Safe turkey tips for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving day is tomorrow, Thursday, and State Fire Marshal Chuck Duffy reminds families to think twice about fire safety while celebrating the holidays. 

Duffy’s office notes that cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries, with Thanksgiving being the peak day for cooking fires.

Most home cooking fires are the result of the range or stove being left unattended.

Another concern is the use of turkey fryers. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) considers them to be dangerous to use as they present 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.”

Turkey fryer hazards

· Many units easily tip over, spilling 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 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.

Safety suggestions

Because of these concerns, UL notes the following suggestions related to fryers:

  • Turkey fryers should only be used outdoors at 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 fryer is 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 may continue to heat until it catches fire.

  • 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 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.

Other tips

Besides UL, Duffy offers these additional tips to help ensure cooking safety on the stove or in the oven:

  • Watch what you are cooking, fires can start when the heat is too high. If you see any smoke or if any grease starts to boil, turn the burner off.

  • Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove.

  • Keep a pan lid or baking sheet nearby and use it to cover the pan if it catches on fire. This should put the fire out, or at least keep it under control.

  • Wear short sleeves or roll sleeves up.

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