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Thankful and safe: Fire service urges caution while frying turkey

Photo by Michael Buckelew

Photo by Michael Buckelew

COVINGTON -- The Newton County Fire Service is urging residents to take heed and follow safety tips recommended by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission when it comes to frying turkeys for the holidays.

Newton County Fire Safety Educator Lt. Cydnie Taylor said over the years there have been several local incidents of accidents involving turkey fryers.

"A common cause of turkey-fryer accidents that have occurred were from filling the pot too full of oil, causing the oil to spill over when the turkey is placed in the pot," Taylor said. "Aside from creating a mess, oil spillovers at cooking temperatures have caused severe burns to the victim."

The CPSC suggests using the following method when trying to estimate the amount of oil needed to fry a turkey:

* Place turkey in a pot;

* Fill with water until the turkey is covered by about 1/2 inch of water;

* Remove and dry turkey;

* Mark water level in pot. Dump water, dry the pot and fill with oil to the marked level.

Taylor said the decision on the location of the cooking area is a critical one.

"Another common problem has been in the placement of the fryer during cooking," she said. "The fryer was placed on a deck or porch that when spillover occurred, the hot oil ignited the wood surface."

The following guidelines on where the turkey fryer is placed should be observed:

* Place fryer in an open area away from all walls, fences or other structures;

* Never use in a garage, breezeway, carport, porch or any structure that can catch fire.

Even if fire does not erupt, damage has been done to homes from the excessive heat from the fryer, such as melting of vinyl siding.

According to the CPSC, the majority of incidents reported nationally occurred while the oil was being heated, prior to adding the turkey. For this reason, it is important for the temperature of the oil to be monitored closely.

"If any smoke at all is noticed coming from a heating pot of oil, the burner should be turned off immediately because the oil is overheated," the CPSC states.

Also, it is important to thoroughly thaw and dry all meats, including chicken wings, before cooking in hot oil, as splashing of the oil may occur when contact is made with wet or frozen meat.

For turkeys, be sure to allow enough time to properly thaw before cooking begins. The USDA recommends thawing in the refrigerator 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of meat.

The following safety guidelines are also recommended:

* Watch the fryer at all times while the burner is on;

* Raise and lower food slowly to reduce splatter and avoid burns;

* Cover bare skin when adding or removing food;

* Check the oil temperature frequently;

* If oil begins to smoke, immediately turn off gas supply;

* If a fire occurs, immediately call 911. Do not attempt to extinguish fire with water;

* Make sure there is at least two feet of space between the propane tank and fryer burner; and

* Place the propane tank and fryer so that any wind blows the heat of the fryer away from the gas tank.