Use fresh oil. If reusing, make sure it's not rancid. If the oil is foaming, darkening, or smoking excessively, it should be replaced. 
  • Prevent oil from splattering. Turn off the burner before SLOWLY lowering the turkey into the vessel. As soon as the turkey is safely in the pot, turn on the burner. If you can, enlist a second pair of hands to help you. 
  • Fill to the line. Adhere to the "fill-line" printed on the inside of the vessel to prevent oil from spilling over the edge and into the flames.


  • Put a lid on it. If your deep fryer catches fire, turn off the gas (if you can) and cover the pot with a lid to cut off the flame's oxygen supply. 
  • Stop, drop and roll. You know the drill. If you catch fire, Mancuso says to stop what you're doing, drop to the floor, and roll.  
  • Treat with cool water. Until you receive proper medical attention, only cold water to treat a burn.


When it comes to picking the right bird for your Thanksgiving dinner, Farrell says:

  • Ideally, a frying turkey should weigh between 10 and 12 pounds, or 13 to 14 pounds at maximum. 
  • Allow three to four minutes per pound for frying time. (For example, the frying time for a 12-pound whole turkey, after the oil has reached the required 375 F temperature, is about 42 minutes.)


  • Remove excess fat from around the neck and other openings of the turkey. 
  • Detach the leg and thigh portions from the breast and fry them first, in oil that has been preheated to 375 F. 
  • Cook dark meat to an internal temperature of 175 to 180 F. 
  • Remove the cooked turkey legs and then reheat the oil to 375 F. Fry the turkey breast to an internal temperature of 165 F.