Turkey on fire: 5 mistakes that lead to flaming fryers

turkey, fryer, fire
Grand Rapids firefighters demonstrate how a fire can start when you are frying your Thanksgiving turkey. (Nov. 22, 2016)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Every year, fire departments put out warnings about turkey fryers and every year something bad happens. 

So this year, Grand Rapids firefighters teamed up with the State Fire Marshal’s office to show the dangers.Thanksgiving cooking fires CPSC

“Home fires double, (and) in some areas triple on Thanksgiving,” said State Fire Marshal Julie Secontine. “So we really are urging preventive precautions so that you don’t become a statistic on Thanksgiving Day.”

Turkey fryers contribute to the problem.

“The biggest mistake is to overfill the oil, so that when you put the bird in it slops over the side and makes contact with the flame,” explained Grand Rapids Fire Marshal Ric Dokter.

To avoid a flaming spill, Dokter suggests the following steps:

  • Put the bird in your fryer.
  • Fill the fryer with water.
  • Take the turkey out.
  • Mark the water level.
  • Dump out the water.
  • Fill the fryer with oil up to the water level mark.

Cooks must also beware of water. While most do a good job making sure their turkey gets a good wash down before frying, drying off the bird is just as important.

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“If you put water in hot oil, it turns into steam and can make the oil into a vapor, which is much easier to ignite than the liquid,” explained Dokter.CPSC on turkey fryer fires

Three other precautions for frying a turkey: Keep the heat at 350 degrees, as oil can self-ignite around 435 degrees; don’t fry inside or on and near combustibles, like a wooden deck; and keep your spirits in check.

“If there’s any adult beverages, that should be done in moderation so that good decision-making is part of everybody’s safety,” added Dokter.