Prevent Thanksgiving Fires – Use Caution with Turkey Fryers

November 16, 2005


Allison Dean Love

803-252-3455 or cell phone 803-413-1044

[email protected]

Columbia, S.C. – Wednesday, November 16, 2005 – Thanksgiving isn’t just dangerous for turkeys anymore. The increased popularity of frying turkeys in the backyards of South Carolina homes has created an increased danger for homeowners.

Each year, nearly 4,300 fires occur in the United States on Thanksgiving Day causing 15 fatalities, about 50 injuries and nearly $27 million in property damage according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Thanksgiving Day fires in residential structures cause more property damage and claim more lives than residential structure fires on other days. Cooking is by far the leading cause of residential structure fires on Thanksgiving Day (42%), nearly double that of a normal day.

Fires related to the use of turkey fryers have been known to cause property damage, injuries and even deaths as house fire and splashing of hot oil occurs. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, from 1998 until November 9, 2005 there have been 112 incidents involving fires or burns and 8 additional consumer complaints about possible fire or burn hazards associated with turkey fryers. The majority of incidents involved overheating and subsequent ignition of oil while the consumer was not present.

Overall, cooking fires are the leading cause of household fires and home fire injuries according to the National Fire Protection Association. Unattended cooking is the primary cause of these fires. Tests have shown that many turkey fryers have a risk of tipping over, overheating, or spilling hot oil, leading to fires and burns.

As preparations for Thanksgiving get underway, the South Carolina Insurance News Service recommends the following safety tips:

Always cook the turkeys outside, away from any structure, and on a hard level surface, preferably on concrete.

Never cook on a wooden porch or deck, as the wood can catch fire in the event of a spillage, and NEVER cook in a garage!

Always wear long sleeves and long pants, and natural fiber clothing, i.e. wool, cotton, etc. Man-made fibers such as nylon or polyester can melt to your skin if they catch fire. Gloves are recommended when placing the turkey into the fryer.

Keep all small children and pets away from the cooker and flame to avoid knocking the cooker over.

To measure how much oil is needed, first put the turkey in the fryer; next add water to just barely above the top of the turkey; remove the turkey and measure the new water level with a pencil or etching tool. This is the level to which you add the oil, the, when you add the turkey into the boiling oil it won’t overflow.

Peanut oil is recommended vs. vegetable oil. It won’t breakdown at the high temperatures (325-350 degrees).

Dry the turkey as best as possible prior to placing it in the oil. If it is wet, the water and hot grease will react and cause the grease to pop and spray. Make sure the turkey is fully thawed out first. Frying a frozen or partially thawed turkey is not safe.

Rule of thumb is roughly 3 minutes per pound of turkey, i.e. a 20 lb bird will take 40-50 minutes to cook.

Allow the oil to thoroughly cool before emptying. Hot oil can take 3-4 hours to cool back to room temperature.

Excessive use of alcohol and hot boiling oil don’t mix.

For more information on preventing home fires, contact the South Carolina Insurance News Service or link to their web site at

The South Carolina Insurance News Service is a nonprofit, nonlobbying organization, funded by insurance companies doing business in South Carolina, which provides property and casualty insurance information to consumers.


For more information, contact the South Carolina Insurance News Service at 803-252-3455 or use our contact form.