As amusing as it was to watch William Shatner’s dramatic tale of a fried turkey gone wrong for State Farm this month, we thought it might be useful to provide some grounded tips this Thanksgiving. Deep-frying a turkey can yield incredible results: a glistening bird with golden-brown skin that’s cooked perfectly in minutes. But anyone who’s watched a YouTube video in which a deep-fried turkey goes up in flames should understand that the technique is no joke. Done right, you could be filling your plate in an hour. Done wrong, you could be eating Jell-O at the ER. Here, Food & Wine’s deep-fried turkey tips (use at your own risk!).
1. Test to see how much oil you really need. Do not fill the pot with oil yet. Using cold water, measure how much liquid should be put in the pot to cover the turkey without overflowing onto the burner.
2. Go outside. Turkey frying should only be done outdoors, on a flat and level surface—not in an enclosed area (like a kitchen or garage) or on a wooden structure (like a deck)! Also, remember that oil is also hard to clean off of concrete. Make sure to clear the area of children, pets and intoxicated relatives.
3. Use a fresh bird, or fully thaw a frozen one. The minute any moisture from the turkey hits hot oil, the oil will start to splatter and can cause a spillover effect, starting a fire.
4. Skip the stuffing. You’ll have to keep the stuffing on the side when frying a turkey. Michael Symon’s stuffing muffins with lemony mushrooms and pine nuts, or butternut squash with corn bread, are fantastic. Also, remember to remove the giblets from the bird’s cavity before frying.
5. Lower the bird slowly into the oil. Do not drop the turkey into the deep-fryer.
6. Do not move the pot. Are you Homer Simpson? Adjusting a vat of hot oil is incredibly dangerous.
7. Stick around. Never leave the turkey unattended. It can only take a moment for something to go wrong.
8. Don’t start drinking until after the oil has cooled. Better to be alert until this bird is cooked.
9. Wait to carve. Let the cooked turkey rest for at least 30 minutes, in order to retain the hot juices.
10. Keep heavy blankets nearby for emergencies. Water will not extinguish an oil fire, it will only spread the ignited oil. A wool blanket will help put out flare-ups.
Related: 30-Minute Thanksgiving Recipes