State Fire Marshal Urges Caution When Using Turkey Fryers for Holiday Meals Increased Fire Risk Outweighs Benefits of Cooking Appliance

Contact: Mario L. Morrow 517-373-9280
Agency: Licensing and Regulatory Affairs

November 23, 2009 - State Fire Marshal Ronald R. Farr today urged consumers to use extreme caution when preparing their holiday meals with a turkey fryer because of the dangers frequently associated with the devices. Tests have shown that the fryers have a high risk of tipping over, overheating, or spilling hot oil, leading to fires, burns, or other injuries.

"Deep-frying a turkey can be a dangerous endeavor due to the high number of house and garage fires reported each year attributed to this cooking method," said Farr. "Turkey fryers can be far too risky for consumers and extreme caution must be used."

The cooking method, which has become increasingly popular in recent years, requires placing the turkey in three gallons or more of oil, heated by propane. Some opt for frying, believing it delivers better taste and cuts down on cooking time. However, Underwriters Laboratories, Inc., an independent product safety-testing organization, says the increasing number of fires related to turkey fryers is a risk that outweighs the benefits of the appliance and due to multiple concerns has not certified any turkey fryer with the UL mark.

Farr said the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) discourages the use of outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers as the units currently available for home use pose a significant danger that hot oil will be released at some point during the cooking process.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says the majority of reported turkey fryer incidents occur while the oil is being heated. The units can easily tip over, spilling hot, scalding oil onto anyone or anything nearby. Since most units do not have automatic thermostat controls, oil may heat until it catches fire. The sides, lids, and handles get extremely hot and may cause burns.

"Unattended cooking is the primary cause of residential fires," said Farr. "By simply oven-roasting a turkey the traditional way, or ordering a fried turkey from a grocery store or caterer, who are experienced in deep frying food and use professional-grade frying equipment, consumers can reduce the chance for serious burns and injuries."

For those planning to use a turkey fryer anyway, use equipment that has been tested and approved by a recognized testing facility. Here are additional tips for safer use: 
  • Only use turkey fryers outdoors, away from any buildings, materials or anything flammable; keep it in full view. 
  • Never use turkey fryers on wooden decks, in garages, carports, or breezeways. 
  • Allow at least two feet of space between the liquid propane tank and the fryer burner. 
  • Use the fryers on a flat surface to avoid accidental tipping. 
  • Keep children and pets well away from the fryer when in use and for several hours after cooking. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot, hours after use. 
  • Read and follow the manufacturer's user guide. 
  • Carefully measure oil; do not overfill the fryer that can result in overflow and fire when the turkey is added. 
  • Use extreme caution placing the turkey in the hot oil; oil may spill onto the burner, creating a fire. 
  • Never leave the fryer unattended. Monitor the temperature closely; most units do not have thermostat controls. 
  • Cover bare skin and use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts; wear safety goggles to protect eyes from oil splatter.
  • Thaw the turkey completely before cooking -- allow approximately 24 hours for every five pounds of bird thawed - preferably thawed in the refrigerator. 
  • Be careful with marinades. Oil and water do not mix, and water causes oil to spill over, causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.
  • If oil begins to smoke, immediately turn gas supply OFF. 
  • Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby and use it, if the fire is manageable. 
  • Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. 
  • If the fire increases, immediately call 9-1-1 for help.

The Bureau of Fire Services wishes everyone a happy and safe holiday. Visit the Bureau of Fire Services website at more fire safety information.

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