Turkey Fryers Will Cause Fire Damage this Thanksgiving, Don’t Become a Victim.
Deep frying Thanksgiving Turkeys often involves men, cigars, beer, Frisbees, footballs, pets, televisions and a five gallon bucket of hot grease located inches away from 30 pounds of propane transported through a small rubber hose past a regulator to an open flame on stilts. What can possibly go wrong?
I learned the secrets of frying turkeys in 1996 while living in Charleston, SC. Frying turkeys has been an annual Thanksgiving tradition ever since. Each year, my turkeys have turned out perfect and my wife enjoys focusing on the rest of the meal while I stay outdoors the men, boys, and pets. This seems to be the ideal arrangement with the women and girls indoors perfecting the potatoes, vegetables, breads, pastries, and deserts that will accompany the meal. The wine flows freely inside while the cooler with beer stays outside along with the cigars and of course a television to watch football.
Over the past 14 years, I have had only one incident that involved the fryer. The fire started before the turkey was dropped into the oil. I left the area when the oil was at 105° F on its way up to 350°. A guest arrived and my wife and I greeted them and made small talk for a few minutes and I was heading outside to monitor the oil when a call came in from work. There was a problem that needed my undivided attention. I lost track of time and 45 minutes later, my wife shouted “FIRE!” I dropped the phone and ran into the kitchen, where she was staring out the back window at the fryer with flames shooting about 4 to 12 inches off the top of the oil. The fire had just started.
Fortunately, the apparatus was on a cement slab, in the open air where the flames couldn’t jump to my ceiling or roof (as would have been the case had I set the fryer up inside my screened porch as I have in years past).
This was an easy fire to extinguish. I turned the burner off and put a lid on the pot of oil. I had my fire extinguisher on the slab close to the cooker but did not need it for this fire. The fire was out in seconds, the oil cooled, I was embarrassed in front of my friends and family but nothing was damaged and I was lucky. We let the oil cool to the desired 350° and continued with the festivities.
I have always taken pride in knowing the dangers and taking the recommended precautions. I was prepared for the fire although I never thought I would actually have one. When I stopped to think about it, I realized that nobody ever thinks that a fire will start during a fun filled afternoon of great company and wonderful food.
Routine cooking events pose fewer challenges because there are far fewer distractions. Large meals and gatherings such as Thanksgiving are challenging because of the intensity of the food preparation, often mixed with alcohol, conversation, and friends. Fires can start anywhere there is heat and open flames. Keep your fire extinguishers handy wherever you cook this Thanksgiving. If you are cooking in multiple locations, have a fire extinguisher readily available in each area. An ounce of prevention can be worth your home or even a life.
Know exactly how much oil you need in your fryer by following the following steps:
1. Place the uncooked turkey in an empty fryer
2. Fill the fryer up with water until the top of the turkey is covered by about ½ inch
3. Remove the turkey
4. Mark the fryer at the top of the water line (this will be your oil fill line)
5. Empty the water from the fryer and dry the inside
6. Fill the fryer with oil (I prefer peanut oil) to the mark
7. Use paper towels to dry the turkey inside and out before placing it in the fryer
8. Make sure your turkey is 100% thawed before placing it in the hot fryer
Note: Moisture that remains on and in the turkey gets trapped under the hot oil and turns to steam. The steam rises and causes the oil to bubble, splatter and often spew over the edge. When oil spews over the edge of the pan it is free to run down into the flames and ignite as you will see in the UL video link below.
Underwriters Laboratories – Turkey Fryer Information
Product safety tips from the Underwriters Laboratories:
UL considers turkey fryers to be dangerous to use presenting numerous safety hazards to consumers. “We’re worried by the increasing reports of fires related with turkey fryer use,” says John Drengenberg, consumer affairs manager of UL. “Based on our test findings, the fryers used to produce those great-tasting birds are not worth the risks. And, as a result of these tests, UL has decided not to certify any turkey fryers with our trusted UL Mark.”
Turkey fryer hazards
· Many units easily tip over, spilling the hot oil from the cooking pot.
· If the cooking pot is overfilled with oil, the oil may spill out of the unit when the turkey is placed into the cooking pot. Oil may hit the burner or flames, causing a fire to engulf the entire unit.
· Partially frozen turkeys placed into the fryer can cause a spillover effect. This too may result in an extensive fire.
· With no thermostat controls, the units also have the potential to overheat the oil to the point of combustion.
· The lid and handles on the sides of the cooking pot get dangerously hot, posing severe burn hazards.
Important safety information
If you absolutely must use a turkey fryer, please use the following tips.
· Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other flammable materials.
· Never use turkey fryers in a garage or on a wooden deck.
· Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
· Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you do not watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
· Never let children or pets near the fryer even if it is not in use. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot hours after use.
· To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
· Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.
· Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water do not mix, and water causes oil to spill over causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.
· The National Turkey Federation (NTF) recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator approximately 24 hours for every five pounds in weight.
· Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. If the fire is manageable, use your all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call the fire department for help.
Underwriters Laboratories have been kind enough to provide information concerning turkey fryers at the link below. Please take a moment to watch the video.