Cooking is one of the leading causes of house fires. One study found cooking fires accounted for 44% of all house fires between 2017 and 2021. And because Thanksgiving is such a big cooking day, it’s responsible for more of these fires than any other day of the year. Throw turkey frying into the mix, and your risk goes up significantly.
We mention this not to put a damper on your festivities – quite the opposite! Nothing ruins a Thanksgiving feast faster than a turkey fryer fire, so we’re here to pass along pointers for frying your turkey safely.
Turkey fryer safety tips: A recipe for success
The number of ways that frying a turkey can go awry is pretty stunning. Use these tips to minimize your risk and help keep you, your family, and your guests safe.
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
Unattended cooking is far and away the leading cause of cooking fires, according to the US Fire Administration. 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 and patted dry 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. Tuck in and roll up your sleeves
The NFPA reports that clothing catching fire led to seven percent of cooking fire deaths from 2017 through 2021. So before you fire up the fryer, make sure you’ve tucked in any loose clothing so it doesn’t doesn’t accidentally ignite.
9. Clean everything beforehand
Nearly 10 percent of cooking fires between 2017 and 2021 were caused by failing to clean cooking equipment or the cooking area beforehand. While it can be tough to keep a clear work area when you’re juggling holiday dishes, make sure you’ve cleaned the area before cooking and that your fryer has had a thorough scouring.
10. 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 covers fire damage to the home, belongings, and other structures.
Get more Thanksgiving safety tips so you can enjoy your fried feast, friends!