More cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year.
With the popularity of turkey frying increasing, U.S. fire departments are responding to more than 1,000 fires year in which a deep fryer is involved. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says deep fryers cause an average of five deaths, 60 injuries, and more than $15 million in property damage each year.
Most turkey fires are preventable. Recognizing common mistakes is a critical step in reducing your risk of a fire or potentially fatal burns.
- Too much oil in the fryer pot. If the cooking pot is overfilled, the oil may spill out of the pot when the turkey is lowered in. Oil can hit the burner and cause flare ups. Follow the owner’s manual to determine the proper amount of oil to use and do a “dry run” beforehand with water in the pot to make sure you have the right proportions.
- Dropping a frozen or partially thawed turkey into oil. Frozen or partially frozen turkeys placed into the fryer can cause a spillover and may result in a fire. Be sure your turkey is completely thawed—give it at least three days in the fridge if it’s been in the freezer. Slowly lower it into the pot to prevent oil from splashing.
- Fryer is too close to structures. More than one-third of fires involving a fryer start in a garage or patio. Cook outdoors and away from flammables; maintain a safe distance from any building and keep the fire off any wooden structures.
- Oil and ice don’t mix. When ice comes into contact with hot oil, the water vaporizes, causing steam bubbles to pop and spray hot oil. Do not use ice or water to cool down oil or extinguish an oil fire. Keep a fire extinguisher approved for grease fires nearby, and immediately call 911 for help.
- Unattended cooking. Frying involves cooking with a combustible medium, namely the cooking oil or grease. Many frying units do not have thermostat controls and if left unwatched, the oil will continue to heat until the point of combustion. Never leave your turkey alone!
Interestingly, Texas ranks number one in the most grease and cooking fires on Thanksgiving Day from 2007 – 2011: we had 19, the most reported of any state. Illinois was second, with 18.