Frying a Turkey? Kettle cookers can be dangerous

FRANKFORT, KY (KFVS) - Frying a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner can be a tasty alternative to a baked bird. But, the Department of Public Health (DPH wants to remind Kentuckians that multi-use kettles used for deep frying foods can be dangerous when not handled properly.

Since 2002, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has tracked more than 168 turkey-fryer related fire, burn, explosion or carbon monoxide poisoning incidents, including 672 injuries and $8 million in property damage.

There have been house fires, ignition of oil used in the fryers themselves, and burn-causing oil splashes.

"Turkey fryers have steadily grown in popularity over the past two decades, but they pose some risk if not used properly," said Dr. Jeffrey Howard, acting commissioner for DPH. "By following a few guidelines and using precaution, adverse circumstances can be avoided. We want all Kentuckians to have a happy and safe holiday season and we ask that everyone follow some simple safety guidelines when cooking – or frying – your holiday food."

According to the CPSC, the majority of reported turkey fryer incidents occurred while the oil was being heated, prior to adding turkey.

It's important to monitor the temperature of oil closely. If any smoke at all is noticed coming from heating a pot of oil, the burner should be turned off immediately because the oil is overheated.

Those who choose to fry turkeys always should remember to keep the fryer in full view while the burner is on and to place the fryer in open area away from walls, fences or other structures.

Fryers should be stored outside and never used under a garage, breezeway, carport or any other structure that can catch fire.

To avoid burns, food should be raised and lowered slowly and bare skin should be covered.

It's also important to check the oil temperature frequently. If the oil should begin to smoke, the gas supply should be turned off immediately.

Carbondale, Illinois Fire Chief Ted Lomax said this time of the year can be stressful for some families and they need to stay vigilant, and not lose track of how many things they have on the stove, or how many burners are on.

For anyone planning on frying their turkey, Chief Lomax has a few tips.

"Before you fill the pot with oil just use water and the turkey so you can test where the level is, so you don't overfill it with oil, make sure your turkey is completely thawed out," Lomax said. "Kind of pad it dry, so when you drop it in that water doesn't react with that hot oil and boil over and catch on fire."

Chief Lomx also suggested if you have any guests spending the night it would be a good idea to go over an escape plan in case a fire occurs.

If a fire occurs, immediately call 911. Do not attempt to extinguish the fire with water.

Here's a look at the best way to avoid accidents or injuries from turkey fryers this holiday season:

  • Make sure there's at least two feet of space between the propane tank and fryer burner.
  • Place the gas tank and fryer so that wind blows heat from the fryer away from the tank.
  • Center the pot over the burner on the cooker.

Completely thaw (USDA says 24 hours for every four to five pounds) and dry turkey before cooking. Partially frozen and/or wet turkeys can produce excessive hot oil splatter when added to the oil.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions to determine the proper amount of oil to add. If those are not available:

  • Place turkey in the pot.
  • Fill with water until the turkey is covered by about one-half inch of water.
  • Remove and dry turkey.
  • Mark the water level. Dump water, dry the pot and fill with oil to the marked level.

The safety promotion is part of DPH's ongoing 52 Weeks of Public Health Campaign.

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