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Firefighters demonstrate the dangers of deep-frying a turkey

Videos offer as useful tips firefighters can share with their communities just in time for Thanksgiving


Photo/Johnston-Grimes Metropolitan Fire Department

The risk of cooking accidents often increases during the holiday season, and several fire departments have demonstrated the common mistakes and catastrophic results that can come from deep frying a turkey.

Community awareness about the do’s and don’ts of cooking during the holidays can play a part in preventing fires and injuries, and social media is a useful tool for spreading this safety message. Here are five fire departments that demonstrated the mishaps to avoid on Thanksgiving this year; be sure to share these videos and consider how you can spread awareness to your community.

Read next: How to put out a grease fire.

1. Savannah (Ga.) Fire Department

Firefighters with the Savannah Fire Department in Georgia demonstrated the importance of using a completely thawed turkey when deep frying, or dinner guests may get a meal that’s too crispy.

2. Columbia County (Ga.) Fire Rescue

In a demonstration video, Fire Chief Danny Kuhlmann reported that there have been over 2,400 fires from deep fried turkeys in the last two years nationwide that have caused more than $19 million in property damage, as well as more than 35,000 burn injuries.

"[Deep frying] is a very dangerous thing to do with a turkey, so you have to do it the proper way,” the chief said. He outlined the steps individuals should take to correctly deep fry a turkey:

1. Ensure the fryer is situated on a sturdy, level surface, ideally on asphalt or concrete.

2. Keep a fire extinguisher handy.

3. Make sure the turkey is completely thawed.

3. Place the turkey in an empty fryer and then add enough oil to cover the top of the bird, and then remove the turkey to allow the oil to heat up to 350 degrees.

4. Once the oil is hot, lower the turkey back in to the fryer, which should lower the temperature of the oil. Cook time should be three and a half minutes for each pound. Temperature should remain between 300-325 degrees.

And, of course, the video also demonstrates how not to deep fry a turkey.

3. Palm Beach County (Fla.) Fire Rescue

Palm Beach County Fire Rescue demonstrated how hot the oil in a turkey fryer can get, and how quickly things can get out of control, with its video using thermal imaging.

“See that RED glow? That’s a turkey fryer with SCALDING hot oil filled dangerously high. It’s over 300 degrees Fahrenheit! This infrared camera footage shows how easily you can get BURNED,” the department wrote on Instagram. “For your SAFETY, fully defrost & dry the turkey, fill to proper oil level, wear closed toed-shoes, pants & long flame-retardant gloves. Use outside at least 10 ft. away from the home. WATCH it while it’s HOT. Keep KIDS and PETS AWAY.”

4. Phoenix (Ariz.) Fire Department

This slow-motion video on Instagram from the Phoenix Fire Department shows how an overfilled turkey fryer can quickly overflow, and the tower of flame that can result from overheating oil. The department reminded Turkey Day revelers to make sure they use the appropriate amount of oil, use a thermometer to ensure proper cooking temperature, and properly thaw and dry a turkey before frying.

5. Franklin (Tenn.) Fire Department

The Franklin Fire Department put out a comprehensive video on YouTube not only addressing the common mistakes made while frying turkeys, but also how to extinguish a grease fire if one does occur. Firefighters also demonstrate how placing a partially-frozen turkey into a fryer causes the ice to turn to steam and expand, causing oil to boil over.

6. Johnston-Grimes (Iowa) Metropolitan Fire Department

The Johnston-Grimes Fire Department showed the dangers of injuring oneself while improperly frying a turkey, with a manikin standing by as a frozen turkey is dropped into a fryer. Firefighters show how the manikin’s clothes was burned off by the resulting flames.

“Placing a frozen turkey into hot grease can cause fire and serious injuries,” the department wrote on Facebook. “Please DO NOT try this at home!”

7. Knox County (Tenn.) Fire Prevention Bureau

Knox County firefighters and Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs demonstrated the do’s and dont’s of preparing a deep-fried Thanksgiving feast without starting a fire, including placing the fryer on a steady surface away from kids, pets and structures, monitoring the oil’s temperature using a thermometer and, of course, properly thawing a turkey before placing it in the fryer. The video also demonstrates a helpful method for determining how much oil you should use to make sure the fryer doesn’t overflow. Knox County’s tweet points out that Thanksgiving is a peak day for home cooking fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

This article, originally published in November 2020, has been updated.

Laura French is a former editorial assistant for FireRescue1 and EMS1, responsible for curating breaking news and other stories that impact first responders. In a prior role at Forensic Magazine, French was able to combine her interests in journalism, forensics and criminology. French has a bachelor’s degree in communications/journalism with a minor in criminology from Ramapo College in New Jersey.