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Here’s why frying a Thanksgiving turkey is so dangerous

Deep frying can quickly produce a crispy and succulent Thanksgiving turkey, but consumer safety advocates and firefighters have repeatedly warned that the cooking method carries significant risks.

Fried turkeys cause an average of five deaths, 60 injuries and more than $15 million in property damage each year, according to the New York Fire Department. When done incorrectly, frying can cause bird bursts, oil burns and dangerous fires.

According to the US Fire Administration, an average of 2,300 fires in residential buildings were reported each Thanksgiving Day between 2017 and 2019. The kitchen was by far the leading cause of all Thanksgiving Day fires, according to the agency.

The method is particularly dangerous for those unaware of the number one safety tip for frying a turkey – never attempt to fry a frozen turkey or bird that has not been completely thawed, as this can easily cause an explosion. or a fire.

Explosions are usually caused by a volatile reaction of ice mixed with hot oil, while the large amount of hot oil typically used to cook a turkey also poses major fire hazards. Leaving a fryer unattended while cooking can be a recipe for disaster.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission shared a dramatic video featuring multiple turkey fry explosions and fires on social media earlier this week, warning consumers to “cook the turkey, not your house.”

A person is pictured as they prepare to fry a turkey in Nashville, Tennessee on November 24, 2020. Experts say frying a turkey carries significant, but mostly preventable, safety risks.
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Some experts say the risk is great enough that consumers won’t even attempt to fry a turkey with oil. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) suggests consumers use electric turkey fryers, infrared fryers, or air fryers instead.

“Turkey fryers that use cooking oil are unsafe,” an NFPA bulletin said. “These fryers use large amounts of oil at high temperatures, which can cause devastating burns. don’t use oil.”

For those who insist on using oil to fry their birds, the National Turkey Federation pointed out Newsweek to a safety guide on frying turkey. The organization has recommended that those attempting to fry a turkey also do so outdoors and away from any building.

Other tips include using oils with a high smoke point, such as peanut, sunflower, canola or rice oil, never leaving the fryer unattended, keeping children and pets away frying area and allow oil to cool completely before discarding.

Despite the risks, proponents of frying swear the method, when done right, can produce a turkey with incomparably crispy skin and perfectly cooked, juicy meat inside.

Frying can also save home chefs a lot of time in the kitchen – a cooking time of just 3.5 minutes per pound can yield a finished bird in an hour or less, compared to the full day of cooking that is often required using more traditional methods. .

Although now relatively common, fried turkey was a rarity for most of Thanksgiving history. Rick Rodgers, the author of the book Thanksgiving 101, Told USA today in 2015 that the cooking method only became popular as part of “the Cajun cooking craze that started in the late ’70s”.


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