Don't torch that turkey

Ah, the signs that Thanksgiving is on the way: Canned pumpkin shortage in the supermarket, Christmas songs on the radio and the annual photo of a turkey fryer going up in a fireball.

I have deep-fried turkeys for years, and I still have a house. Obviously, it’s possible to do this safely. But ever since the torched-turkey pics started hitting the media, people arrive, see the fryer and think I’m trying to kill us all. No, that congealed salad of coleslaw and lime Jell-O (my mother made that once) may kill us, not my turkey fryer.

I have extensive, safe directions for frying turkey in my cookbook “Fan Fare: A Playbook of Great Recipes for Tailgating or Watching the Game at Home” (Harvard Common Press, 2007). But the most important ones are: Use equipment specially designed for deep-frying whole turkeys, do this only outdoors (not in a garage or carport), do not overfill the fryer with oil and never leave the fryer unattended.

To get the right amount of oil, I place the turkey in the fryer pot, then measure and add water a quart at a time until the turkey is covered but there’s still a few inches of room at the top of the pot. The number of quarts of water you used equals the amount of oil you’ll need. Dry the pot and turkey thoroughly before heating the oil to prevent spattering.


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