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Deep Frying Turkey Poses Dangers, Farmington Hills Fire Dept. Offers Safety Tips

If you must use a deep frying, Lt. Larry Gauthier says, use it outdoors and scrap your plans if it rains or snows.

The Farmington Hills Fire Department wants to ensure that all residents understand the legitimate concerns regarding the practice of using a deep fryer to cook a turkey.

Problems arise because typically most residents do not monitor the process the entire time that the turkey is cooking in the deep fryer. The overall prudent method is to place the turkey in the oven and set a timer to check on it when it is finished cooking.

With that said, the Farmington Hills Fire Department, along with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Underwriters Laboratory (U.L.), are strongly discouraging the use of outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers that immerse a turkey in hot oil. 

“Many people rave about the taste and time saved in the kitchen, but most people are sacrificing safety for good taste,” said Lieutenant Larry Gauthier of the Farmington Hills Fire Department.

These fryers use a substantial amount of cooking oil at a high temperature, and almost all units pose a significant safety risk, as hot oil will be released at some point during the cooking process. The use of these fryers has led to devastating burns, other injuries, and homes completely destroyed by fire. The Fire Department urges those who prefer a fried turkey to consider a new type of “oil-less” turkey fryer.

Here are some hazards associated with the use of turkey fryers:

  • Most units easily tip over, spilling the hot oil from the cooking pot.

  • If the pot is overfilled with oil, the oil may spill out of the unit when the turkey is placed into the pot. Oil may drain onto the unprotected burner or flames, causing a fire to engulf the entire unit and its surroundings.

  • A partially frozen turkey can cause a spillover effect. This too may result in a devastating fire.

  • Units may not have a thermostat; therefore they have the potential to overheat to the point of combustion.

  • The lid and handles on the sides of the cooking pot get dangerously hot, and pose a severe burn hazard.

“If these concerns aren’t enough to discourage you from using a turkey fryer, consider the following tips to prevent a fire or disaster while cooking your turkey,” said Lt. Gauthier.

  • ALWAYS use a turkey fryer outdoors, away from anything combustible or flammable.

  • NEVER use a turkey fryer in a garage, under a shed or on a wooden deck.

  • Always place turkey fryers on a flat surface to reduce the possibility of tipping over.

  • Never leave your fryer unattended.

  • Never let children or pets near the frying unit.

  • Do not overfill the pot. Follow manufacturer’s guidelines.

  • Be sure your turkey is thoroughly thawed before placing it into the hot oil.

  • Use oven mitts to prevent burning your hands.

  • Have a portable fire extinguisher handy or ready to use if needed. Dial 911 if there is a fire.

  • If the weather is forecasting rain or snow, consider scrapping the entire frying option, as water and hot oil do not mix!

Finally, the hot oil inside the pot will remain hot for several hours after your turkey has been removed. Continue to follow the tips and recommendations for safe use until the oil has completely cooled.

Be safe and enjoy the upcoming holiday season with your family and friends! 

Lieutenant Larry Gauthier is a fire and safety educator with the Farmington Hills (MI) Fire Department. He may be reached at 248-871-2820 or at LGauthier@fhgov.com.

Some material re-printed with permission of the NFPA and UL.

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