With Thanksgiving coming up, we all start to think about turkey. Whether you are with your family or at the station, someone needs to decide if that bird is going in the oven, on the grill, or in the deep fryer. Over the years I have had some good turkeys in the station, cooked a lot of different ways.
Fire departments respond to about 1000 calls per year due to turkey fryer fires or injuries. The NFPA discourages using the traditional turkey fryer and suggest using the new “oil less” fryers. I have never used one of these oil less fryers, but I can give you some tips about safely using an oil fryer. The burner on these fryers is a pretty big propane flame. The burner sounds like the burner on a hot air balloon. Whenever you are heating oil with a burner, you need to keep an eye on the cooker the entire time it is being used. Hanging around the fryer is fun, set up some chairs and relax while it cooks.
A lot of these fires start when the turkey is dropped into the oil and the oil overflows onto the flame. Before you fill the pot with oil you can measure how much oil will fit in the pot by putting the turkey in the pot and then filling the pot with water to the safe level on the pot. Then remove the turkey and the remaining water level will tell you how high to fill the pot with oil. Now, when you heat the oil and add the turkey, the oil level will stay in the safe range.
Always use the turkey fryer outside away from any combustible materials. Don’t use fryers under a car port, in a garage, and certainly not indoors. A less publicized hazard is the oil that may spill on the floor and can make the area around the fryer slippery. Always walk carefully near the fryer, slipping there would be a bad thing.
One of the biggest disasters we had was not a fryer fire, but involved a turkey cooked in the oven. The chef that day was a particularly finicky guy. He thought he made the best turkey ever so we decided to give him a shot since you can’t mess up a turkey. Along with being a self-proclaimed chef, this guy also had a reputation for being clumsy, kind of a big dopey guy. You probably have a guy like that on your department.
After hearing all day how good this turkey was going to be, it was finally time to take it out of the oven. Since there was a lot of different cooking things going on, we were all in the kitchen to witness this masterpiece as it came out of the oven. Just as the turkey left the oven, this clumsy guy lost his grip and as the pan fell, he tried to get a grip but just ended up pushing it farther and the entire turkey hit the floor and slid about 10 feet. As soon as we realized no one was hurt, the crowd went wild with laughter, except for the guy that dropped it. The turkey was good but all the juice on the floor cost us the gravy. Every year we remind who ever cooks about hanging on to the turkey.
Whichever way you decide to make your turkey, remember to stay safe and enjoy the day. If your turkey happens to hit the floor, you will miss out on gravy but the memories will last a long time.
By John Morse
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