Nov 23, 2011

Deep Fry Turkey, Oh My!

Oil and water don't mix: it's an old saying, but it's never more true than when you're talking about a pot of hot cooking oil and the moisture condensed on the surface of a frozen turkey. it's pretty incredible the amount of fire that simple combination can create.

Cooking oil is flammable, but it doesn't catch fire in a deep fryer because it never approaches the approximately 800°F required. Even if you drop a match in the fryer, the heat is conducted away from the flame and dissipates into the oil, and the fire goes out.

But oil dispersed into fine droplets is another beast entirely. individual droplets heat up very quickly, and the burning of one drop creates enough heat to ignite the one next to it, and so on, making a cloud of oil droplets extremely flammable. Where might a cloud of oil droplets come from? From that big, frozen bird.

The recommended oil temperature for a deep fryer is 350°, well above the boiling point of water. When you drop food in, you immediately see bubbles; that is the water in the food boiling off. Put too much moisture in by lowering in a frozen turkey, and the vaporization of the water throws oil droplets into the air. a few of the droplets hit the burner under the pot and catch on fire, beginning a chain reaction that ignites a large cloud of droplets. The result is the smell of a county fair-and a towering inferno that can ignite everything around it.


  1. OOh my, did you have a bad experience or is this a warning? Why would you put a FROZEN turkey in the fryer? Defrost, remove parts.....LOL

  2. The well intented plans of Thanksgiving ambitions...

  3. I love watching these type of demo's.

  4. Of course, a frozen turkey has way too much moisture in it to fry!! Here is the CORRECT way to fry a turkey, as demonstrated by the Houston Fire Department.

    Okay, so it wasn't that informative- but the trick of measuring the displacement with water is crucial.

    I guess the oil droplet thing is similar to why grain elevators explode- dust ignites more easily than solid particles, and a chain reaction occurs.

    Great post! Happy TG!

  5. Hoping to buy one of those NO OIL turkey fryers from Home Depot to hide away for next years celebration Extra crispy birds do not excite me. HAPPY THANKSGIVING.


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