FREAK Shots: The Upside of Cooking Dangerously

Turkey fryers are fixtures at southern holiday parties. As I watched my friend’s husband gleefully fry his turkey in a big vat of boiling oil this Christmas, I became a bit concerned for his and my safety … and rightly so.


Underwriters Laboratories has refused to put its label of approval on turkey fryers out of concern that “backyard chefs may be sacrificing safety for good taste.” Among other things, the fryers have caused fireballs and burned down homes.

U.L. even created this video as a warning:

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal‘s Environmental Capital blog reports that leftover turkey-fryer oil poured down home drains can cause clogged city sewer lines.

But Environmental Capital also notes that small-town mayors, among others, are increasingly grateful for the surplus of grease the fryers create — a valuable source of biofuels now that a regular grease supplier, school cafeterias, are cutting down on fried foods.

The fryers also make great gifts for people you hate.

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  1. Sam says:

    I’m not a cook, and obviously not an expert when it comes to cooking techniques. But it seems to me that this deep frying method for something as big and thick as a turkey would leave a bird very well done and crispy on the outside but raw in the inside. Doesn’t it?

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  2. Chris says:

    @1, no, if you prepare the bird properly it is very juicy inside. this year we brined the turkey ahead of time and it was even juicier (maybe from the brine, maybe from experience – it’s our 3rd or so fried turkey). To avoid dryness, the turkey needs to be mostly “sealed,” so if you inject it with seasoning, like we do, you need to do it without making too many punctures. Additionally, water + grease and moreso ice + grease are BAD, as is overfilling the oil.

    Anyhow, it’s dangerous and one should watch the UL videos and read the literature on safety before attempting to fry a large bird. We’ve never had an incident, but we have precautions and back-up plans every time.

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  3. Sam says:

    Fried turkey is delicious. Best way to cook the bird.

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  4. Witty Nickname says:

    Nope, I fry a turkey every year, once you have one fried it is hard to eat anything else.

    As for safety, someone is there 100% of the time the fryer is on making sure the oil does not hit the flash point, and there is always a fire extinguisher at hand.

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  5. -- says:

    No food like Soul Food.

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  6. hal says:

    I’ve seen a number of accidents but all were preventable. Even the fire department was guilty of one of them when they miscalculated the amount of oil and it boiled and overflowed, fortunately into a nearby storm drain – contamination, but not toxic and well-diluted. Reviewing all that can go wrong and having a good plan with back-up – oh yeah, somebody already said that…

    But in agreement with ‘Witty Nickname’, I’ve eaten deep-fried turkey with Cajun spice and Jamaican jerk. I’d never go back to Pilgrim oven roast if there’s a choice.

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  7. Mike says:

    Reminds me of some amateur cooking videos that friends and I made in College, one involving our Cajun friend going back home and showing us how to deep fry turkey with his family. (mildly nsfw language in the first 5 seconds)

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  8. Ed Haines says:

    I watched both videos. If you want to know how to deep fry a turkey unsafely, follow the technique of the UL staff (the fryer has too much oil, the turkey is dropped in too rapidly, the holder is removed immediately making partial removal impossible, and the turkey is still partially frozen). The cajun fellow is a card and very funny, however, he checks the temperature of the oil, has the turkey completely thawed and seasoned, and drops the turkey into the oil over a period of at least a couple minutes allowing the bird to come up to full immersion without the oil boiling over. He does not remove the hanger device until he is certain that the oil is safely cooking the turkey.

    As to complete cooking, turkeys are hollow in the middle if one allows for thawing and removes the giblets. It cooks from inside and outside simultaneously meaning that it may be more safely heated throughout than occurs with many oven roasting methods.

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