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Thanksgiving Turkey Safety Tips

Deep fried turkeys have a reputation for being juicy and tasty. Yet, there is fire risk that goes along with the great taste of a deep-fried turkey: turkey fryers combine gallons of boiling oil, open gas fires, and unstable frames.

There are a few basic rules to safely frying a turkey, and yet every year there are fires that destroy buildings and houses. The risk of fire is so high that Underwriters Laboratories’ (UL) has refused to certify turkey fryers. The primary reason is that most people just don’t follow the safety rules. People tend to overestimate the amount of cooking oil needed for the ideal deep fried turkey.

The following is courtesy of:
Underwriters Laboratories ® Last Revised: 07/2003 Product safety tips – Turkey fryers

Product safety tips – Gas fired turkey fryers
UL considers turkey fryers to be dangerous to use presenting numerous safety hazards to consumers. “We’re worried by the increasing reports of fires related with turkey fryer use,” says John Drengenberg, consumer affairs manager of UL. “Based on our test findings, the fryers used to produce those great-tasting birds are not worth the risks. And, as a result of these tests, UL has decided not to certify any turkey fryers with our trusted UL Mark.”  Mr. Drengenberg describes that when the oil in one of these turkey fryers catches fire “it’s like a vertical flame thrower.”

Turkey fryer hazards
• Many units easily tip over, spilling the hot oil from the cooking pot.
• If the cooking pot is overfilled with oil, the oil may spill out of the unit when the turkey is placed into the cooking pot. Oil may hit the burner or flames, causing a fire to engulf the entire unit.
• Partially frozen turkeys placed into the fryer can cause a spillover effect. This too may result in an extensive fire.
• With no thermostat controls, the units also have the potential to overheat the oil to the point of combustion.
• The lid and handles on the sides of the cooking pot get dangerously hot, posing severe burn hazards.
At temperatures over 300 degrees, cooking oil becomes as flammable as gasoline.

Important safety information
If you absolutely must use a turkey fryer, please use the following tips.
• Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other flammable materials.
• Never use turkey fryers in a garage or on a wooden deck.
• Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
• Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you do not watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.   It is best to have two people watch the turkey fryer.
• Never let children or pets near the fryer even if it is not in use. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot hours after use.
• To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
• Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.
• Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water do not mix, and water causes oil to spill over causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.
• The National Turkey Federation (NTF) recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator approximately 24 hours for every five pounds in weight.
• Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. If the fire is manageable, use your all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call the fire department for help.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

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