Holiday Warning: The dangers of deep frying a turkey

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by BILL McGINTY / NBC Charlotte

kvue.com

Posted on October 27, 2012 at 5:55 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- During the holidays many people choose to fry turkey instead of the traditional oven bake.

But, every year, people get burned or damage their property because they're careless with the hot oil and open flame. 

The internet is flooded with videos of explosive fires. They are potentially catastrophic moments. The ingredients? Frozen turkeys, scalding hot grease and an open flame.

“And I grabbed the pan while it was on fire,” said Reggie Horne, who was critically burned in a cooking accident.

Horne’s story is worth hearing. But first, what not to do, and why.

NBC Charlotte took a frozen turkey to the Charlotte Fire Academy watched as firefighters slowly heated peanut oil to almost 500 degrees. It has become a popular way to cook a holiday turkey dinner.

“This oil gets up to 300 and 400 degrees and can cause very serious burns, injuries, and even death,” said Charlotte Fire Department spokesperson Mark Basnight.

It becomes dangerous when people don’t follow the directions, or think they know what to do when cooking with hot oil. You should never use a frozen turkey because the ice and water react with the hot grease. Your turkey should be completely thawed and dry before it’s put in the pot. But a more common mistake is overfilling the oil in the pot.

The fire department recommends using water to test how much oil you’ll need. When NBC Charlotte -- under the supervision of firefighters -- dropped a 21-pound turkey into a pot of boiling grease that was overfilled on purpose, the hot oil exploded up and out. Had anyone been standing next to the pot, they would have been critically burned.

The result is different every time. Let the oil get too hot and it’s likely to ignite. Cooking too close to the house, or outside on the wooden deck, or in a crowd of people can be a life-threatening bad decision.

“And I ditched the grease and it rolled back on me,” said Reggie Horne, who rushed to throw a pan of flaming hot oil out the back door. The hot oil rolled back and splashed up on to his face and chest. “It got around my mouth and it healed pretty good, but I had seven surgeries and skin graphs and third-degree burns.”

Horne woke up in the burn center with burns over 60% of his body. He stayed there for three months, and for eight weeks he was unable to move.

The recovery and therapy was painful. Horne was constantly stretching new skin that was tight and unforgiving.

“Things happen, mistakes happen. And this is one that happened to me and I will have to look at it for the rest of my life,” said Horne.

Not thinking the cooking process through, not following directions, letting kids or pets near bubbling and popping hot oil can all have life changing consequences.

Take it from Horne: “It happens too quick, too quick. One mistake and it could be your life.”

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