Multigenerational family at Thanksgiving table with turkey.

Safe Cooking Tips For Thanksgiving

The skin is crispy; the meat is moist. It’s no accident that as families begin thinking about Thanksgiving dinner, many opt to try deep-frying a turkey at home.

And that deep-fried turkey as a once-a-year treat is actually not as unhealthy as it sounds. According to the Peanut Institute, a serving of roasted turkey has 241 calories and 12 grams of fat, while the same serving of turkey fried in peanut oil has 253 calories and less than 14 grams of fat. How does that work when the bird is submerged in oil? According to the experts, the frying of the turkey (if the oil is hot enough) actually seals the skin, creating a barrier that keeps moisture in but the oil out.

Now with respect to safety, did you know Texas leads the nation in fried turkey related accidents? The National Fire Protection Association (who, by the way, strongly discourages the use of gas-fueled outdoor fryers) also said every year deep-fryer fires are responsible for five deaths, 60 injuries and the complete destruction of 900 homes, with more than $15 million in property damage.

Clearly, the prospect of dropping a whole turkey into a vat of boiling oil is not something to enter into lightly — or unprepared.

“I like fried turkey,” said Glenn Hardesty, D.O., an emergency medicine physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Plano. “It is popular, and it tastes really good.”

But Hardesty, who sees plenty of burns as an emergency room doctor, said knowing how to properly treat burns, being ready for emergencies and knowing the proper frying technique are essential to making sure that turkey makes it to the table without the cook needing medical intervention.

“Just remember that the turkey displaces the oil, so go slowly so you don’t get splattered,” Hardesty said. “And make sure no kids are around.”

Hardesty said that burn treatment generally is determined by the degree of the burn and the size of the burn. A first-degree burn is the least severe and generally looks like a pink patch on your skin.

“With a first-degree burn, there’s not much we can do in the ER that you can’t do at home,” he said. “Use Neosporin, especially if it’s on the face, because while there are burn ointments out there, they can tend to scar.”

Some wives’ tales or home remedies can also be problematic. Butter is sometimes recommended by a well-meaning friend, but Hardesty said any treatment that includes organic matter increases the risk of infection increases.

“Don’t put butter on a burn,” he said. “You can potentially introduce bacteria to the wound.”

Instead, Hardesty recommends cooling the burn with ice or cold water.

“You can submerge the burn briefly in ice water, but what I don’t want to see is someone sticking their burned arm in a tub of ice water for an hour,” he said. “That can actually do more damage.”

A cool towel is also a good option, he added.

“With an oil burn especially, rinse the burn with cold water, apply Neosporin and a clean bandage,” Hardesty said. “If it blisters, do NOT pop the blister — that blister forms a natural Band-Aid that keeps bacteria out while the skin heals.”

To prevent your Thanksgiving meal from going up in flames, make sure the turkey is completely thawed and patted dry with paper towels before frying. Also make sure you’re not filling the fryer with more oil than you need since this can cause spillover. Before you fry, place the turkey in the empty basket of the fryer, fill it with water and mark how far up you need to fill the fryer with oil to cover the bird. As always, do not fry near garages, homes, trees or children, and keep a grease-fire-approved extinguisher on hand.

In addition, be sure you know where the closest emergency department is before you start celebrating this Thanksgiving in case anything goes wrong. To find the closest hospital near you, visit TexasHealth.org/350 or call 1-877-THR-WELL.

Think fried turkey is the unhealthiest item on your Thanksgiving table this season? You might want to think again! Read about The Biggest Offenders on Your Thanksgiving Table to learn which dishes really tip the gravy boat.  

1 Comment

  • John Holloway says:

    Great article! Thank you for more of the facts to treat burn injuries! I love fried turkey but seems to be a huge challenge. Thank you for the Turkey tips!

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