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How to deep-fry a turkey without making the evening news

It’s beginning to look a lot like … FIRE!

The holidays are here, and you are probably dusting off grandma’s recipe cards for her crowd-pleasing, old-fashioned yeast rolls. You might also be dusting off that turkey fryer you bought on Black Friday last year. 

The chances of ever using one properly before are slim if you’ve stumbled upon this story in a frantic Google search while preparing your holiday feast and deciding how to fry your bird safely.

Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires with more than three times the daily average for such incidents, the National Fire Protection Association states. Christmas Day and Christmas Eve ranked second and third, with both having nearly twice the daily average.

So put down the apron and look for the nearest fire extinguisher – you might need it later. These potentially life-saving tips could prevent you from burning down your home and offer the perfect turkey to accompany Aunt Betty’s string bean casserole.

No fowl play

According to the NFPA, turkey fryers that use cooking oil are unsafe. They use large amounts of oil at high temperatures, which can cause devastating burns. 

A deep fryer filled too high with oil and with the flame on, explodes in flame when a frozen turkey is placed inside.

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Because turkey fryers pose several distinct safety concerns, including burn and fire hazards, Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the leading independent product safety organization, does not certify any turkey fryers. 

Tur-key to success

If you must use a turkey fryer this Thanksgiving, State Farm offers these safety tips:

  • Keep outdoor fryers off decks, out of garages and a safe distance away from trees and other structures.
  • Make sure the turkey is thawed and dry before cooking. Ice or water that mixes into the hot oil can cause flare-ups.
  • Watch the weather. Never operate a fryer outdoors in the rain or snow.
  • Place the fryer on a level surface, and avoid moving it once it’s in use.
  • Leave 2 feet between the tank and the burner when using a propane-powered fryer.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid overfilling. Oil can ignite when it makes contact with the burner.
  • Choose a smaller turkey for frying. A bird that’s 8 to 10 pounds is best; pass on turkeys over 12 pounds.
  • Never leave fryers unattended.
  • Purchase a fryer with temperature controls, and watch the oil temperature carefully. Cooking oil that is heated beyond its smoke point can catch fire. If you notice the oil is smoking, turn the fryer off.

Now, let’s stop here for a moment. Did you understand all that? 

If so, you will want to maintain your oil temperature at 350 degrees and cook your turkey for 3 1/2 minutes per pound. We will do the math for you. That’s about 35 minutes for a 10-pound turkey.

Without feather ado

Let’s continue with those safety tips:

  • Turn off the burner before lowering the turkey into the oil. Once the turkey is submerged, turn the burner on.
  • Wear goggles to shield your eyes, use oven mitts to protect your hands and arms and keep an “ABC” or grease-rated fire extinguisher close by. Do not use water or a garden hose on a fire related to turkey fryers.
  • Skip the stuffing when frying turkey, and avoid water-based marinades.
  • Keep children and pets away from the fryer at all times.
  • Once finished, carefully remove the pot from the burner, place it on a level surface and cover to let the oil cool overnight before disposing.
Keep outdoor fryers off decks, out of garages and a safe distance away from trees and other structures.
Keep outdoor fryers off decks, out of garages and a safe distance away from trees and other structures.
Getty Images

The USDA says all poultry should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees as measured with a food thermometer. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook poultry to higher temperatures.

If you are still scratching your head and want a fried turkey for your Thanksgiving or Christmas meal, fire officials recommend purchasing it from a grocery store, your favorite restaurant or buying a fryer that does not use oil.

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