Turkey fryer fires are all too regular an occurrence on Thanksgiving, which is already the peak day for home cooking fires in the United States.
Every year, there are 172,900 cooking fires – in other words, cooking causes 49% of all house fires. And because Thanksgiving is such a big cooking day, it’s responsible for more of these fires than any other day of the year.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that US fire departments responded to about 1,630 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving in 2018. And the cost of those fires is substantial: Thanksgiving fires caused $26 million in property loss from 2017 to 2019.
If it’s your family tradition to deep-fry your holiday bird, be extra careful. Turkey fryer fires can cause serious injury, according to the NFPA, and deep-frying a turkey is much riskier than roasting. In fact, 52% of home cooking fires are ignited by fat, grease, or oil.
We mention this not to put a damper on your festivities – quite the opposite! Nothing ruins a Thanksgiving feast faster than an accidental fire, so we’re here to pass along pointers for frying your turkey safely.
Turkey fryer safety tips: A recipe for success
Some folks swear by a deep-fried turkey, arguing it’s more flavorful and crispy and cooks much faster than roasting. If you go the deep-fried route, follow these tips, courtesy of FEMA.
1. Head outside
Safety and cooking experts agree: turkey fryers belong outside. These fryers can easily tip and spill hot oil everywhere, so the best place for it is outside on a sturdy, level surface, far from things that can ignite.
Before you begin your deep-fry, make sure kids and pets are at least three feet away at all times to avoid accidental burns.
2. Don’t get distracted
Distractions are the number one cause for cooking fires, according to the NFPA. Because families tend to gather on Thanksgiving and spend ample time in the kitchen, it’s a recipe for potential mayhem.
Instead of catching up with Aunt Barb while you tend the turkey, focus and keep your eyes on the task at hand. And if you need something back in the house, ask someone else to fetch it so you don’t leave the bird unattended while it’s frying. A fire can happen in an instant, so never leave cooking unattended.
3. Don’t overfill the pot with oil
It’s a delicate balancing act between an overfilled cooking pot and an underfilled one. Err on the side of less. If you overfill the pot with oil, it will spill over once the bird goes in.
To get the right amount of oil, fill the pot with water and add the bird the day before you fry. That will give you a benchmark.
4. Thaw the turkey completely before frying
If your turkey isn’t completely thawed and dry before you fry it, you risk hot oil splatter. To avoid getting popped with hot grease while you fry, make sure your bird is thawed all the way through before it hits the fryer.
5. Keep an eye on the temperature
One big reason for turkey fryer fires? They get super hot and can quickly overheat. Be mindful of the temperature as you fry. Use a cooking thermometer so the oil doesn’t overheat and cause a fire.
6. Protect yourself
Remember that the pot, lid, and handles of the turkey fryer reach extraordinarily hot temperatures. Even the briefest contact with any of them can cause burns. Protect your hands and arms with long cooking gloves, and never handle the fryer without them.
7. Keep combustibles away
Don’t get your apron near any heat sources, including the fryer. Make sure towels and other items that can catch fire are far from the fryer, too.
8. Be prepared
Even when you follow all the guidelines perfectly, accidents can still happen. Be prepared by keeping a fire extinguisher nearby in case there’s a fire.
And if something does happen, remember that homeowners insurance does cover fire damage to the home, belongings, and other structures.
Enjoy your fried feast, and stay safe, friends! We hope you have a lovely holiday, however you choose to spend it.