AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – It seems that more and more people are throwing out the traditional roasting method and instead deep frying their Thanksgiving turkey. While this method offers a new and delicious taste, deep frying a turkey can be dangerous. It is important that people who attempt this know all the proper safety protocols.
This kind of frying is done outdoors in a large kettle of hot oil over an open flame. Janice Hall, an Alabama Extension regional agent of food safety and quality, said before cooking, you have to have the correct location and equipment.
“Choose a safe location for cooking the turkey, one that is away from the house,” Hall said. “Select a cooking pot that is large enough to completely submerge the turkey in 1 to 2 inches of oil without it spilling over the top.”
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, people should only use a turkey fryer outdoors, on a sturdy, level surface away from things that can burn. They suggests having a “3-foot kid and pet free zone” around the turkey fryer to prevent injuries.
When thawing and preparing a turkey, people must be mindful of possible food contaminations and safety.
“Place the turkey in a pan or separate container to prevent cross contamination of blood and other contaminants from getting on other foods in the refrigerator,” Hall said. “A thawed turkey can normally be kept below 40 degrees F for no more than three days. Following the three day rule will lower the risk of bacteria growth and spoilage.”
Hall said that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not recommend washing turkeys before cooking.
“The bird has already gone through a thorough process of cleaning before packaging,” Hall said. “Washing your turkey will only increase the risk of spreading bacteria over the sink and other surfaces in the kitchen. This, in turn, will increase your risk of a foodborne illness.”
To determine the amount of oil needed, put the turkey in the frying container and fill with water. Remove and either measure the amount of water in the pot or mark a fill line on the outside of the frying container.
“Before frying, make sure the container is clean and dry,” Hall said.
The U.S. Fire Administration reminds people that a partially frozen turkey will cause hot oil to splatter. Make sure your turkey is completely thawed before you fry it.
Hall said to be sure to plan ahead because it will take a turkey at least 24 hours per 5 pounds to completely thaw.
Once the container is dry and clean, pour the oil in the container and heat to 350 degrees F. Carefully lower the turkey into the hot oil and cook 3 to 5 minutes per pound.
The National Park Service has several tips on fire prevention and safety when frying turkeys.
- Have the correct kind of fire extinguisher nearby and ready to use.
- Do not leave the fryer unattended. Monitor the temperature of the oil with a thermometer to prevent the oil from overheating and catching fire. If the oil begins to smoke, immediately turn the gas off.
- Raise and lower the turkey slowly to prevent oil splatter, burns and fire.
- Use your safety tools: Oven mitts, gloves and safety goggles.
The turkey is done when a food thermometer measures 180 degrees F in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. Remove the turkey from the oil, drain the cavity and set it on paper towels. The skin will be dark brown to almost black. Let the turkey cool for about 20 minutes before carving.
For more information about food safety and quality, visit Alabama Extension online at www.aces.edu, or contact your county Extension office.