7 Safety Tips for Deep-Frying a Turkey

The National Fire Protection Association reports that over the Thanksgiving season, fire departments respond to an average of 1,000 turkey frying incidents. These accidents also cause about $15 million of property damage each year. Besides having a stellar home insurance plan, it’s important to know the other preventative measures to take before, during, and after frying up this famous Thanksgiving fowl. Here are some tips for deep frying your turkey so that you don’t have to make an emergency call to your fire department or your home insurance agent.

What Do I Need to Know Before Frying a Turkey?

We know the thought of a crispy, moist, deep-fried turkey can be exciting, but there are a few steps you need to take before you even think of firing up that deep fryer.

1. Thaw your turkey COMPLETELY.

This is a safety tip that is incredibly vital and incredibly overlooked by Thanksgiving turkey fryers far and wide. If your turkey isn’t thawed completely before you place it in the fryer, the excess, frozen moisture that’s trapped in the turkey will melt and combine with the hot oil. And as we all know, oil and water don’t mix. So now, the water from the bird will drop to the bottom of the pot, push up the hot oil, and cause all the liquid to boil over onto your setup.

Even if this doesn’t happen, if you put your turkey into the fryer before it’s thawed all the way, it can be difficult to tell when it’s thoroughly cooked – which is probably the best way to give your guests food poisoning.

Unfortunately, if you’re looking up how to thaw your turkey on Thanksgiving Day, you may already be late to the party. Thawing a turkey by conventional “quick” methods the day of Thanksgiving, such as in hot water, in the microwave, or at room temperature, can again, be a quick way to make your guests sick.

The best ways to thaw your turkey are by leaving it in your refrigerator a few days prior or placing it in cold water. If you use the cold water method, you must make sure you change the water any time it gets warmer than 40˚F. There are also USDA recommended thawing times for your turkey by weight:

Turkey Weight

Refrigerator Thawing Time

Cold Water Thawing Time

< 12 lbs

1-3 days 2-6 hours

12 – 16 lbs

3-4 days

6-8 hours

16 – 20 lbs

4-5 days

8-10 hours

20-24 lbs (though it isn’t recommended that you deep fry a turkey this size anyway.) 5-6 days

10-12 hours

Cold water is usually recommended as a thawing last resort if you haven’t had the time, space, or memory to start thawing your turkey a few days in advance. Still, these will be the safest thawing methods, whether you’re throwing your bird in an oven or a deep fryer.

2. Pick out a safe, open, non-flammable area.

Fry your turkey outside and away from your house. Also note that “away from your house” does not mean in a garage, on your patio, or in a shed – even with a door open. You should also take care not to form a frying station near any wood piles or trees.

Think about it: There are at least 3 gallons of hot oil that will go into a pot to get the perfect crisp and moist turkey. If there are any surrounding flammable materials, you’ve got the perfect kindling for a grease fire should anything boil over.

If you’re in an apartment or condo complex, and you’re dead set on having a fried turkey at your Thanksgiving dinner, it’s probably best to either find another method of cooking your turkey or find another frying venue entirely.

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3. Make sure your frying surface is level.

Once you’ve made sure the frying coast is clear, make sure the ground or surface you’re frying on is level. The last thing you want when you drop a hefty bird into an oil-weighted pan is for the entire setup to topple over and catch the surrounding area (and possibly spectators) on fire. Everything will be too hot to try and salvage, and your only solace will be an extinguisher and your fire department.

4. Make sure you have everything you need before you fry.

It’s vital that you never leave a live fryer unattended, so make sure you have everything you need in one place before you put the turkey in the fryer. This includes a fire extinguisher and protective gear (i.e. goggles, gloves, and an apron).

Even if you’re exceedingly cautious, the bird needs to fry at an extremely high heat. Your protective gear will then be vital for protecting your skin and eyes from the inevitable bubbling and splashback which can cause some nasty burns.

Additionally, your fire department will usually be on standby for Thanksgiving, but there’s going to be a bit of travel time between your local fire station and your house. So, a fire extinguisher will be a literal life-saver if anything does go wrong.

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What Should I Do While Frying A Turkey?

Again, don’t leave a frying turkey unattended! As much risk as there is for you when frying a turkey, those risks are at least doubled when absolutely no one is watching a boiling hot pot of oil. There are also a few more tips to keep in mind:

5. Keep bystanders to a minimum.

Yes, it can be cool to watch flames shoot up around your Thanksgiving dinner. However, the more people around the pot, the more potential there is for someone to get hurt. You should probably have a just-in-case spotter around, but make sure they’re within a safe distance from the pot when you lower the turkey in. Other than that, tell your family members and loved ones to back up and just enjoy the feast when it’s finished. And make sure to keep your pets safe this Thanksgiving by keeping them away from the fryer.

6. Don’t overfill your oil.

This is almost as important as not frying a frozen fowl. You may be tempted to fill your frying pot to the brim to make sure the entire bird is submerged. However, it’s important to remember that liquids are displaced (or pushed around the object) by placing solids in them. The easiest way to make sure the oil will be at a safe level, do a test run with water.

Place your turkey in your empty pot, fill the pot with water, then take the bird out and make note of where the new water line is. Your oil should be filled no higher than that line. (In fact, you may want to fill it a little lower.)

7. Put your turkey in slowly.

If you’ve ever held a raw turkey, you know that it can be a little slippery. This can be especially true when you’re wearing gloves and you don’t have the traction of your hands to more firmly grip the turkey legs. That’s why you should do a few test-runs lifting and lowering your turkey with gloves on, either above your kitchen counter or into the empty pot itself.

8. Use a thermometer.

The time is finally here! You get to fry your turkey! Make sure the temperature of the oil is hot enough to fry before you lower the bird into the pot. Use a meat thermometer throughout the cooking process to make sure the internal temperature of the turkey is at least 165˚F. Also, make sure that the oil doesn’t get too hot or too cold so that you don’t over or undercook your dinner.

Though the finished product is tasty, you have to be very careful when deep frying a turkey.

What Are the Alternatives to Deep Frying a Turkey?

These are only the tips you need for deep frying a turkey the old-fashioned way. But technology is amazing! You have the option to air-fry or bake your turkey for your Thanksgiving feast. (You can even set the oven to broil after the entire bird is cooked for a nice, crisp skin.) These options pose a lot less risk and are usually a much healthier alternative to sinking a turkey in oil.

If you are still determined to fry your turkey hopefully these tips will properly prepare you to keep your Thanksgiving dinner a lot more safely. If all else fails, don’t be afraid to call 911.

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If you’re looking for a lower rate on your insurance this season, or you’d like cheaper rates on additional coverage to protect your home from any holiday mishaps, call our insurance professionals or fill out our online form. We’ll get you multiple quotes on the plans you need, break down exactly how you can save on your coverage, and give you one more thing to be thankful for!