November 6, 2003
Methodist Rehabilitation Center urges caution when using turkey fryers
By Susan Christensen
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—George Glenn set out to fry a turkey last holiday season and almost cooked his goose.
After flambéing his bare hand on the turkey fryer’s hot lid, Glenn flung the bird into the bubbling grease with a bit too much gusto. “It exploded like a cannon,” says the Rankin County resident. “Grease shot up and I got second-degree burns on my forearms and hands.”
Glenn doesn’t blame the fryer for his fowl misfortune. “You can’t idiot-proof the world,” he says.
But you can take steps to ensure your holiday menu doesn’t land you in the emergency room, says Lauren Fairburn, coordinator for Think First, Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s statewide safety and injury prevention program.
Her advice: Use extreme caution around turkey fryers.
“These fryers are very popular, but they also can be quite dangerous,” Fairburn said. “Underwriters Laboratories Inc. won’t even give any of these cookers its safety seal. The labs’ testing revealed too many risks.”
Among the labs’ concerns:
- The units can easily tip over spilling hot oil.
- Spillovers can hit the burner/flames, setting the whole unit on fire.
- Lack of thermostat controls means the units can overheat the oil to the point of combustion.
- The sides, lid and handles of the cooking pot get dangerously hot.
Given the risks, Fairburn says families might want to go back to cooking their turkey the old-fashioned way. But if you can’t forgo the taste of deep-fried turkey, she recommends heeding Underwriters Laboratories’ tips for safe turkey fryer use.
- Always use turkey fryers outdoors, keeping a safe distance from buildings and other materials that can burn.
- Never use turkey fryers on wooden decks or in garages.
- Use fryers on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
- Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostats and oil can continue to heat until it catches fire.
- Keep children and pets away from fryer during and after use. Oil can stay dangerously hot for hours after use.
- Do not overfill cooking pot.
- Use well-insulated potholders and oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. Safety goggles may also protect your eyes from oil splatters.
- Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Water can cause oil to spill over, leading to fires or even explosions.
- If any portion of the turkey fryer catches fire, do not attempt to extinguish. Get everyone away from the house or structures that are endangered and call 911 for help.