Here's Why You Shouldn't Fry Your Thanksgiving Turkey

A juicier bird is not worth burning down your garage.

Fire departments across the country are bracing themselves for one of their busiest times of year. No, it's not the dry season—Thanksgiving is in just a couple of weeks, and many Americans feel the urge to bust out a vat of oil. But the reasons to avoid deep-frying your holiday turkey are as plentiful as the side dishes on Thanksgiving day.

Year after year, the thought of a juicy, deep-fried bird prompts many home cooks to go the DIY route on an extremely dangerous prep method. In fact, Google Trends search data reveals that the phrase "How to deep fry turkey" was searched three times as often as "how to air fry turkey" in the past 12 months. Meanwhile, searches for "Deep fry turkey time and temp" increased 450% in the past 12 months.

Although this turkey prep method is undeniably popular and widespread, that does not make the practice any less hazardous.

The dangers of deep frying your Thanksgiving turkey

The National Fire Protection Association is clear in its stance on the use of at-home turkey fryers. "Turkey fryers that use cooking oil are not safe," reads the organization's website. "These fryers use large amounts of oil at high temperatures, which can cause devastating burns."

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The NFPA has noted deep fryers on average cause 60 injuries, five deaths, and over $15 million in property damage each year. Working with hot oil can be dangerous at the best of times, but home turkey fryers present their own laundry list of additional risks. These include:

  • The vertical fryer can tip over easily, spilling hot oil and causing it to ignite.
  • If the fryer is overfilled with oil, it will overflow when the turkey is dropped in. This could lead to the entire fryer and turkey being engulfed in flames.
  • Without the proper thermostat controls, the oil can reach the point of combustion.
  • Since turkey fryers are meant to be used outside, weather conditions like rain or snow could fall into the fryer and become scalding steam.

How to safely fry a Thanksgiving turkey

"If you want a fried turkey for your Thanksgiving meal, purchase it from a grocery store, restaurant or buy a fryer that does not use oil," advises the NFPA. For those that insist on DIYing their fried turkey, however, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has some tips, as does insurance provider State Farm:

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  • Make sure to use any fryers outdoors and away from structures like your home or garage.
  • Place the fryer on a level surface outside.
  • Do not overfill the fryer with oil.
  • Opt for a fryer with temperature controls or an oil-less fryer.
  • Do not fry a frozen turkey. Thaw your bird and dry it off before lowering it into the frying oil.
  • Stuff the turkey after frying, not beforehand.
  • Keep at least two feet of distance between the burner and the tank.
  • Turn the burner off as you lower the turkey into the oil, then turn it back on after.
  • Protect yourself from burns with goggles and oven mitts.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case of emergency.
  • The traditional roasted turkey might be a bit of snooze fest, but there are so many not-as-flammable prep options that will enhance the flavor. You could let Popeyes do the frying for you, or even nix the turkey altogether and have a Thanksgiving dinner full of side dishes. And if the vat of oil is still calling your name, be sure to follow the aforementioned tips to help keep your feast from going up in flames.

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