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Food and Drink

Watch: How not to deep fry a turkey

  • Author: Laurel Andrews
  • Updated: November 19, 2017
  • Published November 17, 2017

Planning to deep fry a turkey on Thanksgiving this year? Fort Wainwright firefighters in Fairbanks can show you exactly what not to do.

In a video demonstration Tuesday, Fort Wainwright Fire and Emergency Services drops a thawed turkey into a fryer with oil that is too hot, and filled too high — and the results are explosive.

"The focus behind the video was to do everything wrong, to get the most hazardous situation that could occur," said Jason Berry, assistant fire chief of prevention.

It's common for firefighters to be called for various types of cooking accidents, Berry said. Here's some insight into what "went wrong" in the video.

The demonstration used peanut oil, which is commonly used to fry a turkey. In this case, the oil was heated up to around 500 degrees, hotter than it should have been. That "represents people not paying attention to their fryer," Berry said.

Peanut oil has a smoking point of 450 degrees Fahrenheit. When the oil starts to smoke, it's more likely to combust, as it did in the video, Berry said.

(Some recipes recommend heating the oil to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, and then lowering the turkey in before heating the oil to 350 degrees to cook the bird.)

In the video, oil spills over the side of the fryer. That shows a situation where someone incorrectly measured the amount of oil needed, Berry said.

Some fryers have lines showing the fill line for oil, Berry said. Another way to make sure you've measured your oil correctly is to place your turkey in the fryer and fill it with water, just covering the turkey. Then, remove the turkey and mark the water level. That's how high the oil should be, Berry explained.

When it's cooking time, carefully lower the turkey into the fryer. Also, make sure the turkey is fully thawed. As anyone who has put water in hot oil knows, those two don't mix.

If possible, fry your turkey on flat, level ground, away from anything combustible — outside in a yard, not inside a garage or on a deck, Berry said.

"The last final tip would be, when done correctly, enjoy," Berry said.

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