Officials urge caution when deep-frying turkeys - FOX 32 News Chicago

Officials urge caution when deep-frying turkeys

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

It may make your turkey delicious, but doctors and fire officials are urging Illinois residents to exercise caution when deep-frying the customary bird this Thanksgiving.

The warning is presaged by a number of high-profile mishaps involving deep-fried turkeys that have ended in serious injury or sparked fires.

"While turkey fryers are becoming a popular method for cooking, it continues to be a potential fire hazard. It can lead to devastating consequences including serious burns and the destruction of property," the Illinois Fire Marshal's office said in a release Tuesday.

Holiday cooking mishaps are common enough the state had the second highest number of Thanksgiving fires in the U.S. between 2005 and 2010, according to the National Fire Protection Association. While the majority of Thanksgiving accidents do not involve a turkey fryer, the cookers nonetheless present a serious safety hazard.

The prospect of injury concerned doctors at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood enough that this Thanksgiving they are discouraging the deep-frying of turkeys.

Last year the hospital treated an 87-year-old Mount Prospect man who has continued to receive burn care since he fell into a fryer last year.

"I tripped and fell right into the deep fryer and basically fried myself," said Serafino Alfe, who injured himself cooking turkeys at a charity fundraiser.

"I have used a deep fryer for many years but last year I caught my shoe on the edge of some cardboard under a fryer," Alfe said. "We were using the older models that did not have secure lids and gallons of hot oil poured everywhere – including over my leg and upper body."

For those who choose to deep-fry turkeys despite the risk, the state fire marshal has some words of advice.

Those tips include setting up a fryer away from buildings or flammable objects, not leaving a fryer unattended while the bird is cooking and covering bare skin to avoid grease burns. The fire marshal also warns that many turkey fryers are top-heavy; if one topples over and starts a grease fire attempts to extinguish flames with water will only cause the grease – and fire – to spread.

But while deep-fryers have a greater potential for mishap, all holiday cooking can be dangerous – especially when alcohol is involved.

"A little bit of alcohol on top of a little bit of distraction … and then that is a recipe for an injury," said Dr. Tom Esposito, who heads up the burn and trauma unit at Loyola University Medical Center. "The bottom line is don't drink and cook."

Even if you're cooking sober, carelessness can lead to dangerous accidents, said Esposito, who was one of the doctors who treated Alfe's grease burn. He recommends keeping children out of the kitchen and away from hot oven doors. And while many cooks could be distracted by a football game, phone call, or dinner guest, he stressed that paying attention is ultimately what is most important.

"I would bet that somewhere across America this holidays season someone will be injured in their kitchen because they were texting," said Esposito.

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