With the holidays approaching, are you looking for the perfect recipe to make a delicious turkey for your family? Maybe you have heard all the hype about how amazing a deep-fried turkey tastes and you’re thinking about giving it try. But before you get started, there are some safety precautions to think about.

Let’s set the scene here. You find the perfect recipe for a deep-fried turkey. You follow the directions to season it. The oil is heated and you go to lower the turkey into the deep fryer… Now, if you’ve ever seen videos online of deep-frying a turkey gone wrong then you know this is typically when a burst of flame or an explosion happens. To avoid that kind of experience, here are some safety tips to prevent a disaster when deep-frying a turkey.

1)   Location

Outdoor Deep Fryer

When using an outdoor deep fryer, the location is important because you may be using a propane tank and will be cooking with very hot oil that could spill over and start a fire. Find a flat, open area outside, away from trees or other structures. It might be cold outside and if the thought crosses your mind to just set up the deep fryer on your deck or in your garage with the garage door open… Do not do that! As tempting as it may be, it’s very dangerous. So, go ahead and plan to bundle up because you will also need to stay right there with the deep fryer the entire time you’re cooking. Never leave the deep fryer unattended and have a fire extinguisher with you just in case.  *Remember – you never want to attempt to put an oil fire out with water.

2)   The Fill Line

One of the biggest dangers behind deep-frying a turkey is the risk of hot oil spilling over, which could result in burns from oil splatter, start a fire or even cause an explosion. If there is too much oil in the fryer, you are at risk of the oil spilling over.

How do you know how much oil to put in? Great question! Since each turkey is a different size, it can be hard to tell how much oil you need. It’s recommended you take these steps to get a measurement for how much oil you need before you get started frying:1

You might be wondering, why do the steps above? Why not just put the turkey in and fill the fryer with oil? Well, the oil needs to be put in first and heated to 350 Fahrenheit before putting the turkey in.2 You need to have the accurate measurement of how much oil you need, because guessing can result in an overflow and be dangerous.

3)   Thawing the Turkey

Letting your turkey thaw completely before deep-frying is another key step in deep-frying it safely. If your turkey is not completely thawed, there could still be some ice or moisture on it. Water and hot oil are not friends! When water hits hot oil, it quickly expands and the pressure can cause hot oil to splatter out or even result in an explosion.2 To avoid that, just thaw your turkey completely and pat it dry inside and out.

4)   Cooking Temperature

Holiday Gathering

While most of these tips have been focused on fire safety, this one is going to be looking at food safety. As your table is set with a feast for your family, you certainly don’t want to cut into that delicious turkey to find that some of it seems to be undercooked. While the outside might be a lovely golden brown, the inside might not be done yet. An undercooked turkey can result in salmonella and that’s something no one would be thankful for at your Thanksgiving dinner.

You will need to deep-fry your turkey 3-5 minutes per pound.2 For example: If you have a 12-pound turkey, you would need to cook it for 36-60 minutes from the time you place it into the hot oil.

To make sure the inside of your turkey is cooked, remove the turkey and use a food thermometer to check the inside temperature of the meat. Insert the thermometer into the center of the turkey where the thickest meat is located. If the internal temperature is below 165 Fahrenheit, place the turkey back into the deep fryer and continue cooking.2

5)   Lowering & Removing

Deep Frying a Turkey

It’s very important to use caution when lowering and removing the turkey into and out of the deep fryer. The turkey needs to be carefully placed on a turkey fryer hook stand. The stand goes through the bottom of the turkey and out through the top, as seen in the diagram above. The deep-fryer hanger is used when lowering or removing the turkey. This is not a hanger like you would find in your closet. This is a strong, thick metal hanger designed to lower and lift heavy food when deep-frying. You will also want to wear heat resistant gloves made for working with a deep fryer and make sure you wear clothing and shoes that cover as much skin as possible in case of hot oil splatter.

If the idea of deep-frying a turkey outside with a propane tank and a deep fryer makes you nervous, we understand; it makes us nervous, too. Maybe you might want to consider a couple of alternatives that may be a little safer. Did you know that you can use an electronic indoor deep fryer? You sure can! While an indoor deep fryer is not going to fit a massive turkey, it can still deep-fry a small turkey. It takes the same amount of time per pound to cook, so if you needed to cook a couple of them, it’s not going to take any longer. Remember that safety tips 2-4 still apply!

Still feeling nervous with all the hot oil talk? You can eliminate the hot oil all together and air fry your turkey in an air fryer!

If you choose to deep-fry your turkey this year for your holiday dinner, please remember these safety tips and do some extensive research on how to deep-fry a turkey, as this is not a step by step guide. Be safe and enjoy your holiday dinner with your family!

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1 “Safety Bulletin - Deep Fat Frying Your Turkey.” Safety Bulletin - Deep Fat Frying Your Turkey. Accessed October 24, 2019. https://www.auroragov.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_1881137/File/Residents/Public Safety/Fire/Fire Safety Tips/002290.pdf.
2“Food Safety Information.” Food Safety Information, March 2012. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/65f762d0-e4d0-4278-b5cb-2836854a3eda/Deep_Fat_Frying.pdf?MOD=AJPERES.