In 2015, U.S. fire departments responded to about 1,760 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving Day, an increase from 1,550 in 2013. As the trend of deep-frying the Turkey Day gobbler continues to grow, so does the number of fryer-related fires. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) strongly discourages deep-frying your turkey at home, because there are just so many risks involved:

  • Fryers can tip and spill easily.
  • Even slightly frozen turkeys lowered into hot oil can create splatter or a destructive fire.
  • Oil is prone to overheating and combustion.
  • It’s easy to overfill the fryer, which can lead to spills.
  • The lid and handles can get extremely hot and cause severe burns.
  • Because fryers are designed for the outdoors (don’t even think about deep-frying a turkey inside), it’s exposed to the elements—rain or snow falling into the oil can create splatter and excruciatingly hot steam.

If we can’t talk you out of serving a deep-fried turkey on Thanksgiving Day, please consider the following safety tips:

  • Set up the fryer on a flat surface outdoors.
  • Thaw the bird entirely before cooking.
  • Measure the oil before you begin cooking using the following steps: Place the bird in the fryer with nothing else in it, and cover with water. Remove the turkey, pat it dry with a paper towel, and mark the water line in the fryer. Drain the water, dry the fryer completely, then fill with oil up to the water line. This will prevent under- or over-filling.
  • Lower the turkey into the oil (and lift it out) as slowly as possible to avoid splatter burns or tipping.
  • Use a backup thermometer—the ones on the deep-fryers aren’t always reliable.
  • Make sure somebody is with the fryer at all times while it’s turned on.
  • Always keep children away from the fryer.

While one of our own fire protection engineers has been deep-frying turkeys every Thanksgiving since the early 2000s, he’s recently stumbled upon a less traditional, non-oven cooking method without the inherent risks of frying: smoking it on a grill. It’s a heftier commitment, with its 18- to 24-hour brine recommendation and two-hour cook time, but cooking a turkey on a grill doesn’t involve scalding oil and the bird turns out just as juicy and succulent as its fried counterpart. You can find the full recipe here.

For more traditional Thanksgiving Day cooking safety tips, please visit How to Hold a Successful and Safe Thanksgiving.

The entire Harrington Group team would like to wish you and yours a very Safe and Happy Thanksgiving!