The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 23, 2013

Turkey frying poses significant danger

By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Those thinking of frying up their Thanksgiving bird this year may want to reconsider their method of cooking.

The Enid Fire Department and National Fire Protection Association both warn against the use of outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers that immerse turkeys in oil because of the danger they impose.

“These turkey fryers use a substantial quantity of cooking oil at high temperatures, and units currently available for home use pose a significant danger that hot oil will be released at some point during the cooking process,” Assistant Fire Marshal Todd Hays said. “The use of turkey fryers by consumers can lead to devastating burns, other injuries and the destruction of property.”

Hot oil may splash or spill at any point during the cooking process, when the fryer is jarred or tipped over, the turkey is placed in the fryer or removed, or the turkey is moved from the fryer to the table, Hays said. Any contact between hot oil and skin could result in serious injury, and any contact between hot oil and nonmetallic materials could lead to serious damage.

“In deep frying, oil is heated to temperatures of 350 degrees Fahrenheit or more,” Hays said. “Cooking oil is combustible. If it is heated beyond its cooking temperature, its vapors can ignite.”

Overheating can occur if temperature controls, which are designed to shut off the fryer if the oil overheats, are defective, or if the appliance has no temperature controls.

Hays also said if a turkey is not completely thawed before being placed in the fryer, it can cause the oil to splatter or overrun the cooker, causing serious burns or a fire.

Hays said those who insist on using an outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryer need to cook on a solid, non-flammable surface at least 10 feet from anything combustible and, if possible, at least 25 feet from any structures.

“You need to be on a smooth and level surface,” he said. “Not on a wooden deck.”

Look for safety features, such as oil overflow catches that collect the oil near the lip of the pot, when selecting a turkey fryer, Hays suggested.

Keep an oven mitt and lid nearby. If a fire does occur, put the oven mitt on and place the lid over the pot. Turn off the heat and allow the oil to cool before removing the lid.

“Leave it until it’s completely cool,” Hays said. Removing the lid too soon could allow the oil to re-ignite.

Do not use water to put out a grease fire.

Hays said when water is put into hot oil it vaporizes, and the water droplets carry small particles of oil that ignite and spread the fire.

“It’s a horribly dangerous thing to do,” Hays said.

He recommends using a dry-chemical fire extinguisher, which can be purchased at most hardware or homes stores.

Use turkey fryers in low-wind conditions. If winds are high, it’s best to consider cooking your turkey another way and avoid using the fryer. Do not use fryers in the rain or snow.

NFPA recommends to those who prefer to have their turkeys fried to use a professional establishment, such as a restaurant or grocery store, to fry their turkeys or use an “oil-less” turkey fryer.