Texas Leads the Nation in Thanksgiving Deep-Fried Turkey Accidents

Photo of Brian Humphrey

When I discovered that there were other ways to cook a Thanksgiving turkey than the traditional oven-roasting method, it was a revelation. You can smoke it, braise it, stuff it with other birds, or even roast it in a trash can piled with charcoal. None of these methods are as fast or (arguably) delicious as that Southern tradition, deep-frying. Unfortunately, none of these methods are as dangerous as deep-frying, either.

It probably comes as no surprise that, according to an annual list published by State Farm, Texas has led the country for the last seven consecutive years in cooking- and grease-related insurance claims. This list usually comes with a humorous safety video featuring celebrities like William Shatner or Jase Robertson, but turkey frying accidents are no laughing matter.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, deep-fryer fires are responsible for five deaths, 60 injuries, 900 homes destroyed, and more than $15 million in property damage each year. In fact, the NFPA considers turkey fryers so dangerous due to the large amount of oil and high temperatures that it recommends that they be avoided by amateurs altogether. "NFPA continues to believe that turkey fryers that use oil, as currently designed, are not suitable for acceptably safe use by even a well-informed and careful consumer." The NFPA urges instead that you get your fried turkey from grocery stores or restaurants, or use a new infrared "oil-less" turkey fryer.

Despite the NFPA's recommendation, propane-fired turkey fires are nonetheless sold to the general public. If you insist on getting your deep-fried turkey fix at home, there are a few critical safety rules:

turkey fryer.jpg

  • If you are using a propane fryer, DO NOT use it indoors. 
  • Thaw the turkey COMPLETELY before lowering it in the oil-any ice in the turkey will explosively flash into steam and can spray hot oil onto people or onto the open flame, where it can ignite
  • Slowly lower the turkey into the oil. Don't drop it in.
  • Make sure you use the right amount of oil-too much, and it can overflow and ignite.
  • Do not overheat the oil. Oil heated well above 400 degrees is combustible even without an open flame. Be careful with the temperature control-a defective thermostat on the fryer can quickly lead to overheating.
  • Do not use the fryer in the rain or snow.
  • Make sure you have all of the proper equipment and that it is in good working order.

Even if you follow all of these rules, there is no guarantee that deep-frying a turkey is safe, particularly if the fryer is defective. If you or someone you know has been injured by a defective cooking appliance, contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend by calling 713-222-7211 or toll free at 1-800-870-9584.

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