Nov 24, 2015


In this story, Ray is deep fat frying a turkey. Listen and play along to see if you are deep fat frying your turkey safely. When Ray does something right, you’ll hear a ding. When he does something that’s potentially dangerous, you’ll hear a buzz. Will you be able to identify when Ray makes a good decision and when he makes a poor one? Some mistakes will be really obvious. Others won’t — even if you’ve fried turkeys before. Did you get them all correct? Did something surprise you? Listen or take the quiz below and tell us how you did in the comments.


Announcer: We're your daily dose of science, conversation, medicine. This is The Scope, University of Utah Health Science's Radio.

Interviewer: Deep fat frying a turkey can be really dangerous and even if you've done it before there are a lot of things that can go pretty wrong. Some are obvious, some are a little bit more hidden dangers that can turn Thanksgiving into a life changing trip to the burn center. Going to do a story about a guy named Ray who's deep fat frying a turkey this year.

Now, I want you to listen and see if you can spot Ray's mistakes. Many of the things are obvious when you hear them, but some of them are not so obvious. And the hope is if you decide to deep far fry your own turkey, you'll avoid some of these things.

So when Ray makes a good decision, you'll hear a ding. When he makes a poor decision, you'll hear a buzz, and after that buzz Annette Matherly from University of Utah Burn Center will tell us what Ray forgot to do or should have done instead.

So before we do the story, Annette, what is the rule for any burn injury? This is important enough to talk about.

Annette: So the rule for any burn injury is to remember the four C's. And those for C's are cool it. You need to take the heat out of the tissues. You need to do that for about 5 to 10 minutes with cool, not cold, water.

The second C is to clean it because if you're stop, drop, and rolling, than you could have that injury have some dirt in it. So we want to make sure that's clean. The next thing would be to cover it, to keep it clean, and prevent anything from getting into that now opened wound, which is basically an entrance into your body. And than the fourth C would be to call for help if necessary.

Now, as we're talking about Ray, who's deep frying a turkey, Ray might need to miss out the middle two, which are clean it and cover it because Ray might have a big injury. So all he might have time to do is cool it and to call immediately for help.

Interviewer: Yes, call 911 immediately if it's a major burn in. As the YouTube videos have shown it can have some pretty nasty stuff happening when you're deep fat frying your turkey. So here's our story. Play along and see if you can pick out where he does things right and where he does things wrong.

So Ray's going to deep fat fry a turkey this year. He borrowed a kettle and an out-door burner from a friend. The kettle even came with a kit that includes a poultry rack and a grab hook made exactly for doing this.

Now Ray has seen the YouTube videos where oil spills over onto the burner flame and causes fires, and sometimes explosions. So just to be safe, he has a hose nearby just in case a fire starts.

Annette: Oh no. Ray, kudos for thinking about that fire just in case it does start but bad choice for the hose. You should never use water to put out oil on a grease fire. Water makes it worse. It would be much better if you had a class B fire extinguisher, that is made especially for these kinds of fires.

Interviewer: All right. He estimates he needs about seven gallons of oil so he takes the cap off the jug and pours it into the pot.

Annette: Never guess on how much oil. If you use too much, when you put the turkey in it, it will displace and the oil will overflow and spill on the flame. And we know what that causes, right? And it could even explode, just like in those YouTube videos. To determine how much he needs, he should put the turkey in the pot, and than pour enough water to just barely cover the turkey about a half-inch. And then he should always allow for at least three to five inches between the water line and the top of the pot for boiling room.

Then he should pull out the turkey and he should let the water drain back into the pot from the turkey, and should mark the level, the water level, without the turkey in the pot. And it's crucial that the turkey isn't in the pot when he does this, when he makes this mark, otherwise he'll have too much oil. Remember, if you end up with your turkey in the pot and there's not that three to five inches, than you need to look for a bigger pot, or you need a smaller turkey.

Interviewer: Ray then thoroughly dries off the turkey with paper towels because he's had it in water to determine the proper oil level. And he empties the water from the pot. Then he sets up his out door burner because he wants to watch the game while the turkey's cooking. He sets it up on his wooden deck, by the house, just outside the patio door so he's close to inside and the TV.

Annette: No. No, Ray. You should not do this. Well, you should do this if you don't like your deck and your house. But if you like your deck and your house, you need to make sure that this is well away from anything that you value. Remember, don't ever use an outdoor fryer indoors, not even in your garage.

Interviewer: Ray puts the burner and pot on a level section of his concrete patio making sure it's stable and won't tip over. He also puts the gas canister about two feet away from the burner. He checks to make sure there's nothing flammable nearby or above. And he also makes sure the propane tank is stable so it doesn't tip over and pull the burner over.

He than fills the pot with oil to the mark he determined earlier. He lights the burner so the oil can heat up. He figures it will take a few minutes, so he goes inside to check the score of the football game on TV while the oil comes to a boil.

Annette: Never leave it unattended. There should always be someone supervising the pot and oil. Plan on being outside for the whole process, you're going to miss the game.

Interviewer: The oil starts boiling and Ray figures he'll just wait until the oil is good and hot and he figures when it starts smoking he'll know that's time to put the turkey in.

Annette: You should not do this. It has to be only about 350 degrees. If it's any hotter, it could spontaneously ignite, and then you're going to have a fire before you even get our turkey in there. So be sure that you have a proper thermometer to be able to gauge this.

Interviewer: The oil is at 350 degrees and the turkey is seasoned perfectly, but Ray's a little concerned that it might not be thawed out all the way yet. It still could be kind of frozen. But he doesn't worry about that too much because the oil's hot and it should just cook fine anyway.

Annette: No Ray. No. Remember water and oil doesn't mix, we talked about that earlier. If you put the turkey in and it still has a frozen inside, than it's going to cause that oil to splatter and that oil could come over the side and it could hit that flame and it could it explode. So check the cavity of the turkey and make sure there's no ice on that inside.

Interviewer: Ray double-checks the turkey. Good new. It is thawed all the way. So he puts on some eye protection and some heavy leather gloves. He's also wearing long sleeves and jeans to protect himself against oil splatters. Ray starts to slowly lower the turkey into the oil.

Annette: Turn off the burner first. That way if it overflows it doesn't go onto the flame causing an explosion. Also, you might want to have someone around with the fire extinguisher just in case.

Interviewer: Ray hollers at his brother in law to come outside. He than turns off the burner and slowly lowers the turkey into the oil until it's completely submersed. Ray figures it will take about 45 minutes to finish, so he pulls the last beer off his six pack and watches the kids play with the dog in the backyard while the turkey cooks.

Annette: You've got a big old pot of burning oil there with a turkey in it. Do you really want your kids and your dogs around that? You should keep everyone out of the backyard. There should be no one around that. That oil could kill a child. It could kill an animal if it spills over. And we seriously recommend no drinking. You have to be completely alert and oriented.

Interviewer: Finally, after 45 minutes the turkey is done. Ray puts on his gloves and eye protection, gets the handle so he can lift the turkey out of the oil, and he gently starts to lift it out.

Annette: Stop. Remember, shut off that burner.

Interviewer: He puts the turkey on a sturdy pan and goes inside to carve the turkey and start the feast. Success. The end.

Annette: Oh, Ray. No, Ray, this is not the end. Remember, there's still a pot with an awful lot of oil that's 350 degrees in your backyard? It could be life changing if it falls over and it hurts someone. The danger is not over.

Interviewer: Ray makes sure all of his pets and guests are in the house and tells them no one's allowed in the backyard until he's cleaned up the pot of oil. He even closes the gate to make sure any neighborhood dogs or kids don't wander back there.

After a great meal, he goes back outside. Ray waits until the oil is completely cooled and then carefully pours it back into the empty container, puts everything away, and goes back inside for a well-deserved slice of pumpkin pie.

So how did you do? Hopefully you've learned something, and now you'll be safer if you do choose to deep fat fry that turkey. Annette, any conclusions? Any final thoughts?

Annette: So probably the final thought would be something that the National Fire Prevention Association put out. And that would be, just don't do it. Leave the show to the pros. Kind of like what they say about fireworks. If you must have a deep-fried turkey, then buy one from a grocery store.

So at the end of the day if it's not something you're 100% comfortable with, you might want to leave that deep fat turkey frying to somebody else that has done it many times so that you can keep yourself and your family safe.

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