Turkey Fryers Pose Risk to Consumers

Safety Group Suggests Purchasing Popular Food Item from Businesses

From sweet potato pie to dressing and cranberry sauce, the holiday season is not complete without creating the perfect feast. A staple menu item growing in popularity during this time of year and at summer festivals is fried turkey, but many question the safety behind turkey frying devices.

“We’ve cooked our turkey this way for years,” said Prentiss Hightower, an experienced turkey fryer. “But the oil you’re putting the turkey in gets really hot. Accidents can happen if you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Hightower explained that he has seen oil spill over or get too hot to where the person cooking no longer has control.

Some individuals swear by large turkey frying devices, designed for outdoor usage, that completely immerse the turkey in 350 degree peanut oil, leaving the outside skin crispy brown as moisture is trapped inside.

However, the National Fire Protection Association said in a recent report that turkey fryers “are not suitable for acceptably safe use by even a well-informed and careful consumer.”

Dangers to using a turkey fryer may include oil spills that can seriously injure skin and fire-causing vapors if the temperature of the cooking oil exceeds 350 degrees.

Since turkey fryers are used outdoors at peak from Thanksgiving to the Christmas holidays, when the weather is commonly damp with snow or rain, the NFPA explains that exposing hot oils to cool precipitation may cause splattering of the oil.

Moving the fryer into a garage or covered area, may cause the consumer to be at risk to fire.

“I haven’t fried a turkey on my own,” said Curtis Summerville, who owns a turkey fryer. “There is so much heat involved that you could easily make a mistake, even if you know what you’re doing.”

Summerville is among many who believe that the growing popularity of fried turkey may come at more risks than it’s worth.

“I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy fried turkey. Who doesn’t?” Summerville said. “I’d rather have somebody else prepare though, instead of risk burning myself or my home.”

NFPA encourages people to find businesses that fry turkeys such as a grocery store, specialty food retailer or restaurant.

For consumers who want to fry their own turkeys, the Underwriters Laboratories suggests always using fryers outdoors and in a safe distance from buildings and other flammable objects. Fryers should always be on level surfaces and never left unattended. It is also important to thaw turkeys, since partially frozen turkeys may cause spillovers.