How to cook a turkey without burning down your house

It’s that time of year again when your local fire departments would like to remind you of a few safety tips to make sure your home is filled with the aroma of turkey and not the flames of a fire.

Cooking is the biggest cause of home fires and fire injuries, and Thanksgiving is one of the peak times for home cooking fires.

“No matter how many years you’ve been cooking, or how many Thanksgiving feasts you’ve served, you still need to make safety your main ingredient,” says Valdosta Fire Chief Brian Boutwell. Start with these prevention tips:

  • Make your cooking area safe. Move things that can burn away from the stove. Turn pot handles toward the back so that they can’t be bumped.
  • Watch what you’re cooking. Use a timer when roasting a turkey or baking pies.
  • Be prepared. Keep a large pan lid or baking sheet handy in case you need to smother a fire in a pan.
  • Stay awake and alert while you’re cooking. If you see smoke or the grease starts to boil in your pan, turn the burner off.
  • Prevent burns. Wear short sleeves when you cook, or roll them up. Don’t lean over the burner. Use potholders and oven mitts to handle hot cookware.

A Note About Frying Turkeys

Deep-frying turkeys has become popular in recent years. This cooking method has a lot of risks. Turkey fryers get hot all over, so they need to be handled with great care and only by an adult. They can tip over, spilling hot cooking oil. Partially frozen turkeys placed into hot fryers will cause the oil to splatter. If fryers are overfilled, the hot oil will spill over the side when the turkey is added. Even a small amount of oil on a hot burner can start a fire.

If you deep-fry a turkey, place the fryer outside on a flat surface that can’t burn, such as cement. Place the fryer several feet from anything that can catch fire.


Don’t let children or pets come anywhere near it. An adult should watch the fryer while it cooks. Use a fryer with thermostat controls. Without these controls, the oil can heat to the point of catching fire. Thaw the turkey completely before cooking it so that ice crystals won’t splatter the hot oil. Use potholders and oven mitts when handling the turkey.

There’s nothing more satisfying than cooking a good meal for the people we love. Make safety a priority in your kitchen at Thanksgiving and all year long.

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