Deep-fried turkey is delicious but dangerous.
Each year plenty of Americans whip out the turkey fryer and before Thanksgiving is over cause an estimated $15 million in property damage.
That’s because turkey fryers require a lot of hot oil to work — about three gallons of cooking oil should do the trick for a standard 30 quart frying pot.
The mistake that some of us inevitably make with turkey fryers is to mix water with the hot oil. That’s a recipe for disaster, not delicious deep-fried turkey, and here’s why.
Water is denser than oil. So if you mix room temperature water with oil of the same temperature, then the water will sink to the bottom of the container.
Now, heat that oil up to its boiling point and add water. Depending on how much and how quickly you add the water, you can get a seriously dangerous fireball, like this:
That’s because oil boils at a higher temperature than oil. So when you add water to your boiling pot, the water is quickly heated by the oil to above its boiling point and turns to steam.
But if you add a lot of water, fast enough — or if you take a frozen turkey and plop it in the pot — then some of that water will travel down to the bottom of the pot.
There, it heats up, quickly changing from a liquid to a gas. The gas, then, pushes the oil up, out of the pot, and you get a lot of hot oil spattering everywhere.
“This fountain creates a fine mist of the very hot oil, this greatly increased surface area coupled with the already hot oil causes it to ignite which then ignites surrounding droplets until the entire batch of oil that was displaced from the pot is a huge fireball,” Matthew explained.
The same thing happens if you mix cool oil with hot oil, as shown below:
So, this year, make sure to be extremely careful with moisture around your turkey fryer, if you plan to use one. Here are some quick tips on how to avoid a Thanksgiving fireball:
- Always deep fry your turkey outside at least 10 feet away from anything else.
- Follow the instructions for how full to fill your fryer pot with oil. Do NOT fill it too full.
- Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature of your oil. If it gets hotter than 350 degrees the oil could catch fire.
- Thaw and pat down your turkey completely to minimise moisture before gently placing it in the fryer.
- If the fryer catches fire do NOT add water. Keep a fire extinguisher on hand.
- Be aware that your fryer will remain hot for hours after cooking, so be careful!
- And the best way to avoid a Thanksgiving fireball is to buy your deep-fried turkey from a professional establishment, such as grocery stores, specialty food retailers, and restaurants.
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