In Texas people fry everything from banana slices to chicken to satisfy their deep fried cravings. One of the most popular items for the Thanksgiving holiday is a deep fried turkey. While the dish is very tasty, it can also be very dangerous. The Waxahachie Fire Departments suggests some tips to make sure you don't burn up your turkey, or your house.
“The first thing you want to do is to make sure that your turkey is completely thawed out and dry,” Waxahachie Fire Inspector Lt. Candon Birdwell said. “If it is just thawed out, make sure to dry it off with a clean towel or paper towel.”
As the old adage goes, “water and oil don't mix.” The saying is also true in the case of a frozen or wet turkey in cooking oil. The two resist each other and when there is an open flame present, the results can be catastrophic.
If your turkey is frozen or simply damp, the water will react with the hot frying oil by rapidly evaporating and will throw hot oil out of the pot. This has the potential to severely burn the cooker and if the oil reaches the open flame or heat source, can ignite the entire pot of oil.
The most important step after making sure your turkey if fully thawed and dry, is to set up your deep fryer correctly.
“The fryers should be 10 feet away from any structure or combustible,” Birdwell said.
A good location is outside on a patio or in the yard, but make sure it is at least 10 feet away from your house or any other structure. Do not set up the fryer inside your house or garage.
“The next step is that fryers should be set up on level ground,” Birdwell said. The propane bottle supplying the fuel for the cooker should be placed at a safe distance away and able to be turned off quickly in an emergency.”
After you have set up your fryer and your turkey is thawed, dry and prepped, it is time to fill the pot with oil. When filling the pot, do not completely fill it. Instead leave enough space in the pot to compensate for the size of the turkey. If you're unsure of how much oil to pour in the pot, put the turkey in first and add oil until it just barely covers the turkey.
“Turn off the propane before slowly lowering your turkey into the hot oil,” he said. “If the oil does overflow, there won't be an open flame to ignite it.”
When deep frying a turkey, the oil should be around 325-350 degrees. Cook your turkey in the fryer for 2-3 minutes per pound, so if you're cooking a 30-pound turkey it will be fully cooked in an hour to an hour and 30 minutes. Don't forget to lower the turkey into the oil slowly.
“ It is important to have an accurate thermometer to keep track of the temperature of the oil, and use insulated gloves or hot pads when moving the turkey. Any time you are checking on the turkey remember to turn off the propane bottle,” Birdwell said.
It never hurts to have a fire extinguisher on hand. Don't ever leave the fryer unattended, and always follow the manufacturer's instructions.
The NFPA urges those who prefer fried turkey to seek out professional establishments, such as grocery stores, specialty food retailers, and restaurants for the preparation of the dish, or consider a new type of "oil-less" turkey fryer.
For more information about turkey fryer safety go to the NFPA website at www.nfpa.org.