For all that it is, Thanksgiving - a true American holiday, a time for family, friends and football - it is also a day to be careful.
Thanksgiving Day is the leading day for home cooking fires. In fact, three times as many fires occurring on Thanksgiving than on any other day of the year.
Michigan State Fire Marshal Richard Miller encourages safety when using turkey fryers, especially outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers that immerse the turkey in hot oil.
New and safer oil-less fryers are now available.
"Deep-frying a turkey for Thanksgiving has recently become more popular but it is dangerous if not done properly," Miller said in a statement. "Consumers who choose to use turkey fryers need to know the risk of fire, devastating burns and destruction of property."
According to the National Fire Protection Association, turkey fryers that use oil, as currently designed, are not suitable for acceptably safe use by even well-informed and careful consumers.
"Never use a turkey fryer indoors, in the garage or on a covered patio because of the fire hazard. Use it only outdoors because deep frying a turkey in several gallons of hot oil over 350 degrees," said Miller.
Miller explained that most turkey fryer incidents occur while the oil is being heated. The units can easily tip over, spilling hot, scalding oil onto anyone or anything nearby, leading to fires, burns or other injuries.
Since most units do not have automatic thermostat controls, oil may heat until it catches fire. The sides, lids, and handles get extremely hot and may cause burns.
"Cook a turkey the traditional way in an oven. But if consumers prefer turkey fryers, they should consider switching to the newer units available, the oil-less electric or infrared models that are much safer provided that instructions are followed carefully."
Safety tips for turkey fryers include:
- Read and follow the manufacturer's user guide.
- Completely thaw the turkey, remove any wrapping and discard the neck and giblets.
- Do not overfill the fryer with oil. Before dumping a few gallons of oil into the fryer, first try it out with water. Place the turkey inside and then fill it with water until the bird is submerged. Remove it and then mark the water line on the fryer so you will know how much oil should be put in the fryer.
- Never leave the fryer unattended.
- Only use the oil recommended by the manufacturer. Do not use cheaper or different types of oil because they have different ignition temperatures.
- Allow at least two feet of space between the liquid propane tank and the fryer burner.
- Keep children and pets well away from the fryer as the oil inside the cooking pot is dangerously hot and remains hot hours after use.
- Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts; wear safety goggles to protect eyes from oil splatter.
- Be careful with marinades. Oil and water do not mix and water causes oil to spill over, causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.
- If oil begins to smoke, immediately turn the gas supply OFF.
- Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby and use it if the fire is manageable.
- Never use water to extinguish a grease fire.
Thanksgiving Day also brings an increased risk of fire with stovetops and ovens working overtime. Inexperienced or busy cooks can become distracted trying to prepare several dishes while entertaining family and friends. Cooking fires can easily be prevented by following a few simple precautions:
- Start the holiday cooking with a clean stove and oven. Remove food and grease buildup from burners, stovetop, and oven.
- Stay in the kitchen when cooking so you can keep an eye on the food.
- Stay in the home when cooking turkey, set a timer, and check on it frequently.
- Keep children away from the stove. Preferably use the back burners.
- Use caution with hot foods and liquids as the steam or splash from vegetables, gravy or coffee could cause serious burns.
- Do keep a flame-resistant oven mitt, potholder or lid nearby to smother any flames.
- Don't wear clothing with loose-fitting sleeves that can catch fire or dangling jewelry that can snag on pot handles causing spills leading to severe scalds and burns.
- For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
- Have working smoke alarms in the home and have an escape plan that the entire family knows if there is a fire.
"Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby and know how to use it, whether you're in the kitchen cooking or outside using a turkey fryer," said Miller. "Above all, don't try and fight a fire yourself. Immediately call 9-1-1 in such emergencies."