How to Deep Fry Turkey Safely This Holiday Season

What is Deep Fryer Safety?

Deep fryer safety is essential when deep fat frying in order to prevent serious burn injuries and fires. Deep-frying involves cooking foods in grease at a very high temperature, 400 degrees or higher. Foods commonly deep-fried during the holidays include turkey, chicken, duck, crab cakes, latkes, empanadas and more. While deep-fried food can be quite tasty, it’s important to practice deep fryer safety every time you drop those scrumptious holiday delights into hot oil.

Tips for Deep Frying Turkey 

Always ensure the cook is well-informed and trained on how to use a deep fryer as there are obvious safety concerns when utilizing such a large volume of hot oil. In fact, the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) strongly discourages the use of outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers that cook the turkey in hot oil due to the dangers. If you feel the risk is acceptable, take every precaution to avoid the possibility of injuries and property damage.

How to practice deep fryer safety when preparing turkey:

  • Do not deep fry a stuffed turkey.
  • Do not deep fry a frozen turkey.
  • Do not fill the cooking vessel to the brim with oil.
  • Select a cooking vessel large enough to fully submerge the turkey in 1 to 2 inches of oil.
  • Conduct a preliminary test of how much oil is needed in the cooking vessel by using water first.
  • Do not let water get into the hot fat, or use water to cool or clean the appliance while food is deep-frying.
  • Use a thermometer to monitor temperature.
  • Never leave the hot oil unattended.
  • Allow approximately 3 to 5 minutes per pound for cooking time.
  • Check the temperature of the turkey with a food thermometer to ensure it is safely cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Regular Maintenance for Deep Fryers

Do you perform regular deep fryer maintenance and have annual inspections completed by a qualified contractor?

While each deep fryer is uniquely designed and constructed, all require regular maintenance and cleaning. Most manufacturers provide a list of preventive maintenance checks and service in the owner’s manual, so make sure to follow those instructions closely.

Daily or weekly checks typically include cleaning the inside and outside of the fryer cabinet, as well as looking for loose or frayed wires and cords, leaking oil, and any abnormalities not associated with regular use. These checks can be easily performed by an employee as part of their weekly kitchen routine. Cooking equipment should be cleaned regularly and checked for wear and tear to prevent grease fires.

According to the (NFPA), 21% of restaurant fires are caused by deep fat fryers, typically due to lack of cleaning or proper maintenance. NFPA recommends an annual inspection and service be performed by a qualified commercial cooking appliance contractor.

Alternatives to Deep-Frying Turkey

  1. Air fried turkey. This oil-less type of equipment prevents flare-ups, eliminates hot and cold spots, and delivers juicy, crisp, and flavorful results for large cuts of meat through infrared technology.
  2. Spatchcocked oven cooked turkey. Reduce cook time, lock-in moisture and avoid the hassle of deep-frying with this flavorful alternative. While this is an oven roasted method, the cooking execution is slightly different and offers many benefits.
  3. Grilled turkey. Preparing the turkey for a grill is pretty similar to prepping it for the oven, but with a little less mess. You can speed up the cooking process by breaking down the turkey before grilling.

Importance of Deep Fryer Safety

When deep-frying, oil can reach very high temperatures. Safety measures should be taken to prevent burn injuries to employees since oil is a flammable liquid. Deep-frying can also lead to igniting a hazardous fire within your business if not executed properly and with caution. To prevent a fire at your business, avoid letting oil contact direct flames and ensure employees are properly trained with this cooking method. In the event of a grease fire, never use water to put out the fire. Using water can cause flaming oil to splatter and spread. Using a kitchen fire extinguisher or covering the fryer with a metal lid is the best way to put out a grease fire.

In addition to properly training employees, you should:

  • Maintain a clean exhaust system.
  • Perform regular maintenance of equipment.
  • Mount Class-K portable fire extinguishers in kitchens, and post signs indicating they are for grease fires only.
  • Position fryers at least 16 inches away from any flame-producing equipment.
  • Install an automatic fuel shut-off device that is actuated by the suppression system for cooking equipment.

Research has found that cooking equipment is a common cause of fires in commercial kitchens. (See the data in Learning from Loss: Cooking Equipment Fires.) It’s important to properly maintain your kitchen to avoid costly mistakes that could negatively impact your employees, business and reputation. View our cooking equipment maintenance checklist to ensure your business stays current with best practices.

Our extensive risk management library is an excellent resource for strengthening loss prevention efforts and providing fire protection resources for your business. Get all the details on how Society can help keep your business healthy this holiday season by contacting a Society agent today.

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