MAYWOOD, Ill - More than 4,000 fires occur annually on Thanksgiving Day as celebrants deep-fry or roast turkeys, boil potatoes, bake pies and more. The autumn holiday brings double the number of home cooking fires than an average day, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
“Thanksgiving for many means extra people in the kitchen, close proximity to fire and hot surfaces, added stress to cook many dishes on a tight schedule, the manipulation of a large, heavy turkey and the use of sharp knives,” said Arthur Sanford, MD, burn surgeon at Loyola University Health System. “It is easy to get distracted and injuries can occur in a flash.” Sanford also warns against drinking alcohol while cooking. “Intoxication and cooking injuries to adults are terrible, and often children are also victims and that is truly tragic,” he said.
The trend of deep-frying the turkey has caused a rise in cooking injuries. In the United States, more than 141 serious fires and hot-oil burns have been reported from turkey fryers over the last decade, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
“I have actually cared for a patient who tried to deep fry the turkey indoors, which absolutely should not be done in any circumstances,” says Dr. Sanford, an associate professor at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “And I cannot stress enough that the turkey must be moisture –free. A frozen turkey in hot oil is a recipe for tragedy.”
In addition to the pain of these types of injuries, an estimated $15 million in U.S. property damage is caused by deep-fryer fires. “Too many people spend Thanksgiving in the burn center or the emergency department when they should be home with their loved ones,” Dr. Sanford said. Loyola’s Burn Center is one of the busiest in the Midwest, treating approximately 600 patients annually in the hospital and another 3,500 patients each year in its clinic.
Sanford offers these holiday cooking safety tips:
- Look for the newer fryers with sealed lids to prevent oil spills.
- Keep the fryer in full view while the burner is on.
- Keep children and pets away from cooking areas.
- Place the fryer in an open area away from all walls, fences or other structures. Don’t overfill fryer with oil. Turkey fryers can ignite in seconds after oil hits the burner.
- Never use the fryer in, on or under a garage, carport, porch, deck or any other structure that can catch fire.
- Make sure the turkey is dry when placed in the hot oil. Slowly raise and lower the turkey to reduce hot-oil splatter and to avoid burns. Immediately turn off the fryer if the oil begins to overheat.
- Never cook while wearing short sleeves, shorts or in bare feet. Cover all bare skin when dunking or removing bird.
- Use long-sleeved oven mitts rather than potholders, and protect your eyes with goggles or glasses.
- Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water don’t mix and water can cause oil to spill over, creating a fire or even an explosion.
- Keep a fire extinguisher appropriate for oil fires close at hand and be familiar with how to operate it.
- Do not use a hose in an attempt to douse a turkey fryer fire.
- If you do burn yourself, or someone else is burned, seek immediate medical attention.
- If you are going to drink alcohol, do it responsibly during dinner when you can relax safely.