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Safety Tips For Deep Frying A Turkey

Written by: Hagelgans and Veronis

We love fried food in the US. While it’s not the healthiest option, it is delicious. So it’s no surprise that chefs are experimenting with what they should deep-fry next.

As a matter of fact, that’s how the tradition of deep-drying Thanksgiving turkey started.

It originated in Louisiana in the 60s and 70s when Cajun chefs were experimenting with cooking crawfish, or crawdads, using portable stoves. They realized they could do more than boil items on these cookers, and began playing around with fried fish and chicken.

The first mention of deep-fried turkey in Louisiana was in a 1982 news story from Gary Taylor. He reported that, “A few daring cooks have developed a new way to prepare holiday turkey. They deep fry it… whole.”

And history was made. Now, Americans consume over 40 million turkeys a year. During Thanksgiving, hundreds of thousands are deep fried.

Pros and Cons of Turkey Frying

You may be asking “Why wouldn’t I deep-fry my turkey?” And you’d have a point.  There are a couple of strong pros to cooking using a deep-fryer. Yes, deep-frying does lock in moisture, making for tender, juicy turkey meat. And, yes, it is faster than roasting the turkey in your oven. But these are only two pros compared to a whole stack of cons.

Deep-frying any food is more dangerous than cooking in your oven. According to State Farm research data, more cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year. That’s no surprise when you consider how temperamental hot cooking oil can be.

Each variety of oil has a “smoke point.”  That’s when the oil becomes so hot it starts to smoke. Because many deep fat fryers do not have a built-in thermostat, it can be hard to keep tabs on the oil’s temperature. If the temperature exceeds the smoke point, the oil will catch fire.

Aside from monitoring the oil, deep-frying a turkey can still be rather difficult. Fryers are top heavy and can tip over, spilling nearly-boiling hot grease on everything in its path. The pot and handles of the fryer can become extremely hot, requiring a heavy duty pot holder to handle.

Also, disposing of several gallons of dirty, used cooking oil is no fun at all. Not to mention the fact that you could so very easily set your house, yard, or even your own body on fire. So, while you stand to gain some delicious meat from deep-frying your Thanksgiving turkey, there’s a lot you could lose as well.

Do’s and Don’ts Of Frying A Turkey

The important thing is if you deep-fry a turkey, you do it safely. To help achieve this goal, we’ve compiled a list of do’s and don’ts to keep in mind if you do choose to embark on this culinary adventure.


  • Thaw your turkey. Oil does not mix well with water. Frying a frozen turkey will make the oil splatter and cause a fire.
  • Buy a frying thermometer. Know the smoke point of your oil and keep the temperature below it.
  • Use a real turkey fryer. There are plenty of products available. Don’t risk your safety by rigging something up.
  • Read the instructions before the big day, so when the time comes you’re ready to go.
  • Cover your skin. Oil burns are no fun. Cover all your skin when working with the fryer. Non-slip shoes are a good idea too.
  • Remove the innards. Most frozen turkeys come with giblets and a few other organs inside a plastic bag. You don’t want to fry that!
  • Do use oil with a high smoke point. Peanut oil is always a good option or, if you have peanut allergies, soybean oil works just fine.
  • Let the oil cool before disposing of it. Oil can hold heat for a very long time. Give it a few hours to cool before you put it in your disposal container.


  • Don’t overfill the frying pot. While your turkey is still in the package, place it in the pot and cover it with water until it’s reached the desired level. Remove the turkey and draw a line where the water comes up to on the pot. Fill the oil to this line and you’ll have the right amount.
  • Don’t fry inside. Fry outdoors on a level surface. You should be at least 10 feet away from any structure.
  • Don’t use water to extinguish a grease fire. Use a fire extinguisher and have it handy at all times.
  • Don’t go bigger than 12-14 lbs. To allow for proper and thorough cooking, it’s a good idea to keep the weight of your turkey under this threshold.
  • Don’t leave the fryer unattended. You should always be on hand in case there are any spills, you need to adjust the temperature, or extinguish a fire.
  • Don’t put marinade under the turkey skin. You can use a marinade, but it needs to be injected deep into the meat and allowed to sit for several hours before frying.
  • Don’t drop the turkey into the oil. You risk splashing hot oil everywhere. Most turkey fryers come with a hook that makes it easy to gently lower the turkey in.

Whether you’re planning on frying on Christmas or Thanksgiving, we hope you’ll find these deep-frying tips useful this holiday season. From the staff and attorneys at Hagelgans & Veronis, we wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving!

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