FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, November 22, 2019

State Fire Marshal Reminds Residents to Use Extreme Caution When Using Turkey Fryers

TRENTON, NJ – In advance of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, the New Jersey Division of Fire Safety, along with fire departments and fire officials statewide, reminds residents to be extremely cautious when using a deep fryer to cook a turkey. Additionally, the New Jersey Department of Health encourages residents to take simple preventive measures to avoid food-related illness during the holiday season. 

So-called turkey fryers are a popular – but potentially dangerous – way to cook turkeys or wild fowl by immersing them in a hot cooking oil reservoir. 

“These fryers have produced a whole new class of fire hazard, one that carries both the potential for severe burns and possible property damage as well,” cautioned Division of Fire Safety Director and State Fire Marshal Richard Mikutsky. 

The Division of Fire Safety explained that putting a solid object like a turkey into a fryer filled with super-heated cooking oil could cause the hot oil to splash onto someone or spill onto the burner beneath the fryer and cause a fire. Using a frozen or partly thawed turkey dramatically increases the risk for fire because oil and water do not mix. 

“When using fryers, the turkey must be completely thawed and dry,” said Fire Marshal Mikutsky. “If it’s not, this will cause the hot oil to splash and be ignited by the propane-fired burner below the oil container, which can ignite the propane burner itself, causing a large explosion. It can be a recipe for disaster.”  

The National Turkey Federation recommends thawing a turkey in the refrigerator approximately 24 hours for every five pounds in weight.  

Fire Marshal Mikutsky recommends the following tips for people who are planning to use a turkey fryer or actively shopping for one: 

  • Use turkey fryers outdoors away from buildings, overhangs and flammable materials.
  • Never use turkey fryers on a wooden or composite material deck.
  • Place turkey fryers on a flat surface to reduce the likelihood of accidental tipping.
  • Never leave a fryer unattended. If not carefully watched, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
  • Never let children or pets near the fryer, even if it is not in use. The oil inside the cooking container can remain dangerously hot hours after use.
  • To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
  • Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts because the lid and handles can become dangerously hot. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect eyes from oil splatter.
  • Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and dried and be careful with marinades.
  • Never use water to extinguish a grease fire.
  • Keep an all-purpose (ABC) fire extinguisher nearby. If the fire is manageable, use the all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call the fire department. 

Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, and the day before Thanksgiving, according to the National Fire Protection Association. 

As such, the Division of Fire Safety reminds families to follow these general safe cooking tips: 

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stovetop. Unattended cooking is by far the leading contributing factor in cooking fires.
  • Stay in the home when cooking a turkey in the oven and check on it frequently.
  • Keep children at least three feet away from stoves and away from hot liquids and food.
  • Keep the kitchen and dining floors clear of trip hazards.
  • Be sure electric cords from cooking appliances are not dangling off the counter.
  • Keep matches and utility lighters out of the reach of children.
  • Make sure smoke alarms are working. Test them by pushing the test button. 

Cooking, serving and storing food at safe temperatures are important ways to avoid illness from bacteria such as E. coli or Salmonella, two of the more common but serious food-related illnesses. 

The Department of Health recommends the following helpful tips to avoid food-related illness this season:

  • When making cookies, cakes or other baked goods, always make sure baked goods are cooked thoroughly. Never eat raw cookie dough or batter made from raw eggs.
  • Purchase pasteurized eggnog to reduce the risk of dangerous bacteria. If you are making homemade eggnog, always use pasteurized eggs and milk.
  • Check labels to ensure you are buying only pasteurized fruit juices and cider. Unpasteurized juice and cider can contain dangerous bacteria like E.coli or Salmonella that can cause serious illness, especially in children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. 
  • Raw or undercooked shellfish may contain bacteria, parasites or viruses, so these foods require special care. Keep raw oysters and clams refrigerated and serve them on ice to ensure they remain cold at holiday buffets. Older adults, pregnant women, young children, and people with weakened immune systems should never eat raw or undercooked shellfish because these individuals are more vulnerable to foodborne illness risks.
  • When serving food on a buffet, always use holding trays, chafing dishes and crock pots to keep foods hot. Never use holding trays to warm food up. They should only be used to hold food that is already warmed. Put serving trays on crushed ice to chill cold food. Don't let food stay at room temperature for more than two hours 

A fact sheet on holiday food safety tips is available on the Department of Health website:

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