Frying a whole turkey outdoors for the holiday feast

If you’re planning a holiday feast involving a turkey, be especially careful if you plan to fry it.

The first step is to thaw and dry the turkey before cooking. Partially frozen and/or wet turkeys can produce excessive hot oil splatter when added to the oil. 

Before adding oil to your fryer, make sure the turkey will fit safely. A typical fryer can handle up to a 14-pound turkey.

Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors at a safe distance (10 feet) from buildings or anything else that can burn. Never use on a wooden deck, under a breezeway, in a carport, on a porch or in a garage.

Make sure there is at least 2 feet of space between the liquid propane tank and fryer burner.

Keeping fryers on a flat surface will help prevent accidental tipping.

Never let children or pets come near the fryer when it is in use. Even hours after use, the oil can remain dangerously hot.

Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching the pot or lid handles. Use heat-resistant gloves when frying the turkey. Longer gloves will help protect your arms from splattering oil.

Be careful with marinades. Oil and water don’t mix and water can cause oil to spill over, which can cause a fire or even an explosion hazard. That’s another reason why your turkey should be completely thawed before it goes into the fryer.

Consider a dry rub of herbs and spices instead of liquid marinade. Seasoning the turkey the day before, as it rests in the refrigerator, will help lock in the flavors.

Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby and never use water to extinguish a grease fire. 

Use only enough oil to reach the maximum fill line on your fryer. Preheat the oil to 275 degrees; check the temperature with a deep-frying thermometer. Once pre-heated, turn the burner up to 350 degrees.

Using a heavy-duty meat hook or frying rack, slowly lower the turkey into the hot oil. 

Raise and lower food slowly to reduce splatter and avoid burns.

Check the oil temperature frequently. Turn the gas supply off if oil begins to smoke. 

Never leave any cooking unattended.

Cinda Seamon is the fire and life safety educator for Hilton Head Island Fire Rescue.