Turkey: It’s not just for roasting anymore

Fryers produce a tasty bird, but must be used with caution

Deep-fried turkey has become a popular option in recent years. This cooking method produces a tasty Thanksgiving dinner, but dangers can outweigh the benefits, according to Underwriters Laboratories. (UL).

Some safety problems are inherent to turkey fryers, while others result from failure to apply common sense. The most common mistake is overfilling the vat, causing oil to spill over the edge. Spilled oil can hit the burner and create a fire that engulfs the entire unit. Another common error is putting a frozen or partially frozen turkey into the vat, producing something close to an explosion of hot oil that can burn anything, or anyone, nearby.

Carefully following manufacturer’s instructions and adhering to a few safety tips can assure that everyone makes it to the table with home and health intact.

The Minnesota State Fire Marshal suggests these tips to use a turkey fryer in the safest manner:

  • Place the fryer outdoors on a flat surface — never on a wooden deck or in a garage. If you use an extension cord, arrange it carefully to prevent tripping.
  • To determine the amount of oil you need, fill the cold fryer with water and place your turkey into the vat. Bring the water level well below the rim of the vat. Remove the turkey and mark the water level. Then let the fryer dry thoroughly before putting oil into it.
  • Oil and water don’t mix. Avoid injury by thoroughly thawing and drying your bird before frying it.
  • Check the oil temperature frequently. Most fryers have no thermostat and oil may overheat to the point of combustion.
  • Allow several hours for the oil to cool before draining it or moving the fryer.

UL considers turkey fryers so hazardous they won’t certify them for safe use. They do, however, include a detailed list of hazards and a list of specific instructions on their Web site at www.ul.com; search “turkey fryers.”