FORSYTH COUNTY — Food is often the central unifier throughout the holiday season, with turkey frying an anticipated event and family members hanging around the kitchen for taste tests and conversation.
As kitchens heat up and families gather, officials with the Forsyth County Fire Department are urging caution about potential fire hazards in the cooking process.
Turkey frying safety
Fatalities due to turkey frying accidents or kitchen fires are rare in the county, said Forsyth Fire Division Chief Jason Shivers.
“Fires on decks and patios are more common and are something that, as a fire department, we … respond to a number of each Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Shivers said.
Traditional gas-burning turkey fryers must be used outdoors on a hard surface that cannot catch fire.
“Never use a fryer on a [wood] deck or in a garage or … never indoors,” Shivers said. “Do it on gravel, a concrete patio, a driveway. Not directly against a home and make sure it is a number of feet away from the home.”
A common mistake when frying a turkey, he said, is filling the pot with too much oil.
“If users follow the directions, they’re generally going to be safe,” he said.
Those who no longer have their device’s directions or want to further ensure safety can follow these tips:
* Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and dry before cooking to prevent “dangerous popping or boiling over.”
* Attend a frying turkey at all times.
* Ensure children do not have access to the cooking device.
* To prevent overfilling the fryer with oil, first place the uncooked turkey in the fryer and fill it with water so it just covers the turkey. Then remove the turkey and mark the water line on the exterior of the fryer.
* Pour out the water and dry the inside and the turkey before filling oil to the marked line.
“It’s going to appear to be very shallow, but once you place the turkey into it, it rises and covers the turkey just like the water did,” Shivers said.
“The danger comes in when oil flows over the top of a fryer. Because as soon as it runs down the side of the pot and makes contact with the flame beneath it, it can become an oil fire.”
Some fryers are designed to be used indoors with an electric flame instead of gas.
Indoor kitchen safety
The American kitchen becomes the center of a home during the holidays, where many families connect and spend their quality time as meals are prepared,” Shivers said.
Here are some general kitchen safety tips to follow when cooking indoors:
* Give chefs plenty of room to move about safely.
* Try not to distract them with too much conversation, music, children or pets.
* Always watch hot pots and make sure their handles are never hanging over the counter or stove.
* Have an ABC fire extinguisher near the kitchen to use for any small blaze. An ABC extinguisher will put out standard combustible, oil and grease and electrical fires.
* Ensure smoke alarms are in operation with updated batteries.
* Keep children away from hot items.
* If a fire oven occurs, keep the oven door closed and call 911.
* If a small pot fire occurs on the stove, try to cover the pot with a lid or cutting board to cut off the flames’ oxygen supply.
* Keep baking soda nearby to pour on small fires.
* Wear short sleeves if cooking around an open flame or keep sleeves rolled up, and do not wear anything long or flowing that has the potential to drape over a burner or flame.