Avoid cooking up a ‘turkey tragedy’

Prossers Deep Fried Turkey

Thanksgiving is just a day away and many folks are thinking about how they will prepare their turkey. One way that has become increasingly popular is deep-frying. But local officials say if you don’t take the right safety precautions, you could be serving danger for dinner this holiday.

Deep frying is very popular but it can also be very dangerous,” said Chief Rusty Chote, Henderson Fire Department. “The big deal is that water and oil do not mix well […] when it happens, it’s pretty powerful.”

Harrowing demonstrations of fried turkey fires are all over the Internet. More cooking fires occur in the U.S. on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year, and Chote said many of the fires are caused while deep frying a turkey.

“If they don’t do it right, they not only have the possibility of losing their home, but they have the possibility of serious injury and losing their lives,” Chote said

Though the danger is serious, Chote said a deep-fried turkey could be a tasty part of any Thanksgiving celebration, provided a few safety tips are followed.

“Make sure you cook outside,” he said. “Get a fire extinguisher and make sure you know how to use it and that it’s on hand […] a water hose isn’t going to cut it, you’ll need an extinguisher if a fire breaks out.”

Another vital tip Chote added is to make sure the bird is not frozen.

“When the ice in that turkey meets the hot oil it will cause an explosion,” he said. “The explosion will result in any individuals nearby being covered in boiling oil and possible flames […] it’s very important that the turkey be completely thawed before frying.”

You also need to use the right amount of oil. To avoid spilling over Chote suggested testing the capacity before you start cooking. The National Fire Protection Association said deep fryer fires result in more than $15 million in property damage each year in the U.S.

“Every year deep-fryer fires are responsible for an average of five deaths, 60 injuries, the destruction of 900 homes, and more than $15-million in property damage,” Chote said. “Don’t become a tragic statistic during the holiday season.”

The National Fire Protection Association offers these tips to anyone thinking about deep-frying their Thanksgiving turkey:

• Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby, and never use water to extinguish a grease fire.

“If the fire is manageable, use your all-purpose fire extinguisher,” Chote said. “But if the fire increases or does not immediately go out, call 9-1-1 right away.”

• Never leave the fryer unattended.

“Most units do not have thermostat controls,” Chote said. “If you do not watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.”

• 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,” Chote said.

• 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 for hours after use,” Chote said.

• The National Turkey Federation (NTF) recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator approximately 24 hours for every five pounds in weight.

• Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other flammable materials.

• Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.

• Never use turkey fryers in a garage or on a wooden deck.

• To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.

Smoked turkey is not a whole lot safer, Chote added.

“Using a smoker or grill brings its own set of dangers,” he said. Do not use a smoker or under a porch, carport, or garage.”

Chote said using a smoker in a confined indoor structure is both a breathing and fire hazard.

“You never want to use these sorts of things, fryers or grills or smokers, near a structure,” he said. “Even if you’re safe about it and don’t cause a fire, you’re still in danger of smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning.”

It’s a season of celebration, Chote added, and it’s worth taking precautions to keep the festive occasion from becoming a terrible memory.

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