Thanksgiving Turkey Fryer Safety

  • Published
  • By Moody Fire & Emergency Services
  • 23rd Civil Engineer Squadron

Each Thanksgiving, we anticipate a perfectly cooked turkey waiting on the dinner table like so many cooking show, magazines, and television commercials promise.  Unfortunately, since many of us do not have the cooking talents of celebrity chefs (or their support teams), that dream is not always a reality.

That's why many of us turn to deep frying our turkeys.  With a turkey fryer, what used to take several hours with an unsure guarantee of success, now takes only 45 minutes or so with the assurance of a plump, moist bird every time.   However, we must ask ourselves, are we willing to trade our safety for time and taste?

Insurance company statistics show that more grease and cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year.  The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports an average of five deaths, 60 injuries, and more than $15 million in property damage each year.  Also, the highly recognizable Underwriters Laboratories (UL) feels so strongly about the risks associated with turkey fryers, they will not certify turkey fryers. 

Even armed with this information, we know what we like, and some of us will proceed using a turkey fryer to prepare our birds.  With that in mind, the Moody Fire Prevention Office staff recommends you consider using the newer type of "oil-less" turkey fryer to achieve the perfectly cooked turkey for your holiday.  However, if you choose to use a traditional oil fryer, the Fire Prevention Staff urges you to be fully aware of the hazards and crucial safety information for a safe holiday.

The primary hazards for fire and injury have been attributed to the following:

  • Improper use by untrained persons
  • Improperly designed homemade fryers
  • Fryer placed too close to combustibles
  • Fryers used inside houses or garages
  • Overfilling the fryer with oil
  • Placing frozen/wet turkeys into the fryer
  • Plunging the turkey too quickly into the fryer
  • Leaving the fryer unattended

If you are still planning to fry your turkey, please follow these tips:

  • Purchase a factory-built unit; do not use homemade fryers
  • Do not use the fryer on a wooden deck, a combustible surface, or in your garage
  • Ensure the fryer is a safe distance from buildings and combustible materials
  • Ensure that the unit is on a flat, dry surface
  • Never leave the fryer unattended
  • Keep all pets and children away from the fryer before, during, and after use
  • Do not overfill the fryer with oil
  • Use leather gloves or potholders when touching the unit or lid
  • Ensure the turkey is completely thawed and dry before placing it into hot oil
  • Place the turkey in the oil slowly; this may take up to a minute depending on size
  • Keep a multipurpose (ABC) fire extinguisher nearby in case of fire
  • Never use water to extinguish a turkey fryer fire; oil and water do not mix
  • If a fire occurs, immediately clear the area and call 911

If you have any questions regarding these or any other fire safety tips, feel free to contact the Fire Prevention Office staff at (229) 257-4410.