Frying a turkey in boiling oil may seem like a quick and easy way to cook a festive bird. But it can quickly turn into a disaster.
In the United States, each Thanksgiving between 2017 and 2019, there were an average of 2,300 residential building fires. They caused an average of five deaths, 25 injuries and $26 million in property losses. But deep-frying turkey isn’t just a Thanksgiving tradition in the United States and Canada. It is also enjoyed around the world at Christmastime and throughout the year.
What causes a turkey to explode? How can you deep-fry a turkey safely? What should you do if it does explode?
Step 1. Defrost and dry the turkey
Raw turkeys are about 75% water. When they’re frozen, they contain a lot of ice, which melts in the pot’s boiling water. But water and hot oil do not mix. They are a dangerous combination. Water is denser than oil, so It sinks to the bottom of the pot, turns into steam and expands.
As the steam erupts out the top of the pot it carries the hot oil, which can splash everywhere. If the oil lands on an open flame, it will catch fire and explode. If the turkey is frozen, the reaction could be even more violent. Check out this video made by a group of firefighters. How can you prevent this from happening?
First, make sure the turkey has completely thawed. Make sure you check inside the cavity. Then completely dry the bird, inside and out.
Step 2. Properly place your fryer
Make sure your fryer is on level ground. If it is not balanced, it could tip over when you put your turkey in the hot oil. Keep the fryer at least 3m (10 ft) from all buildings, especially your home. And make sure there are no dry leaves, wood decks or anything that could burn nearby. Have a fire extinguisher handy. But make sure it contains foam, not water. Spraying water would make things worse.
Step 3. Measure the oil
Accurately measure how much oil you need. Remember, the turkey takes up space too. Put the turkey into the empty pot and fill it with water to about 10-15 cm (4-6 in) below the rim. Then remove the turkey and note where the waterline is. That is how much oil you’ll need. Be sure to completely dry the pot and the turkey before you start.
Step 4. Lower the turkey carefully
After the turkey is defrosted and dry and the oil is hot, you’re ready to lower the turkey into the pot.
You would be smart to wear a shirt with long sleeves, pants and closed toe shoes in case hot oil sprays you. If that gets on your bare skin, it will stick to it and continue burning.
Be careful when you lower the turkey by putting it in a strong fryer basket or using sturdy metal hooks to lower the bird slowly into the pot. If you don’t have any of those and are lowering it by hand, make sure you’re wearing the right protective gear including large oven mitts.Lower the bird slowly. Do not drop it, even if it starts spitting. That will only make things worse. If it looks unsafe, carefully lift the turkey back out of the oil.
Step 5. Treating Burns
Even the best-laid plans can fail. Be prepared for anything to go wrong. If the oil does spit and you get burned, remove all the clothing with oil on it immediately. Treat any burns with water or a cool compress, then apply an antibiotic ointment or aloe vera. If the burn is severe, go to a hospital or a medical clinic right away.
There’s a lot that can go wrong while deep-frying a turkey, even if you prepared carefully. So it might be best to roast or barbecue it instead. But barbecues can be dangerous too. Did you know that there could be insects inside your grill, waiting to blow it up in your face?