Safety Tips for Deep Frying Turkey

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Yes, deep frying turkey is popular, but it can be a dangerous alternative to a traditionally roasted bird. Unless you’re careful, you could end up causing a massive house fire instead of making Thanksgiving dinner. There are even some situations when deep frying turkey is never safe. If you learn how to safely cook your bird, you can enjoy the succulent, moist, flavorful meat that results.

Be Prepared

Deep frying turkey can turn disasterous if you're not prepared


Always be ready in the event of a fire. Whenever you have large amounts of hot oil and heat in the same place, fire can happen. Have a fire extinguisher within easy reach (not inside the house) of your fryer. Never try to put out a grease or oil fire with water. If you don’t have a fire extinguisher, buy one.

Select a Site

Keep the fryer on a flat and nonflammable surface


The site you select for deep frying turkey needs to be on a thick, heat-proof, non-flammable material. A large concrete driveway will work well. Sweep away any leaves or sticks from the area to keep stray sparks from catching those on fire. Double check that your surface is level because you’re more likely to spill the fryer if it sits at an angle.

Have Everything Ready

Deep frying turkey requires keeping an eye on the temperature of the oil and the bird

Photo: Flickr/Joe

Gather all your supplies before cooking. You’ll need an oil thermometer, a meat thermometer, a turkey fryer, five gallons of peanut oil, oven mitts, goggles, and an apron. Ideally, you’ll want to wear something with long, non-flammable sleeves to protect your arms from splashing oil. To reduce the amount of oil movement, ensure the turkey has completely thawed before frying it. Any ice still in the bird will explode when it hits the hot oil. Don’t use anything other than peanut oil. This traditional deep frying turkey oil has a high smoke point, so it’s safer to use at higher temperatures than olive oil or something else that has a lower smoke point. Always check that the pop-up thermometer in the turkey and anything in the cavity are removed before frying. Never deep fry a stuffed turkey.

Watch the Temperature

Take the temperature of the meat before eating it


Though deep frying turkey takes much less time than roasting, it still requires care. Use your oil thermometer to maintain a temperature of 350℉. You’ll have to wait for the oil to return to this temperature after inserting the turkey then begin timing the bird. Generally, the rule of thumb for timing a deep-fried turkey is 3.5 minutes per pound. When the time ends, carefully remove the turkey and check the meat temperature with a thermometer in the thickest part of the dark and white meat, not touching a bone. Dark meat should register between 175℉ and 180℉, while white meat can be between 165℉ and 170℉. Don’t undercook the turkey unless you want to risk illness.