As the 350-degree oil – all three gallons worth – bubbled over the top of the turkey fryer, a hissing noise, followed by orange flames, began to form under the pot, scalding liquid puddling on the concrete.
• 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.
As the heat intensified, the flames grew larger, lapping up the sides of the fryer.
“Now, imagine if this was on a wooden deck,” said Forsyth County Fire Department Division Chief Jason Shivers. “The whole place would be [on fire.]”
The demonstration, held at the fire department headquarters last week, showed the dangers of improperly frying a turkey.
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.
“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 or your home in danger.”
For starters, Shivers said, 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.
That goes for garages, too, which are often made of wood and can easily trap the carbon monoxide emitted from gas fryers.
In addition, Shivers stressed chefs should never fry a frozen turkey.
The bird, he said, 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.
While stuffed birds – a number of people like to inject seasonings into the turkey – are perfectly OK to fry, Shivers said marinades on the outside of the turkey should be avoided.
Finally, Shivers stressed the importance of not over-filling a turkey fryer with oil. Residents should also make sure the fryer is the correct size and shape.