cartoon of man deep frying a turkey

Removing a turkey from a deep fryer can be dangerous if the turkey drops back in, splattering hot oil on the cook. (Photo: Dennis Cox/Shutterstock)

Many people deep fry their turkeys on Thanksgiving in large, oil-filled, propane-fired turkey fryers and you've probably heard that it can be dangerous — but exactly how dangerous is it?

In 2011, according to the National Fire Protection Association or NFPA, five people were killed from accidents related to deep frying a turkey. Sixty additional people were injured and 900 homes were damaged. Those are some serious statistics to keep in mind if you’re planning to deep fry a turkey for your holiday celebration.

Think twice about deep frying a turkey

The NFPA discourages the use of outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers and has some compelling reasons to skip the deep fryer.

  • Hot oil may splash during the cooking and cause severe burns or injury.
  • Many of these deep fryers are on stands that can easily get knocked over, spilling gallons of oil heated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Cooking oil can be combustible, and if it’s heated higher than its cooking temperature, it may ignite.
Even with the risks of death, severe burns, and igniting a home on fire, some people still choose to deep fry a turkey, and many are successful. Those who are successful are the wise ones who follow safety guidelines.

Follow safety guidelines

The NFPA recommends the following guidelines for propane-fired turkey fryers.

  • Propane fryers must be used outdoors.
  • Turkeys must be completely thawed before being immersed in the fryer. A partially-frozen bird can cause the oil to spatter.
  • When removing a turkey from a fryer, make sure it doesn’t get dropped back into the oil because its size and weight weren’t taken into consideration. Many burns happen from the bird dropping back into the fryer and hot oil spattering on the cook. has some additional guidelines.
  • The outdoor location for the fryer must be flat, well-ventilated, well-lit, and away from trees, shrubs and buildings.
  • Turn the burner to the fryer off when immersing the turkey. When the turkey is safely and fully immersed, turn it back on.
  • Never leave the oil unattended, and monitor the temperature.
  • Turn the burner off before taking the turkey out.
While neither source had this as a tip, I’m going to add it: Keep children and pets away from the turkey fryer at all times. It’s probably a good idea to keep drunk relatives away from it, too.

There you have it. If you don’t want to burn down your house, or anything else, while deep frying your turkey this Thanksgiving, don’t put the deep fryer anywhere near your house, or your shed, or your trees, or your car, or your kids. And, to keep yourself free from injury, take the recommended safety tips seriously.

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.