The turkey is the star of most Thanksgiving tables, and firefighters in Mississippi are warning of the potential dangers of deep-frying your bird.
Ahead of Thanksgiving, firefighters at Gulfport Fire Department demonstrated the safety risks of deep-frying a turkey, which is the method of cooking the bird by dropping it into hot oil.
The footage, published by the City of Gulfport Mayor’s Office, shows a firefighter putting a turkey into the oil before it is immediately engulfed in flames.
Fire Chief Billy Kelley said the demonstration showed "what not to do" and reminded people to completely thaw and dry their turkeys before cooking.
"The last thing we want to be doing is to show up on Thanksgiving where someone’s got hurt," he said.
Dangerous situations resulting from frying a turkey have contributed to the holiday becoming the peak day for home cooking fires.
In 2019, fire departments across the country responded to an estimated 1,40 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Unattended cooking is the leading contributing factor in cooking fires and fire deaths, with cooking causing nearly half (49%) of all reported home fires.
The NFPA strongly discourages using a turkey fryer. The organization believes the fryers that use cooking oil are not suitable for use at home, no matter how well-informed or careful the consumer may be. The turkey fryers use a substantial quality of oil at high temperatures. The hotel oil could be released at some point during the process resulting in a dangerous situation.
Thanksgiving cooking safety tips, per NFPA
- Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stovetop so you can keep an eye on the food.
- Stay in the home when cooking your turkey, and check on it frequently.
- Keep children away from the stove. The stove will be hot and kids should stay three feet away.
- Make sure kids stay away from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, gravy or coffee could cause serious burns.
- Keep knives out of the reach of children.
- Be sure electric cords from an electric knife, coffee maker, plate warmer or mixer are not dangling off the counter within easy reach of a child.
- Keep matches and utility lighters out of the reach of children — up high in a locked cabinet.
- Never leave children alone in a room with a lit candle.
- Keep the floor clear so you don’t trip over kids, toys, pocketbooks or bags.
- Make sure your smoke alarms are working. Test them by pushing the test button.
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - NOVEMBER 24: Participants are seen deep frying turkey on November 24, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)
If you choose to use a turkey fryer, there are important steps to take to ensure safety, according to Butterball:
Deep-frying turkey indoors
- Completely thaw your turkey, or use a fresh turkey.
- Take the wrapper off of the turkey, and remove and discard the neck and giblets. Pat dry.
- Add oil to the fryer, but do not exceed the maximum fill line. Preheat oil in the fryer to 375° F.
- While the oil is heating, prepare your turkey with any seasonings, marinades, or injected flavors. Tuck legs.
- Once the oil is heated, place the basket in the fryer for 30 seconds. Remove basket from oil, place turkey in basket. Slowly lower the turkey into the fryer. The turkey may not be totally immersed in the oil. This may cause the top part of the breast to remain white even though it is cooked to the proper end temperature.
- Set the timer and cook the turkey about 3 to 4 minutes per pound.
- Cook all dark meat to an internal temperature of 175° F to 180° F, and all white meat to an internal temperature of 165° F to 170° F. Here's some help on how to check your turkey's temperature for doneness.
- When the turkey is done, slowly lift it from the pot and place it in a pan or on paper towels to drain.
- Let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before removing it from the rack or basket to carve.
Deep-frying turkey outdoors
- To start, take the wrapper off of the turkey, and remove and discard the neck and giblets.
- Deep-fry your turkey outside on a flat surface, far away from homes, garages, wooden decks, etc.
- To determine how much oil is needed for frying, place the thawed turkey in the fryer basket and place it in the fryer. Add water until the top of the turkey is barely covered. Remove the turkey, allowing the water to drain from the turkey back into the fryer. Measure and mark the water line, and use that line as a guide when adding oil to the propane fryer.
- There should be at least 3 to 5 inches from the fill line to the top of the pot so oil doesn’t boil over.
- While the oil is heating, prepare your turkey with any seasonings, marinades, or injected flavor that you desire.
- When the oil is hot, turn the burner off and slowly lower the turkey into the hot oil. Slowly lowering the basket helps prevent the oil from bubbling over. Turn the burner back on.
- Cook the turkey about 3 to 4 minutes per pound.
- The turkey is done when the dark meat is at an internal temperature of 175° F to 180° F and all white meat is at an internal temperature of 165° F to 170° F.
- When the turkey is done, slowly lift it from the pot and place it in a pan or on paper towels to drain. Let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before removing it from the rack or basket.
FOX 13 Tampa contributed to this story.