Homeowners insurance blog

How to Deep Fry a Turkey Without Risk to Your House

The most dangerous household fire day in the U.S. is … that’s right, Thanksgiving. Between all the cooking and sleeping and football and eating and company and yes, drinking, it’s not too surprising. Things in and on the stove can get out of hand pretty quickly.

Now that an increasing number of people are deep frying their turkey – and trust us, once you taste a deep-fried turkey, you’ll understand why – the danger is ratcheted up even more. Underwriters Laboratories, which judges the safety of projects, has never found a turkey fryer it believes is safe.

That’s why it pays to go into turkey frying with a game plan. Follow these tips and you’ll have a turkey that’s moist, tender, and flavorful instead of a house that’s moist (from the water used to put out the fire), smoky, and the subject of a costly insurance claim.

The fryer

What is it about turkey fryers that UL dislikes? Many are homemade, with barrels and winches and other features cobbled together from parts hanging around in the garage. The potential dangers are obvious.

In recent years, several companies have introduced more professionally made fryers, including some that manufacturers say can be used indoors. Our advice: Don’t be seduced by those claims. Cooking outdoors is a much safer alternative.

  • For one, you’re outdoors, so if there is a problem, you don’t immediately have boiling hot oil in your house. Keep the fryer at least 20 feet from the structure of your home.
  • Make sure you’ve chosen a flat location. One of the UL’s objections to fryers is the likelihood of tipping over. Do not, under any circumstances, move the fryer once you’ve begun heating it up.
  • One of the other problems with homemade fryers is the lack of a thermostat. The oil should be heated to – and maintained at – 350 degree or slightly higher. Newer electric fryers have built-in thermostats and timers.
  • One of the biggest dangers is using too much oil, which can cause an overflow when the turkey is dipped in. Most fryers have a fill line – find it and pay attention to it.

The bird

You can’t fry just any turkey. See tips below for the best experience:

  • Most electric fryers cap the size of the turkey to be used at 16 pounds or less. Read the manufacturer’s directions on this carefully.
  • Thaw your turkey completely. If the insides remain frozen even slightly, it could cause a spillover. According to the National Turkey Federation, the safest way to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator. But it’s not a quick process: You should reserve 24 hours for each five pounds of your turkey. A 10-pound turkey would take two days, by that standard.
  • For added flavor and moistness, inject your bird with a marinade. Many cooks rub the bird first with seasonings.


The cook

This is dangerous business. You’re going to be using boiling hot oil. Some tips:

  • Don’t leave the cooker. It is vital that you stay with the turkey while it’s frying. The process often takes less than an hour.
  • Make it a no-kid, no-pet zone. Given the concerns over the cooker tipping over, you’ll want to minimize traffic in the cooking area. Don’t let the cooker form a boundary for a touch football game either.
  • No alcohol. You need all your faculties.
  • Know what to do if there’s a problem. Remember, water will make a grease fire blaze higher. You should keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher handy while you’re cooking the bird. And remember, you don’t have to be a hero – if you can’t douse the blaze immediately, call the local fire department.

If this sounds dangerous, it is. But many people find the taste worth it. And most of the danger can be minimized by following these rules. You’ll be thankful you did.