America's Test Kitchen LogoCook's Country LogoCook's Illustrated Logo

How to Fry a Turkey Without Burning Down Your Neighborhood

Know the risks—and take the proper measures—before you begin.

Published June 17, 2021.

There’s no getting around it: Frying a turkey is dangerous. Many scenarios can cause the fryer and anything around it to catch fire. Because the risk of accidents and user error is so great, the National Fire Protection Association actually discourages the use of turkey fryers. Some state and local fire agencies warn against frying turkeys at all. It’s no coincidence that cooking fires are the number one cause of residential fires in America, and that Thanksgiving is the peak day for those fires nationwide. While exact statistics are hard to come by, grease fires contribute significantly to those figures.


How To Deep-Fry a Turkey (Safely!)

Frying is the key to a succulent, juicy turkey. But to avoid danger, you should do your homework first.
Read the Guide

We conducted our turkey fryer review with the help of the Lexington (Kentucky) Fire Department (LFD), which fries several hundred turkeys for charity every Thanksgiving with Double H BBQ, a local barbecue joint. But you don’t need to be in with the fire department to fry a turkey in your own backyard. With the following advice from the LFD, Double H BBQ proprietor Ernie Hanley, and national safety groups, you too can have a perfect bird without endangering yourself or your loved ones.

frying turkeymember of reviews team with Lexington fire department
The absolute safest way to fry a turkey? Make sure you're surrounded by firefighters and chefs.

What You'll Need

turkey fryer

Turkey Fryer
Our winning turkey fryer, the Bayou Classic 32-Quart Stainless Steel Turkey Fryer and Gas One B-5300 Propane Burner, boasts a powerful propane burner and a large stockpot that holds plenty of oil; this turkey fryer kit made great fried turkey—evenly cooked and crisp on the outside—in record time.

grill glove

Grill Gloves
Our winning grill gloves, the Steven Raichlen Ultimate Suede Grilling Gloves gave us great control when manipulating tongs and grabbing hot grill grates. Long, wide cuffs protected our forearms and let air circulate to keep us cooler over a scorching hot grill.

Thermapen digital instant read thermometer

Digital Instant-Read ThermometersOur old winner, the Thermoworks Thermapen Mk4, is still the best instant-read thermometer on the market. It's dead accurate, fast, and so streamlined and simple that it's a breeze to use.[BUY NOW]

red fire extinguisher

Fire Extinguishers
Fast and very effective, our winning fire extinguisher, the Kidde ABC Multipurpose Home Fire Extinguisher, really works. Its powerful spray put out both the grease fire and the towel fire right away.

Choose the Right Day

  • Don’t fry when it’s raining or snowing. Oil and water don’t mix; precipitation can make the oil spatter out of the pot and into the flames below, causing a fire.
  • Don’t fry when it’s windy.

Set Up Carefully

  • Place your fryer on a flat, level surface 10 feet from any walls or structures. A patio or concrete driveway is ideal.
  • Don’t fry under a tree or an overhang (roof, awning, porch, etc.).
  • Leave at least two feet between the propane tank and the burner. This reduces the risk of explosions.
  • Optional: Line the area under your fryer with clay kitty litter or Oil-Dri to protect your patio or driveway from spatters. 
  • Check your propane tank for leaks. Turn on the fuel supply and apply a half-and-half solution of liquid dishwasher soap and water to the various junctions connecting the propane tank to the burner. If bubbles appear, there’s a leak. Turn off the fuel and tighten the connections. Wait at least 5 minutes for any gas fumes to dissipate before checking again and proceeding. 
  • Measure the volume of oil needed before you fry. You don’t want to overfill the fryer and have oil spill into the flames. To find the volume you need, put the turkey—frozen is fine—and the turkey rack into the stockpot, then fill the pot with water until it’s about half an inch over the turkey, keeping track of how much you’ve used as you go. (If the turkey floats due to air bubbles inside the package, you’ll need to take it out of the package and try again.) Mark this line and make sure it is at least 6 inches from the top of the pot. Empty the water and dry the pot thoroughly before you fry.
  • Have an ABC fire extinguisher standing by.
frying turkeyfrying turkey
Your setup and the speed at which you lower the turkey into the frying oil are both important.

Sign up for the Notes from the Test Kitchen newsletter

Our favorite tips and recipes, enjoyed by 2 million+ subscribers!

Fry with Caution

  • Thaw your bird completely and dry it thoroughly before putting it in the hot oil. Frozen turkeys are one of the biggest causes of fryer fires. Again, oil and water—even frozen water—do not mix.
  •  Keep pets and children far away. You don’t want anyone bumping into the fryer while it’s in use.
  • Add oil up to your mark. Save the container(s) the oil came in; you’ll need it to dispose of the oil later.
  • Keep the flame of your burner under the pot. Don’t let the flame lick up the sides—oil spatters could hit them and ignite the pot.
  • Turn the propane burner off before putting in or taking out the turkey. That way there’s no flame to set off an explosion if the oil spatters.
  • Use grill gloves to protect your hands.
  • Lower and raise the turkey slowly. The bird will bubble violently as it hits the hot oil. Resist the urge to dump it in quickly—if you do, you’ll raise a tidal wave of oil and potential fire.
  • Once the oil is hot, don’t move the fryer.
  • Don’t leave the fryer unattended.

Don't Rush the Clean Up

  • Let the oil cool completely. Once it’s cool enough to handle, use a large liquid measuring cup to ladle it out of the pot and into a funnel placed in the original container you’ve saved.  If you’re planning to use the oil again—and you can, up to eight timesfilter it through a fine-mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth.

This is a members' feature.