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Fires are up at Thanksgiving

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Posted: Tuesday, November 24, 2009 12:00 am

Thanksgiving means turkey. It also means the growing trend of deep frying, which can be dangerous, really dangerous, according to the Phoenix Fire Department.

“We see an increase in burns this time of year,” said Capt. Alex Rangle, a fire department spokesman.

The problem with deep frying a turkey is that the setup has a high center of gravity, so spillage becomes a real possibility.

And if the pot is overfilled, the hot oil can spill onto a burner when the turkey is immersed, resulting in a fire.

Plus, with no thermostat on the burner, the oil can overheat if left alone, which can ignite the oil.

“You can destroy your house with a silly bird,” Rangle said.

Plus, if people get water into the hot oil, either because of a partially frozen turkey or because of marinades used on the bird, the combination of water and hot oil can result in a fire.

“Water and oil don’t mix and when it happens, it’s almost like a grease explosion,” Rangle added.

When dealing with gallons of almost boiling oil, splatters and spills can mean “Burns ... first-, second- and third-degree burns, especially for children and burns to your hands,” Rangle said.

But he also is the first to admit that deep fried turkey is moister and better tasting than a conventional oven-cooked turkey.

 

So what’s a cook to do?

• Follow your fryer’s instructions.

• Only deep fry smaller turkeys – up to 12 pounds.

• Use oils with high fire/ignition points, such as peanut oil and safflower. Peanut oil adds flavor, but can be an issue if one of your guests are allergic to peanuts.

• Use water to determine the amount of oil you will need. Place the turkey in the pot. Then add water until it reaches 1 to 2 inches above the turkey. Lift the turkey out, and use a ruler to measure the distance from the water to the top of the fryer. This will be the amount of oil that you will need. Empty the water and make sure the pot is dry before you begin frying.

• Slowly lower the turkey into the oil, and maintain an oil temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Fry turkeys for three to four minutes per pound, or about 35 to 42 minutes for a 10- to 12-pound turkey.

• Turkey fryers should be used outdoors and a safe distance from any buildings or any material that can burn.

• Never leave the fryer unattended. Keep children and pets away from the fryer.

• Remember, oil and water do not mix. Make sure the turkey is completely thawed out.

• Never use water to put out a grease fire. Water introduced to a grease fire can cause what is described as a grease explosion and will make the fire hotter and larger.

And last, but not least: “Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. If the fire does not go out, then call 911 immediately,” Rangle said.

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