Deep frying a turkey can produce delicious meat – or a call to the fire department

November 22 – Thanksgiving can often be a raucous occasion, filled with family members cramming into cramped quarters as conversations about their respective lives abound.

The distractions can create an unsafe environment and turn a relaxing holiday into a stressful hospital visit. Kern County and Bakersfield fire departments demonstrated Tuesday how the holidays can quickly turn upside down with their annual turkey roasting demonstration.

A completely frozen turkey — more like a block of ice — was attached to a metal hanger as a firefighter carefully lowered it into a metal bucket bubbling with canola oil. When the bird entered the container, oil spilled over its rim.

Flames ignited in a 30- to 40-foot-tall column as the oil sizzled and black smoke billowed into the air. The heat washed over reporters standing 40 feet away as the demonstration showed the dangers cooks could face when deep-frying a turkey.

“We want (the community) to take this (seriously) — whether it’s the kitchen, whether it’s outside making a turkey fry like this,” said Capt. Andrew Freeborn, the public information officer for KCFD.

Thawing the turkey, patting to remove liquid and making sure the cooking oil is at the right temperature can avoid a call to the fire department. Cook the turkey on a flat surface, away from children and flammable materials, Bakersfield Battalion Chief Brian Bowman said.

Bowman recommends turning down or turning off the flames before dipping the bird in oil. Oil dripping onto the fryer can cause flames to erupt, he added.

Firefighters themselves have had problems roasting turkeys and oil landing on their skin, Freeborn said.

Experts recommend using peanut oil over other types because it has a higher boiling point. When the smoke starts steaming, it’s a sign of concern, local firefighters added.

But flames shouldn’t be the only concern. Steam pouring from the fryer when a lid is removed can also burn skin, Bowman said. Wear protective gear such as goggles, gloves and long sleeves — not just a shirt, he noted.

Other holiday weekend house fires can also start if an oven has residue from previous baking, Bowman said. Clean the oven before stuffing the turkey inside.

Freeborn added that people milling around in the kitchen can pose a risk if safety precautions aren’t taken. Turn a hot pot bubbling with delicious food away from open areas where someone might accidentally graze on the metal.

You can reach Ishani Desai at 661-395-7417. You can also follow her @_ishanidesai on Twitter.

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