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Check the temperature of the cooking oil before placing a turkey in the tryer. (Contributed Photo)

FORT LEE, Va. (Dec. 6, 2012) -- A longtime food favorite in the southern United States, the delicious deep-fried turkey has quickly grown in popularity thanks to celebrity chefs and shows promoting it. While some people rave about this tasty creation, safety experts are concerned that backyard chefs may be sacrificing safety for good taste. The National Fire Protection Association goes as far as to discourage the use of outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers all together.

Here’s why using a deep-fryer can be dangerous:

• Many units easily tip over, spilling the hot oil in the cooking pot.

• If the cooking pot is overfilled with oil, it may spill out when the turkey is placed in the cooking pot. Oil may hit the burner or flames, causing a fire to engulf the entire unit.

• Partially frozen turkeys placed into the fryer can cause a spillover. This, too, may result in an extensive fire.

• With no thermostat controls, the units also have the potential to overheat the oil to the point of combustion.

• The sides of the cooking pot, lid and pot handles get dangerously hot, posing severe burn hazards.

If you absolutely must use a turkey fryer, here are some tips for safer use:

• Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors at a safe distance from buildings and any other material that can burn.

• Never use turkey fryers on wooden decks or in garages. Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping. Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you don’t watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.

• Never let children or pets near the fryer during or after use. Even after use, the oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot.

• To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer and gently lower the turkey into the oil when ready. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to determine the proper amount of oil to add. If those are not available, follow these steps:

1. Place turkey in pot.

2. Fill with water until the turkey is covered by about 1/2 inch of water.

3. Remove and dry turkey.

• Mark water level. Dump water, dry the pot, and fill with oil to the marked level.

• Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching the pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.

• Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water don’t mix, and water causes oil to spill over, causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.

The National Turkey Federation recommends refrigerator thawing, allowing approximately 24 hours for every 5 pounds of bird.

If the oil starts to smoke, it is too hot and could catch fire. Turn off the burner until the oil cools down to the proper temperature.

If you experience a fire, do not use water. Call 911 immediately. Never attempt to use water to extinguish a grease fire, either in this situation or on the stove.

While awaiting the fire department’s arrival, an all-purpose fire extinguisher can be used if you have one ready and know how to use it.

Fort Lee Fire and Emergency Services actively promotes fire safety to all who work, live and visit Fort Lee.

For questions about fire and safety issues or assistance, call the Fort Lee Fire and Emergency Services Fire Prevention Office at (804) 734-6597.