The Edmond Sun

November 18, 2012

Fire officials stress turkey fryer safety

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Frying is the fastest way to cook a turkey — a 20-pound bird in 60 minutes — but cooking with gallons of boiling oil over an open flame can be a recipe for disaster.

Local fire officials say each year the Edmond Fire Department responds to 2-3 cooking fire incidents that involve turkeys and/or turkey frying, and while every call does not lead to extensive damage they are cause for concern.

Spokesman Kelly Lewis said the Edmond Fire Department wants residents to have a safe and happy holiday. The agency urges them to follow all instructions included with their turkey fryer to help ensure they avoid a holiday disaster.

A longtime food favorite in the southern United States, the delicious deep-fried turkey has quickly grown in popularity thanks to celebrity chefs. While some people rave about this tasty creation, Underwriters Laboratories’ safety experts are concerned that backyard chefs may be sacrificing safety for good taste.

According to Underwriters Laboratories here’s why using a deep-fryer can be dangerous:

• Many units easily tip over, spilling the hot oil within 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/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 sides of the cooking pot, lid and pot handles get dangerously hot, posing severe burn hazards.

If you absolutely must use a turkey fryer, here are some tips from the Edmond Fire Department for safer use:

• Turkey fryers always should be used outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other material that can burn.

• Never use turkey fryers on wooden decks or in garages.

• 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 don’t watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.

• Never let children or pets near the fryer when in use. Even after use, never allow children or pets near the turkey fryer. 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 don’t mix, and water causes oil to spill over, causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.

• The National Turkey Federation recommends refrigerator thawing and to allow about 24 hours for every 5 pounds of bird thawed in the refrigerator.

• Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. Remember to use your best judgment when attempting to fight a fire. If the fire is manageable, use an all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call 9-1-1 for help.

FOR OTHER holiday season safety tips, call the Edmond Fire Prevention Office at 216-7303.