By Bill Hudson

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — St. Paul Fire Department arson investigator Joe Blank says deep frying is a great way to cook a tasty bird. But, he adds, only if you do it safely.

That begins with thawing the bird thoroughly and drying it before dropping the turkey into 350 degree oil.

If you don’t follow instructions the results can be damaging, even deadly. That’s because the excess moisture in the bird instantly transforms into steam, causing the fryer oil to boil over and ignite.

str turkey fryer fire 2 of 2 112217 1122t130940 mov How To Keep Your Deep Fried Turkey From Going Up In Flames

(credit: CBS)

And if you’re anywhere close to a wood or combustible surface, like a back deck or a building’s vinyl siding, it could spell big trouble.

“I’ve seen them used in garages, sheds, on decks, and then they do get fires,” investigator Blank explains.

To simulate a typical home setup, Blank placed a fully clothed mannequin just a few feet away from the fryer and a simulated vinyl sided wall.

“The United States sees, probably, nationwide about five deaths a year related to deep frying,” Blank said.

Another fatal mistake is thinking you can cool down hot oil by dropping ice into it. His demonstration clearly showed the violent eruption of hot oil and flames.

str turkey fryer fire 2 of 2 112217 1122t130940 mov 1 How To Keep Your Deep Fried Turkey From Going Up In Flames

(credit: CBS)

The entire area 10 feet around the fryer is engulfed in fire. That mannequin standing nearby would have been you.

“What’ll end up happening is the water will immediately turn to steam and then as it expands it’ll actually eject the oil out of the pot, and that oil will then reach an ignition source, which is the burner below,” Blank said.

So go ahead, cook that Thanksgiving bird in a turkey fryer — but do it carefully and well away from combustibles.

Because it’s a pretty good bet you won’t have firefighters in protective clothing standing watch, ready to extinguish the flames.

“If you do it right and follow manufacturer’s instructions and keep it away from structures, it turns out nice,” Blank said.

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