How not to fry a turkey for Thanksgiving
Ah, Thanksgiving. It’s one of those holidays where we indulge ourselves with food, often by way of a multitude of side dishes and usually accompanied by a turkey. Some folks of course opt to stray from the traditional roasted bird and go the route of deep frying. And that’s a decision that all too often results in accidents for those who aren’t accustomed to frying a turkey in…well…the proper way. It also results in YouTube videos.
Science and tech blog io9 collected this video list of The Best Turkey Frying Disasters on the Internet to remind such people what not to do should they choose to deep fry their turkey this Thanksgiving. [Language warning for some of the videos].
“It’s gonna be delicious now.”
In all seriousness though, safety is of some concern. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that since 2003, “there have been more than 125 turkey fryer-related fires, burns, explosions, smoke inhalations, or laceration incidents reported to CPSC staff,” and likely many more that were never reported. (Let’s be honest, if you did some of the things like those in the above videos, would you report it unless you had to?) Those numbers don’t necessarily warrant some of the over the top warnings out there, especially given that tons of people fry their turkeys each year without incident. But incidents are simply so easily avoidable. Texas and Illinois lead the way in Thanksgiving Day grease- and cooking-related insurance claims, by the way, reports the National Journal.
State Farm this year features some of the guys from Duck Dynasty in its “Hang On A Minute” spot for turkey fryer safety. In 2011, it was Star Trek star William Shatner dishing out the company’s safety advice.
But if you really want to know how to do turkey frying the right way, who else than Alton Brown to show you.
So, in short, be safe and enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday. Try not to end up on YouTube in one of those videos.
(Featured image credit: YouTube video)
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Being from Texas and a turkey fryer, some thoughts:
1. Do this outside
2. I prefer the fryer with a basket, rather than the pole through the bird. Remember old school percolators…do that with 375 degree oil, you get the picture.
3. I prefer cooking breast versus the whole bird. It is more difficult (and not advised) to cook the breast on one of the pole style cookers.
4. With the basket, drill some holes in the transition radius from the bottom to the sides – this allows more oil to drain when you tilt the basket.
5. Prior to doing pretty much of anything, put the frozen bird in the basket and into the pot. Just cover the bird with water. Remove the bird and basket – you now have the approximate level of oil needed to start.
6. From above, remember the oil will expand with heat. Make sure you have enough freeboard.
7. Make sure the bird is thawed
8. Make sure the bird is dry
9. Try not to fry in the rain – it is possible, but sporting
10. Make sure the plastic package of turkey bits is removed. That plastic is good to about 400 degrees.
11. ASIDE – one of the only things that surprised me about selling into the poultry processing industry – the bits maybe from another bird. Everything gets separated, and the appropriate quantity of stuff comes back. Not necessarily factory original. I still do not know why that surprised me….
12. Make sure the little pop up turkey “doneness” deal is removed
13. Regardless it will splatter, put down cardboard or other “catches” beforehand
14. I typically use a set of Channel Lock pliers to grab the wire loop of the basket when cooking. This keeps the hands a little bit further away.
15. The plastic on Channel Lock handles is good to about 400 degrees
16. The temperature of the oil will drop when the bird is sunk. Bring it back to you range and maintain. Temperature maintenance is the key and challenge.
17. Use an instant read thermometer to determine “doneness”
18. that since 2003, “there have been more than 125 turkey fryer-related fires, burns, explosions, smoke inhalations, or laceration incidents reported to CPSC staff,” – why do we have such concern on an average of 12.5 incidents per year?
I left Texas before the whole frying turkey fad hit, but I’ve gone home to a few of these events. I think the engineering aspects of the whole thing are the secret to its appeal. You have to think about it, assemble all kinds of tools appropriate to automotive work, and stay outside. It’s tailor-made for the men in the family.
I like the taste of fried turkey, but my brother’s low-temperature slow-cooked chicken the is best stuff I’ve ever eaten, and I’m glad he’s willing to get up really early to start the fire.
The number 125 is deceptively low, I am sure. But all you need is three chuckleheads and a frozen bird, and you could have a death, so I’m all for the ads.
Went to a nephew’s house for Thanksgiving, a military recruiter and avid hunter and fisherman. He deep fried the turkey with no problems, perfect turkey, but he had another fryer going – a twelve pound roast of bear meat, which was awesome. Didn’t expect that going in, but new tradition set in our family!