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Bad turkey: When it happens to you

Deep-frying your holiday bird has become a popular practice, but do you know what to do if something goes wrong?

By MSN Money Partner Nov 17, 2011 6:37PM

This post comes from Mark Chalon Smith at partner site


Deep-frying the Thanksgiving bird sounds like such a great idea -- until the turkey explodes and the backyard goes up in flames.


The holiday may be a time of good cheer and good eats, but it's also when cooking fires, especially those involving deep-fryers, blacken homes and send people to the emergency room. Grease-fire and cooking-related insurance claims more than double on Thanksgiving compared to any other November day, according to State Farm.


Here are the top 10 states with the most cooking-related claims from 2005 to 2010, according to State Farm:

  1. Texas (36)
  2. Illinois (24)
  3. Ohio (21)
  4. New York (17)
  5. Pennsylvania (17)
  6. Michigan (15)
  7. Florida (14)
  8. Minnesota (14)
  9. Indiana (13)
  10. Louisiana (12)

Thanksgiving is clearly when the grease hits the flame, but State Farm spokesperson Heather Paul says the danger exists year-round as the popularity of deep-frying grows: "Fire departments are responding to more than 1,000 fires each year in which a deep-fryer is involved," she says. "The National Fire Protection Association says deep-fryer fires result in more than $15 million in property damage each year and hot oil splatter can cause serious burns."

Filing a claim when your fowl plans go afoul

Paul says insurance companies handle deep-fryer and kitchen fires in the same way as other blazes that damage your home or property -- you're covered for the entire loss minus the deductible. Post continues below.

To file a claim, contact your agent immediately -- if possible, the same day the fire breaks out. Paul also recommends taking photos of the damage and gathering any fire or police reports on the accident. The agent should be able to walk you through the process, she says, adding that most insurance companies have 24-hour hotlines.


"It's so easy to become distracted this time of the year because so much is going on," Paul says. "You can step away from your cooking and, in a second, a fire has gotten out of control."


Shatner on board with video

To propel its awareness campaign, State Farm enlisted actor and spokesman William Shatner. The man who has gone "where no man has gone before" goes right into the backyard in a video at the insurer's website and recounts how he almost burned his house down while deep-frying.


Shatner offers the following safety tips:

  • Cook outdoors away from any buildings or trees, and keep the fryer off any wooden structures, such as decks or patios.
  • Avoid spillovers by filling the pot with cold oil and then lowering the thawed turkey into it to see if oil should be added or removed.
  • Turn off the flame when adding the turkey to prevent flare-ups if oil spills over the rim.
  • The turkey must be completely thawed before slowly lowering it into the pot.
  • Never leave the deep-fryer unattended.
  • Use an extinguisher approved for cooking or grease fires to put out a blaze. Never use ice or water to douse a grease fire or to cool oil.

More on and MSN Money:


Nov 18, 2011 9:49AM
Idiots!! Anyone that can't control 4 gallons of hot oil long enough to cook a turkey deserves to have Burger King for Thanksgiving. This was once a country where men forged steel and built things. Now it's full of pansy-boys that can't even deep fry a bird? Lord help us!!  It's no wonder the Chinese own this country.
Nov 18, 2011 9:02AM

I've been frying turkeys for close to twenty years, without a single incident (Unless you count the time I pulled the bird from the oil and proceeded to drop it on the ground. Talk about a mess!!!!! We had shrimp for Thanksgiving that year) . I fried 13 last Wednesday alone. But, I've got a strict set of rules that I follow, and do not deviate from any of them. I've passed this philosophy along to both of my sons and they fry without incident as well.

Someone said in another comment that "You can't fix stupid", and he's right. There are some people that should not be allowed around a bucket of hot oil and a flame.


P.S. to the one poster that said anyone under 60 does not have a clue about cooking.... I'll have to disagree with you on that point..........been successful at it for years and I'm not 60 yet.....

Nov 18, 2011 5:54AM
"Avoid spillovers by filling the pot with cold oil and then lowering the thawed turkey into it to see if oil should be added or removed."

This is incorrect. Fill the pot with cold water and place the turkey into the pot. Adjust the water to the correct level. Remove the turkey and mark the water level. Dump out the water and fill the pot to correct level with cold oil. Place on fire and heat the oil to the correct temperature. You whould have a deep fryer thermometer for this.
Nov 18, 2011 9:49AM

Here is an idea that might work.  Stop being tarded and follow instructions and you will have no problems.  People that deep-fry chicken and anything under the sun seem to have no problem cooking a turkey by deep-fry.  It's because we know how to do it correctly.  Instructions can be found on the internet.  My family and I have been doing this for years, and it's a big taste difference (allot better) than just cooking the bird in the oven.  A few things to remember, Cook in a safe area away from anything that can catch fire easily.  We have always cooked the bird in the garage on a concrete floor with the garage door open.  We bought an electric deep-fire not to long ago, and it works better than the old gas one we had.  It's also much safer, but we still cook it outside away from the kitchen or anything flammable. 

It's a matter of being smart when cooking by deep-fry.  You can't just throw a bird into the oil and hope it comes out right.  People that cook the whole thing in or near their home are asking for trouble.  There is so much oil than needs to be used it's not worth risking a spill and serous injury by doing it in your house.  Best advice I can give is cook away from anything you don't want destroyed. 


Nov 18, 2011 10:18AM
I have been deep frying Turkeys for 30 years. I have never had a problem. You just need to follow instructions it is that simple. I never really had instructions was just told about it and did my own research.
Nov 18, 2011 8:23AM
For safety,fry the turkey in the front yard if possible. If something does go wrong,at least someone will see and can get help to you
Nov 18, 2011 9:46AM
185 CLAIMS for damage, not just 185 mishaps. They aren't counting the huge fires that burn up the grass in the backyard. I put the thawed turkey in the pot, add water until it is at the proper cooking level, remove the turkey and mark that level. When I put the oil in, I fill to about an inch below that, then heat it to cooking temp and then add more oil to hit my level. I also have a large tripod with a pulley so the DRY bird can be lowered with a rope from a distance. Nothing worse than a grease mishap and trying to not drop the bird in the hot oil.
Nov 18, 2011 8:45AM
Electric fryers work the best because there are no flames and the thermostat controls the temperature. I have two electric fryers and will fry at least 6 birds. Also, read and follow the instructions that come with your fryer, (don't do the man-thing.) Have a Blessed Thanksgiving.
Nov 18, 2011 8:47AM

 until the turkey explodes and the backyard goes up in flames.......right, written by a dude with no concept of being a man, surprised he could leave occupy wall st long enough to write this,  if you add up the top ten states in five years there were 185 claims, that's not so bad, best thing to fry, forget turkey, fry ya a big ole fat ham, unbelievable, 15 lbs of bacon baby, and watch out for those exploding turkey's


Nov 18, 2011 6:42AM
Don't forget that oil WILL expand when it is heated. It is always better to ADD oil after it has been heated than trying to remove it after it has been heated.
Nov 18, 2011 7:54AM
I just bought a tukey fryer. but it is an Electic one so there is no flame...Still have to be careful like any fryer with the oil that you don't get burned.....Can't wait till I fry a bird. 
Nov 18, 2011 10:53AM
deep fried turkey is the best. and yes one of my family members did have a deep fryer catch fire. Paying too much attention to the football game! So if your going to d/f  stuff keep it away from the house, ..the kids and watch wtf your doing. Some one has to keep and eye on the pot. (not that pot).......Inject the turkey with melted butter and baby u b happy.Smile
Nov 18, 2011 9:38AM

Just use at least half your brain and don"t let anyone named Bubba near the turkey fryer and you should be ok!

Or "Bubby", for all that matters...he bought the last turkey fryer at a Target near him...hopefully he could come up with the money to buy the oil and the propane, and that he doesn't try to fry it inside his house.   Propane tanks, if you don't have an empty one to exchange, cost around $50-$55...add the cost of the bird, and you're talking an expensive turkey.

Nov 18, 2011 11:37AM

The Orion Cooker will solve all of your deep-frying turkey problems.


Nov 18, 2011 11:17AM
Here's a tip...invest in an electric turkey fryer!
Nov 18, 2011 8:21AM
Ya know you can fix ugly but stupid goes all the way to the bone!!! Thats the problem todays kids by that I mean anyone under 60 have no clue how to cook or what happen when water comes into contact with boiling oil,,, instane steam,, and bada boom,, I mean really how hard is it to READ the instructions where is says DO NOT PUT WET TURKEY INTO HOT OIL THE OIL MAY EXPLODE OVERFLOWING AND CAUSEING A FIRE.. I have been doing birds and meats for years and there is onne basic rule dry everything, and birds in side and out!
Nov 18, 2011 8:28AM
OHHH Lynn and you to topfool tommy,, that's funny Bubba ha-ha,, Why do clowns like you have to play the red neck thing, gee I wonder if you play the black thing or the hispanic thing too. Until you 've been there and done it keep comments like this to your self, and then people wont know what a disrespectful person you are.
Nov 18, 2011 11:14AM
The best plan here is DON'T FRY A TURKEY AT ALL.   It's an accident waiting to happen.   You can get badly burned just from an accidental splash of cooking oil, even if you manage not to set your house on fire.
Nov 20, 2011 9:55PM
Idiots!! Anyone that can't control 4 gallons of hot oil long enough to cook a turkey deserves to have Burger King for Thanksgiving.
That's if you can find one that's open.  Most of the fast food joints close on Thanksgiving Day, with the probable exception of those locations that are at truck stops or turnpike service plazas. Otherwise, you may have to settle for a frozen turkey TV dinner.
Nov 18, 2011 11:50AM
Here's an alternative: Instead of deep frying, cook the bird in a Camp Chef Ultimate Turkey Roaster. I've deep fried for several years before switching to this method. It's basically a deep cast iron Dutch oven with a vented cone in the center that allows a convection effect to cook the bird. The all cast iron construction surrounding the bird gives a similar result as deep frying. The only problem is Camp Chef has stopped making these. If you can find one get it. There are other similar products on the market but I don't know if they are as good. A second alternative is to just roast in an all cast iron camp Dutch oven. It will not be crunchy and brown but they turn out great (especially stuffed with sausage and bread crumbs then covered with bacon).
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