Deep-frying has become a popular way to prepare turkey on Thanksgiving. But the end result, while delicious, can be dangerous to achieve.
Having heard several horror stories about turkey-frying gone wrong, we asked the experts for some tips on how to fry your turkey without setting your home, or yourself, on fire:
HOW TO SAFELY DEEP FRY A TURKEY
- Never leave your cooking unattended. "Stand by your pan," says Lt. Anthony Mancuso, Director of the FDNY’s Fire Safety Education Unit. If you need to briefly step away, he advises bringing along an oven mitt or a cooking spoon as a reminder.
- Keep children away. They should always be at least three feet away from any cooking area.
- Wear protective clothing. Wear tight-fitting or short sleeves, advises Norma Farrell, Consumer Education Specialist for the National Turkey Federation. Loose-fitting sleeves can easily catch fire. Farrell also suggests wearing long oven mitts, closed-toe shoes, and protective glasses for extra protection.
- Keep your deep fryer level. Always place it on a metal stand over a noncombustible, steady surface to prevent it from tipping over. Farrell does not recommend placing it on concrete because it can be stained by oil. Try placing it over dirt or grass instead.
- Remove pop-up timer, truss, and wing tips from turkey. These things can get in the way of lowering the bird into the fry vessel.
- Look out for licking. If the flame is licking out from under the pot, the flame is too high.
PROPANE GAS TURKEY FRYERS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Safety consulting company "UL (Underwriters Laboratories) has decided not to safety-certify any turkey-fryers due to the increase of fires caused by their use," says Lt. Mancuso. However, if you're looking to get your hands on one, Farrell recommends checking out Consumer Reports for the one that's right for you. Once you have yours, here's what you need to know:
- Don't use propane indoors. It's illegal to use propane gas turkey fryers indoors. "Propane is heavier than air and if it spills, it can sink into low areas like your basement. If it comes in contact with the boiler, it could explode," explains Lt. Mancuso.
- Place your deep fryer 18 feet away from your home. If it tips over near your house, it could potentially still leak into your basement.
- Can you see the sky? "There should only be sky and certainly no structure above the fryer." Other no-fry zones include porches, wooden decks, patios, garages or any structure attached to a building.
Lt. Mancuso suggests visiting the National Fire Prevention Association's web site for more fire prevention codes and standards.
USE THE RIGHT OIL
- Use oil with high smoke points. These include peanut, refined canola, corn oil, rice oils and sunflower. If fat and cholesterol are a concern, Farrell suggests combining canola and peanut oil.
- Use fresh oil. If reusing, make sure it's not rancid. If the oil is foaming, darkening or smoking excessively, it should be replaced.
- Prevent oil from splattering. Turn off the burner prior to lowering the turkey SLOWLY into the vessel. As soon as the turkey is safely in the pot, immediately turn on the burner. If you can, enlist a second pair of hands to help you.
- Fill to the line. Adhere to the "fill-line" printed on the inside of the vessel to prevent oil from spilling over the edge and into the flame
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
- Put a lid on it. If your deep fryer catches flame, turn off the gas (if you can) and cover the pot with a lid to cut off the flame's oxygen supply.
- Stop, drop, and roll. You know the drill. If you catch fire, Mancuso says to stop what you're doing, drop to the floor, and roll.
- Treat with cool water. Until you receive proper medical attention, only cold water to treat a burn.
When it comes to picking the right bird for your Thanksgiving dinner, Farrell says:
- Your turkey should be between 10 and 12 pounds, 13 and 14 pounds maximum.
- Allow three to four minutes per pound for fry time.
- For a 12-pound whole turkey, after the oil has reached the required 375F temperature, the actual fry time is about 42 minutes.
GOT A BIG BIRD?
- Detach the leg and thigh portions from the breast and fry them separately.
- Remove excess fat from around the neck and other openings of the turkey.
- Fry the leg and thigh sections first in oil that has been preheated to 375F.
- Cook he dark meat to an internal temperature of 175F to 180F.
- Remove the cooked turkey legs and then reheat the oil to 375F. Then fry the turkey breast to an internal temperature of 165F.