Up in smoke: How not to set your turkey on fire

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Fried turkeys can catch fire
Of any day in the year, Thanksgiving has the most home cooking fires. (Courtesy York County)

If you don’t want your holiday bird to go up in flames, fire-safety experts have a few tips for you. 

Thanksgiving is the No. 1 day of the year for home cooking fires, when the number of residential fires typically doubles, according to a release from the York County Public Information Office.

The No. 2 and No. 3 days, Christmas day and Christmas Eve, respectively, are just around the corner.

To avoid having the fire department as an unexpected holiday guest, the National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Fire Administration have a few tips — so any sparks you put out are around the table, not on the stove:

  • If you roast or bake your turkey, set a timer and don’t leave the house while it’s in the oven. And make sure juices don’t spill onto the heating element.
  • If you fry, broil or boil the bird, don’t wander away while it’s cooking. Keep the area around the stovetop free of flammable items such as paper towels, packaging and dish cloths. Keep a large pot lid or baking sheet nearby to smother any pan fires.
  • If you’re using a fryer, make sure the oil doesn’t overheat. Use a thermometer to monitor the oil’s temperature. Thaw the turkey and dry it off completely before placing it into hot oil. Don’t overfill the pot with oil – that’s a serious fire hazard. Use heavy-duty gloves. Make sure children and pets stay at least three feet away from the fryer. And don’t fry the turkey indoors.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby, just in case.

Finally, if you must fry your bird, a local cooking expert echoed the advice of fire-safety officials.

“Just make sure it’s really dry before you fry it,” Ian Robbins, executive chef for Williamsburg Winery, said during a recent phone interview. “Fry your turkeys outside,” he added.