State Fire Marshal warns of dangers from turkey fryers

LANSING — State Fire Marshal Ronald R. Farr urges consumers, who will be cooking with turkey fryers, to be aware of the dangers, know the safety precautions, and consider using oil-less fryers to help ensure greater safety when preparing feasts this Thanksgiving Day.

“Deep frying a turkey in several gallons of hot oil over 350 degrees are as flammable as gasoline; it’s so dangerous that it accounts for the high number of house and garage fires reported each year,” said Farr. “Consumers should consider switching to new units available, such as the oilless electric or infrared models that are much safer provided that instructions are followed carefully.”

The popular cooking method which some believe delivers better taste and cuts down on cooking time, requires placing the turkey in three gallons or more of oil, heated by propane. Tests have shown that the fryers have a high risk of tipping over, overheating, or spilling hot oil, leading to fires, burns or other injuries. Farr’s concern is that when the oil meets the fire the fryers instantly become a “vertical flame thrower” turning into a volcano of smoke and fire within seconds.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) continues to believe turkey fryers that use oil, as currently designed, are not suitable for acceptably safe use by even well-informed and careful consumers. Even though manufacturers have added product features in an attempt to make turkey fryers safer for consumers (including non-heat conducting handles and sturdier stands), they still pose a considerable risk and are not safe to use due to the amount of oil and high temperatures used to cook a turkey. So much so, that Underwriter’s Laboratories, Inc., (UL) remains firm in its decision not to certify any turkey fryers with its trusted UL mark. The NFPA believes the new outdoor turkey cooking appliances that do not use oil should be considered as an alternative.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says the majority of reported turkey fryer incidents occur while the oil is being heated. The units can easily tip over, spilling hot, scalding oil onto anyone or anything nearby. Since most units do not have automatic thermostat controls, oil may heat until it catches fire. The sides, lids, and handles get extremely hot and may cause burns.

“Unattended cooking is the primary cause of residential fires,” said Farr, referring to the U.S. Fire Administration statistics that report approximately 2,000 Thanksgiving Day fires occur in U.S. homes each year resulting in five deaths, 25 injuries and $21 million in property loss.

The Bureau of Fire Services wishes everyone a safe and happy holiday. Visit the Bureau of Fire Services website at for more fire safety information. — G.G.

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