Mixing turkey and a fryer of hot oil? Be careful

akenney@newsobserver.comNovember 14, 2012 

National fire authorities say you should leave turkey frying to the professionals – something about a barrel of boiling oil just doesn’t sound safe to the National Fire Protection Agency. The Cary Fire Department put on a display to drive home that point Tuesday: A thawing turkey stuck into 550-degree oil promptly unleashed a 20-foot pillar of fire, so bright and hot that the gas-masked firefighter behind it disappeared in flame.

“They become pretty much an inferno” if done wrong, said Kathy Ellis, the town’s fire education supervisor. “We know people are going to do it anyway, so we want to raise that awareness – bad things can happen.”

The bird went up in flames because of the way water reacts with high-temperature oil, according to Popular Science. The vaporization of water from a turkey carcass can separate the oil into droplets that can more easily combust than the original oil mix, the magazine said.

The Cary department’s bird emerged looking golden brown, though the insides were likely undercooked. The fire was large enough to leave decks or a house charred.

To combat turkey combustion, Cary firefighters offered a range of tips.

• Most obvious is to keep the turkey away from flammable substances and buildings.

• Ensure that the turkey is completely thawed. (The National Turkey Federation recommends thawing the bird in the fridge for at least 24 hours per five pounds of bird.)

• Before the bird goes in the tank, be sure the fryer’s not overfilled.

• And make sure you have oven mitts, safety goggles and a fire extinguisher nearby.

Staff writer Andy Kenney

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