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Deep Frying Your Turkey? Do It Safely, or Not At All

Here's some cooking safety tips and ways to avoid a Thanksgiving fire from the Mill Valley Fire Department - which highly discourages deep frying your turkey.

As delicious as it is sounds, immersing your bird in hot oil in an outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryer is discouraged by the Mill Valley Fire Department.

"The use of turkey fryers by consumers can lead to devastating burns, other injuries and the destruction of property," the Fire Department said in a press release.

Instead, fried turkey enthusiasts should seek out professional establishments like grocery stores, specialty food retailers, and restaurants. Or, if you really want to do it yourself, consider a new type of "oil-less" turkey fryer.

The outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers use a substantial quantity of cooking oil at high temperatures, and the chance of some of that oil being released while you're cooking is pretty high, the department said.

Consider yourself educated: 

  • Hot oil may splash or spill when the turkey is placed in the fryer or removed, or when the turkey is moved from the fryer to the table, resulting in serious injury or damage.
  • Fryers can tip over. Those designed for outdoor use that come with a stand are particularly risky. The newer counter top units seem to be more sturdy. 
  • The vapors can ignite. The deep-frying oil is heated to temperatures of 350 degrees or more. Cooking oil is combustible, and if heated beyond it's cooking temperature vapors can ignite. Temperature controls, which shut off the fryer if the oil overheats, can be defective or nonexistent. 
  • Don't move the fryer inside. Propane-fired turkey fryers are designed for outdoor use. If the hot cooking oil is exposed to rain or snow it can cause splattering or the conversion of the precipitation to snow or steam, which can cause burns. But bringing it indoors may lead to a fire, even in a garage or barn, or under eaves. 
  • Defrost your turkey. With approximately five gallons of oil in the fryer, not to mention the size and weight of your turkey, cooking a bird that's not fully thawed can increase the risk of hot oil splattering, like on a rainy day. 

Click here for additional information regarding cooking safety. If you have any questions regarding disaster preparation, first aid and city services, please call the Mill Valley Fire Department at 415-389-4130.

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