Thursday, November 22, 2007

fried turkey

Deep fried turkey dangers

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Last updated on: 11/21/2007 5:49:33 PM by Jessica Stilwell

FORT MYERS: Do you like your turkey deep-fried? It's becoming a popular Thanksgiving tradition, but it can also be a real fire hazard. NBC2's Jessica Stilwell found out what can happen if you're not careful.

It's been a longtime favorite in the south. And now deep fried Thanksgiving turkeys are gaining popularity everywhere. But with that popularity, there are growing concerns we may be sacrificing safety for good taste.

"You've got an open flame under oil. It boils over, now you're putting oil and flame together end up with a big fire," said Captain A.J. Smith of the Fort Myers Fire Department.

That's why it's so important to keep the turkey frying outside and away from your house.

We all know oil and water don't mix. If the turkey isn't completely thawed and there is any ice inside, the oil will boil over when you drop the turkey in.

It will also bubble over if you put to much oil in the pot. With the pot itself being 400 degrees and the oil even hotter - if the pot were to tip, it could be disastrous.

We put a fryer on grass, just to show you how quickly that can also catch fire - in our extremely dry conditions if the oil were to spill over and hit the flames.

"It's not like dropping a match in a grass smolder fire, oil acts as an accelerant and spreads quickly," said Smith.

If that happens, the most important thing to remember - don't reach for the hose. The flames will only intensify. Instead, turn off the propane and use an all purpose fire extinguisher.

And remember, the oil stays extremely hot long after you take the turkey out for your Thanksgiving Day feast.

?2007 by NBC2 NEWS. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

Turkey fryers are very common around the Thanksgiving holiday, but improperly using them could turn a holiday celebration into a tragedy.

"It's very important to have them cleaned so they don't spark a fire," said Springfield Township Fire Chief Tim Karshner.


According the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there have been more than 75 incidents since 1998 reported to the commission that involve fires, flames or burns associated with turkey fryers.

For those unfamiliar with this alternative to a day spent cooking a turkey in an oven, the fryer is basically a large pot of heated cooking oil into which the bird is immersed. Those who like using the fryers favor the shorter cooking time often associated with them, as well as the different taste it provides.
The majority of reported fire incidents occurred when the oil was being heated, prior to adding the turkey. For this reason, it is very important consumers monitor the temperature of the oil closely.

Most fires happen because of improper preparation, said Karshner.

If any smoke is noticed coming from a heating pot of oil, the burner should be turned off immediately because the oil is overheated.

One other fear the Home Safety Council voices is the ease at which turkey fryers can be tipped over, spilling gallons of boiling oil.

And if the pot is overfilled with oil, the oil may spill out when the turkey is added, causing the oil to ignite and a fire to engulf the unit.

Units lacking thermostat controls also can overheat the oil to the point of combustion.

To avoid a disaster of any type, CPSC has some guidelines to follow:

Make sure there is at least 2 feet of space between the liquid propane tank that helps light the fryer burner and the burner itself.

Completely thaw and dry the turkey before cooking. Partially frozen turkeys can produce excessive hot oil splatter when added to the oil.

If oil begins to smoke, immediately turn off the gas supply.
Should something happen that results in a burn, the Home Safety Council has tips on how to treat one.

A minor burn injury should be immediately treated with cool running water for 3 to 5 minutes. Do not apply ice, which can harm the skin. Do not apply butter or lotions, because they can keep the skin temperature hot, increasing the injury. Apply a sterile bandage to the injured area.

If the burn is serious, seek medical attention immediately.

The L.A. Fire Department urges residents to 'think twice' about using a cooker at home, citing the potential for fires and burn injuries.
By John L. Mitchell, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 22, 2007
At Tasty Q Barbecue in Southwest Los Angeles, Thanksgiving is one of the busiest times of the year for deep-fried turkeys.

It is a specialty at the Crenshaw Boulevard eatery, and on Wednesday workers were preparing dozens of turkeys for cooking in a vat of boiling oil.

Southern tradition
"Here you buy and we fry, or you can buy one of ours," said Tasty Q worker Donna Morrison. "Is it dangerous? Sure, if you don't know what you are doing. Anything can be dangerous if you don't know what you're doing."

The Los Angeles Fire Department is so concerned about that potential for danger that it has issued a warning, urging people to "think twice" about deep-frying turkeys in their own home.

Under the heading "Your Turkey or Your Life," the Fire Department released an advisory and video on its website saying that the cookers used to prepare the popular Southern dish can be harmful.

"Deep-fat fryers are extremely dangerous because of the hot oil used to do the cooking," said Ron Myers, a Fire Department spokesman. "You can never recover from a hot oil burn. It melts the skin. A child or adult who is burned with hot oil will be disfigured for life -- or suffer a fatal injury."

Some fryers, he said, easily tip over, spilling the hot cooking oil, and other brands frequently overfill when the turkey is submerged in the oil. Any small amount of oil coming into contact with a burner can cause a fire. The sides, lid and pot handles get dangerously hot, and the fryers can overheat to the point of combustion, Myers said.

The Fire Department recommends that turkey fryers be used outdoors, on a solid, level surface a safe distance (at least 20 feet) from buildings and flammable materials. They should never be used in an enclosed space, on a wooden deck, under a patio or in a garage.

The turkey should always be completely thawed before cooking. In addition, the cooker should never be left unattended and a fire extinguisher should always be kept nearby. (Never use water to extinguish a grease fire.)

Underwriters Laboratories, the international company that tests products for public safety, offers its own words of concern:

"There is no turkey fryer that carries a UL mark on it," said John Drengenberg, the company's consumer affairs manager in North Brook, Ill. "The products have improved over the years, but they have not advanced to the point where we feel comfortable authorizing the use of our mark."

Ultimately, he said, the problem is that there are "gallons and gallons of boiling oil, and if it gets out of control it is difficult for the average consumer to control."

The National Fire Protection Assn., a nonprofit research and education organization dedicated to reducing fire hazards, discourages the use of outdoor, gas-fueled turkey fryers.

"They have a significant risk of burns and fire," said spokeswoman Lorraine Carli. "More cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving than on any other day of the year -- three times as many."

Despite his own warnings, Myers doesn't suggest that the deep-fried turkey be abandoned.

"I do it every year," he said. "The taste is fantastic. It's moist, not like eating a piece of bacon. No oil in it at all."

Myers compares deep-fry cooking to driving a race car at 170 mph: "If you are on the street it is very dangerous, but if you are on a racetrack and taking the proper precautions, it is perfectly safe."

For Leroy Ross, owner of Tasty Q, the Fire Department's advisory makes perfect sense -- in terms of safety and his own economics.

"I wouldn't advise just anybody to go and do it," said Ross, who has been in the barbecue business for more than a dozen years. "That's what we do."
SEGUIN ― Home for the holiday today with friends and family?

Cooking a turkey?

Just remember, not to put a damper on things, that today you're three times more likely to have a residential fire than on almost any other day of the year ― and it's most likely to start in your kitchen.

Seguin Fire Chief Scott MyCue and Fire Marshal John Sheppard on Tuesday said a little attention to holiday fire safety would help ensure that folks get through Thanksgiving, Christmas and the other winter holidays without tragedy.

"The National Fire Prevention Association says each holiday season, 2,600 individuals are injured because of fires," MyCue said. "According to NFPA in 2005, over 1,300 structure fires were reported on Thanksgiving Day. That's almost three times the daily average."

MyCue said many of the blazes are accidentally caused in the kitchen as a result of some of the heaviest cooking that goes on in most households of any other day of year.

"We would like to remind people it's easy to get caught up in entertaining family and guests, but they need to monitor their cooking," MyCue said. "Don't ever leave food cooking unattended. Always stay in the kitchen while grilling, frying or roasting food. If you have to leave for even a minute to go to the store, turn your burners and your oven off. Use a timer, if you need to, to remind yourself to check your food regularly."

Sheppard said to be sure, before getting into intensive holiday cooking, that your kitchen is prepared to include a clean oven because dirty ovens present fire hazards all their own.

"In the event of an emergency, we remind people never, ever throw water on a grease or fry oil fire," Sheppard said.

"The best thing to do is have a lid that fits the pan within easy reach," Sheppard said. "If a fire starts, set the lid on the pan and it will smother it. Likewise, if a fire starts in your oven, don't open the door. You just risk badly burning yourself and you provide oxygen to fuel the fire. Leave the door closed, turn the appliance off and call the fire department immediately. That stove is designed to contain the fire, and it will ― if you don't open the door."

In the unlikely case of a fire in a microwave oven, Sheppard said the same advice applies: leave it closed, unplug the appliance if possible and call the fire department.

A microwave oven, Sheppard said, is a major source of scaldings and burns because of the way it cooks. While a dish food has been microwaved in might not be hot to the touch, the food itself can be very hot ― particularly the steam off of it if it was wrapped in plastic to cook.

"Remember, food that comes out of the microwave can be very hot," Sheppard said. "If you stick your finger in it, it's going to burn you and you could drop it."

Make sure the kitchen is arranged so towels, mitts and pot holders are all kept at least three feet from the stove top unless in use, and that curtains or similar items cannot be blown toward a cooktop or other heat source, such as a hot plate or buffet pan. Remember also, Sheppard said, to wear sensible clothing when cooking rather than loose, airy items like robes or dresses that can catch on pot or oven handles or easily catch fire.

Make sure also, Sheppard said, never to use an oven mitt that has become wet because the heat of a roasting pan will instantly turn the water in the mitt into steam, scalding your hand inside.

Always turn pot handles around toward the side or back of the range and don't leave them hanging out over the front where you can bump into them and spill what you're cooking ― or a small child can pull a pot of boiling food or water off the stove top and maybe onto him or herself.

"It's best to create a kid-safe zone of at least three feet from any cooking area or better still make a busy kitchen off-limits to children or toddlers," Sheppard said. "And never, ever hold a baby while you're working at the stove."

Frying turkey

Anyone who's ever eaten one knows why folks love to deep-fry Thanksgiving turkeys. While offering what many consider big benefits in cooking time, convenience, moisture and taste, Sheppard said deep-frying is not to be taken lightly. Improperly set up or monitored while cooking, a turkey fryer can become a very dangerous appliance. Very carefully read the instructions that come with your fryer and very carefully follow them, Sheppard said.

"Texans, especially South Texans, enjoy their fried turkey during the upcoming season," Sheppard said. "We would like to remind people that these turkey fryers are gas-fueled and designed to be used outside. Because of the flames and the volume of hot oil it takes to fry a turkey, extreme care should be used."

Just like it's a good idea to have at least one fire extinguisher in the kitchen, it's a good idea to have one nearby outdoors when frying a turkey ― and be sure it's one rated to handle a grease fire. Keep plenty of heavy pot holders nearby and wear heavy, long-sleeved clothing for protection.

Make sure arrangements have been made so children or pets will not be able to get near the fryer. It will take 20 minutes or half an hour to heat the oil to the 350 degrees required for deep-frying. Never let a burning turkey fryer out of sight of a sober, responsible adult for even a moment, Sheppard said. Also, never leave hot oil unattended in a turkey fryer, and be sure to let the oil cool completely after cooking before filtering and storing or discarding. Also, for food safety, he said, be sure the turkey itself ― or what's left of it ― ends up in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking.

A common turkey fryer mistake, Sheppard said, is placing the burner too close to the house or other items that can catch fire ― similar to what can happen if a barbecue or smoker is placed too close to the house, say on a small patio, deck or balcony. A turkey fryer should be used out in the open and well away from landscaping. It should be placed on dirt or on grass and not on a wood deck or even on concrete, unless you're not opposed to grease stains.

Frying a turkey is a little different than roasting one, Sheppard said.

"We don't recommend that you stuff a fried turkey," Sheppard said. "It just doesn't work."

Another common turkey fryer mistake ― one that often has catastrophic results ― is putting too much oil in the kettle. Sheppard said a good way to prevent this is to make a test run with the turkey ― which is especially easy if you do it before you thaw the bird. Simply put it in the kettle in its plastic packaging, and then, using a measuring pitcher or gallon jug, cover the turkey with cold water, pull the turkey out and measure the amount needed to cover it. Pay special attention to the manufacturer's instructions about how much oil to use, he added. Most recommend using enough to submerge the turkey under two inches of oil ― often between three and five gallons.

"As a general rule, whatever size the cooker kettle is, if you're having to fill it more than halfway up with oil you either need a bigger cooker or a smaller turkey," Sheppard said.

A turkey should be completely thawed, rinsed and patted dry inside and out. Putting a wet turkey in 350-degree boiling oil is just like throwing cold water on a grease fire, Sheppard said. The results can be devastating ― including very serious burns to anyone in the immediate area. A turkey should be in a fry basket designed to fit the kettle or on a turkey hook designed to both support it off the bottom of the pot and provide a handle for carefully ― and slowly ― setting it in the oil or pulling it out.

A common rookie mistake, Sheppard said, is overcooking a fried turkey.

Generally, Sheppard said, it is recommended that a thawed turkey be fried three to four minutes per pound or until a meat thermometer shows the temperature is 180 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh or 170 degrees in the center of the breast.

It'll be mighty appealing, but resist the urge to tear right into that turkey, Sheppard said.

"Take it out and let it sit awhile," Sheppard said. "That bird


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