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Blackened Turkey Anyone? Cooking Fires on Holidays

Nothing says Thanksgiving like the stench of something burned, and authorities say holidays bring more cooking fires. They have a special warning on deep fat turkey frying. Don't.

It's a different kind of fire season starting Thursday: cooking fire season. Every year, national statistics show, there's an increase in cooking fires on Thanksgiving and other winter holidays. 

--An average of 155,000 cooking fires a year. Many more go unreported.

--460 people die each year as a result of these fires, which also result in

--Nearly 5,000 injuries and $724 million in property damage.

These statistics are from the United States Fire Administration (USFA), which reported that the number of cooking fires increases on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and urges people not to become “a cooking fire casualty.”

One of the biggest holiday cooking dangers is the deep fat turkey frier, such a consistent fire injury risk that the USFA and other agencies plead with people to just not use them. Underwriters Laboratory will not endorse or put its seal of approval on any model of the item (see video).

The USFA offers a few of its extensive safety tips.

Watch What You Heat

  • The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking.
  • Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you're cooking.
  • Stay alert! To prevent cooking fires, you have to be alert. You won't be if you are sleepy, have been drinking alcohol, or have taken medicine that makes you drowsy.

Keep Things That Can Catch Fire and Heat Sources Apart

  • Keep anything that can catch fire - potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels, or curtains - away from your stovetop.
  • Keep the stovetop, burners, and oven clean.
  • Keep pets off cooking surfaces and nearby countertops to prevent them from knocking things onto the burner.
  • Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and catch fire if it comes into contact with a gas flame or electric burner. 

For the extended version of safety tips, from how to avoid scalding children to how to put out a kitchen fire, check the USFA site.

Boogan November 21, 2012 at 12:55 AM
These videos are intended to scare everyone. Lots of people fry turkeys with no problems because they apply common sense to what they are doing. Fried turkey is super great!
Tim Sole November 21, 2012 at 01:41 AM
"Big Brother" aka the "Democratic Super Majority" will soon outlaw frying turkey, due to safety and environmental emission problems. Ah, I hear the call of the sheeple now, OH NO, OH NO, SAVE US FROM OURSELVES, WE CANT BE ALLOWED OH GREAT BIG BROTHER, WE CANT BE TRUSTED OH GREAT BIG BROTHER, PLEASE SAVE US GOVERNOR MOONBEAM, WE KNOW NOT WHAT WE DO......
Dale Smith. November 21, 2012 at 04:22 PM
The dems will just tax it to death so no one can afford to deep fry their turkey.
Bob Atkins November 21, 2012 at 06:35 PM
All of the above comments notwithstanding - what UL is trying to say is that the equipment is crap and it is. Even the most careful and experienced turkey fryer can have an unexpected boil over that could cause hot oil to overflow out of the pot and down directly into the fire. With a few, very simple design improvements, these fryers can be made to prevent overflowing oil from getting right into the fire below the unit and run harmlessly under it. Once ignited - oil is almost impossible to extinguish. Just keep it out of the fire! They certainly could have a more stable stand and a thermostat is a mindlessly simple addition that exists on every gas fired water heater in the world. And really - would it be so difficult to insulate the handles with high temp silicone! A few sensible and pathetically inexpensive product improvements and you wouldn't need to risk life and home to have a great turkey. I'm not suggesting government intervention but really - the propane turkey fryer is probably one of the best examples of callous, profit motivated capitalism that is combined with the general ignorance/tolerance of the populace that buys these ridiculously unsafe cooking devices.

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