A longtime food favorite in the southern United States, the deep-fried turkey has quickly grown in popularity thanks to celebrity chefs such as Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse.
While some people rave about this tasty creation, Underwriters Laboratories Inc.'s safety experts are concerned that backyard chefs may sacrifice safety for good taste.
"We're worried by the increasing reports of fires related with turkey fryer use," said John Drengenberg, UL consumer affairs manager. "Based on our test findings, the fryers used to produce those great-tasting birds are not worth the risks. And, as a result of these tests, UL has decided not to certify any turkey fryers with our trusted UL mark."
If you absolutely must use a turkey fryer, UL provides some tips for safer use:
-- Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors, a safe distance from buildings and any other material that can burn.
-- Never use turkey fryers on wooden decks or in garages.
-- Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
-- Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you don't watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
-- Never let children or pets near the fryer when in use. Even after use, never allow children or pets near the turkey fryer. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot, hours after use.
-- To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
-- Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.
-- Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water don't mix, and water causes oil to spill over, causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.
-- The National Turkey Federation recommends refrigerator thawing and to allow approximately 24 hours for every five pounds of bird thawed in the refrigerator.
-- Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. Remember to use your best judgment when attempting to fight a fire. If the fire is manageable, use an all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call 9-1-1 for help.