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Turkey frying 101: Thanksgiving Holiday Guide
What you need to know about cooking and frying safely
turkey fried

How to fry a turkey

• Step 1: Completely thaw the turkey or use a fresh bird

• Step 2: Place the turkey in a fryer basket and the basket into the empty fryer. The minimum oil level should be three to five inches from the top of the fryer, but to find the correct oil height, first add water to the pot until the top of the turkey is covered.

• Step 3: Remove the turkey, allowing the excess water to drain from the bird into the pot. The water level will fall — note that level by using a ruler to measure the distance from the top of the pot to the surface of the water and clearly mark the water level.

• Step 4: Drain or pour out the water and dry the pot completely. If the fryer has a drain valve, be sure there isn’t any excess water in the spigot and open the valve to drain the water — remember to close the valve before adding oil.

• Step 5: Before igniting the flame, add cooking oil to the marked level, but do not exceed. Though it may look like not enough oil, the turkey will fill the pot. Too much oil will cause the fryer to boil over and can start a fire or cause an explosion.

• Step 6: While the oil is heating, remove any excess fat around the neck or body that will prevent oil from flowing through the turkey. Add any rub, seasoning, stuffing or marinade into the bird.

• Step 7: Once the oil is boiling, carefully lower the turkey into the fryer. Smaller turkeys, eight to 10 pounds and turkey parts, such as breast, wings, drumsticks and thighs, are best for frying. A 12-14-pound turkey is the maximum size bird that should be deep fried — turkeys over 15 pounds should be broken apart. Cooking temperatures will vary.

Though fried chicken is a southern staple, turkey — and virtually any other Thanksgiving food — can be submerged into bubbling oil this holiday season.

From deep fried pie to crispy stuffing, the crunchy goodness of fried food may be a hit at southern dinner tables, but fryers and stoves can also be dangerous — even deadly — if not handled properly or if food is not cooked correctly.

Forsyth County Fire Department Division Chief Jason Shivers offered some holiday tips on how to use fryers properly and avoid starting a house or structure fire while cooking.

Holiday cooking

“Residential cooking in the home is the leading cause of residential structure fires in America,” Shivers said. “Around the holiday season, that number actually increases pretty significantly as families gather around the kitchen and folks cook large meals. But there are a number of things you can do to prevent fire.”

• Make sure the stove and oven are clean and free of heavy grease or other food buildup

• Don’t leave the kitchen when cooking, and make sure food is accounted for while on the stove or in the oven

• If food on the stovetop catches fire, douse it with water and remove from the burner. In the case of a grease fire, put a lid over the burning area but never try to douse it with water

• Keep the handles of pots, pans and other cooking devices turned towards the back or center of the stove, not sticking out towards the front.

This will accomplish a few things. First, it will prevent children from reaching up and grabbing often hot handles and pulling cooking food onto themselves. Kitchen burn numbers also rise during the holiday season. Second, it will keep the cook or other guests from bumping into a hot dish and causing a spill. As soon as oil and grease spill out of a container and onto a hot area of the stove, you can have a flash fire.

Turkey frying

“Something that’s become very popular in the last few years is cooking turkeys in a fryer,” Shivers said. “It’s a non-traditional method that’s quickly becoming a family tradition and they’re great and a great way to enjoy something a little bit different with your family. But they need to be done, like anything, very safely and have some simple precautions taken to ensure that you don’t put yourself of your home in danger.”

• Fryers should always be used outdoors on a hard surface, nowhere near combustibles, unless it’s an electric fryer that specifies it is safe to use indoors

• Never fry a frozen turkey. The bird must be completely thawed, the cavities made completely free of any wrapping or packaging and patted dry before it’s dropped into the fryer. When a frozen or partially frozen turkey comes into contact with boiling oil it causes an explosion and can result in serious fire and burns

• Don’t over-fill a turkey fryer with oil and make sure the fryer is the correct size and shape


“This week as we enter the holiday season, now through the New Year, candles are a very popular item,” Shivers said. “As we get through Thanksgiving and then toward Christmas, everyone likes to have an ambiance from candles around their home.”

• Always keep candles away from children and pets

• Don’t place candles near Christmas trees or other flammable items

• Never leave a room or the house without blowing out a candle. Unattended candles can cause fires when the glass candle holders break or crack unexpectedly or get knocked over