(SAVANNAH) There’s one holiday dish that’s turned hundreds of Thanksgiving dinners into disaster: deep-fried turkey. It has become a staple in the traditional Thanksgiving feast for many. But deep frying the big bird has also become a holiday hazard that can lead to some heartache. The National Fire Protection Association reports deep-fryer fires cause 5 deaths, 60 injuries, the destruction of 900 homes, with some $15-million in property damage in the U.S. each year. Mark Keller, Public Information Officer for Savannah Fire & Emergency Services, says the heat of the oil can get out of control. ” Most turkey fryers don’t have a thermostat so the oil that they use just heats up continuously and it can get to a flash point where the oil can actually ignite.” Keller said. A multi-purpose fire extinguisher is vital to safe turkey frying. Keller says it’s the best way to douse an out-of-control grease fire. Placement of the fryer can be the difference between just burning a meal and burning down your house. ” Put it outside, put it on concrete if you can. Make sure it’s on a level surface.” Keller said.
Savannah resident, Joshua Flores, says he learned first hand at how volatile a situation unfolds when a frozen turkey is submerged in boiling oil. “They’ll explode and then it’s a grease fire you can not put out with…water.” said Flores. He says the ensuing grease fire could not be doused with water. Flores says it took a group effort of dumping sugar, flour, and even dirt to put it out. He concedes to making the most common mistake when frying a turkey, putting a partially frozen turkey into hot oil. There are hundreds of videos posted to Youtube alone, capturing fried turkey attempts gone horribly wrong. Flores says the videos remind him of his close call. But when at first he did not succeed, he fried and fried again. ” I have since then…absolutely. I just pull it out a couple days early, uh, season it up, deep fry it…super delicious. Very moist, it’s just the best way. Once you go deep fried turkey, you never go back.” said Flores. Keller says Flores is not alone when it comes to following the right safety recipe for deep fried turkey in Savannah. “We didn’t respond to any fires last year with turkey fryers so we’re hoping we won’t respond to any this year too!” Keller added.
Sister’s of the New South, on Skidaway Road, is one of a handful of places to order a fried turkey in Savannah. Co-owner, Betty Miller says a lot of people not comfortable with attempting to fry a turkey of their own, turn to their restaurant and others to let more experienced cooks prepare their fried turkey. “They’re popular, people like fried turkey, but some don’t want to set anything on fire.” Miller said. They are filling scores of orders, 112 by 9 p.m. Wednesday. Sister’s and other turkey frying enterprises offers a safe alternative to doing it yourself. Miller says many novice fryers make the same mistake. ” “They try to do it when it’s frozen and the grease is real hot, they put the turkey down in it and it just blows up everywhere, cause all that water and grease don’t mix together.” said Miller. Improvements in turkey frying safety in Savannah are not enough to keep Georgia out of the top five states when it comes to turkey fryer fires on Thanksgiving Day according to one major insurance company. State Farm’s rankings say Texas is tops with 38 grease- and cooking-related insurance claims on Thanksgiving Day. The Lone Star State has held that position for the last seven years. South Carolina and Georgia are tied for 5th with 16, claims each.