I've seen all the videos of deep fried turkey fireballs. but I've also heard deep fried turkey is really great. How do I safely deep fry a turkey? What causes the explosions?

4 Answers 4


The other answers touch on the fact that its the release of water from the turkey that interacts with the oil, causes the oil to overflow, and then ignite the burner.

Generally, this happens pretty shortly after you put the turkey in (due do any moisture on the outside of the bird).

To do it safely don't bank on the fact that you've removed all the water - do two additional things:

  1. Do it outside. In the event something bad happens, better to lose some grass on the lawn than your house. If you don't have space outside, you can always go to a public park or such. It may seem like a pain but turkey frying should not be done inside.

  2. There's one absolutely surefire way to ensure than you don't catch the burner on fire by accident. Don't have it on!

    • Prep your turkey. Have it dry on the outside and completely thawed.
    • Heat your oil outside.
    • Turn the burner off
    • Lower the turkey into the hot oil
    • Wait 1-2 minutes or so, most of the initial contact between water and oil should over by now.
    • Turn the burner back on and cook the turkey.
    • Also make sure the burner is off while taking the turkey out, just to prevent any spills from becoming terrible.

@ChrisWalker, below in the comments, also provides a method for making sure you don't put too much oil in the pot and thus cause a spill over.

  • 1
    Nice addition to 'Turn the burner off' while merging the turkey into the oil. +1
    – Cos Callis
    Nov 20, 2011 at 17:19
  • 4
    The day before or the morning of, I put the turkey in a clean plastic bag to keep it dry. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the turkey plus a little extra to fill the cavities (once the turkey is out of the bag). Remove and dry the turkey. Mark the pot on the outside. Dump and dry the pot. Fill the pot to the mark with the oil. This makes sure you do not have too much oil in the pot which can also lead to boil over.
    – Doc Walker
    Nov 21, 2011 at 16:20
  • 1
    Check your local by-laws before trying to do this in a public park - it's definitely not allowed in many/most cities.
    – Aaronut
    Nov 22, 2011 at 14:22
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    @Aaronut - We have many parks that are setup for outdoor cooking - do they specifically disallow frying in regards to where you're talking about?
    – rfusca
    Nov 22, 2011 at 14:40
  • Make sure the turkey is completely thawed.
  • Make sure the outside of the skin is dry.
  • Make sure there is room for the turkey and all of the oil in the kettle.

The explosion is caused by steam causing the oil to boil over, which then ignites when it reaches the burner.

Alton Brown has a show on it: Fry Turkey Fry (1/3), Fry Turkey Fry (2/3), Fry Turkey Fry (3/3)


Ice or water meets 400-degree oil and voila, explosion. Once again I will direct attention to Alton Brown's Good Eats episode "Fry Turkey Fry," in which you can learn all you need to know about how to fry a turkey SAFELY and TASTILY.

  • 1
    I particularly like the stepladder and pulley lowering mechanism. Nov 21, 2011 at 17:23

The best way to deep fry a turkey is, to first buy some quality peanut oil. Using the wrong type of oil can cause a fire/explosion or cause your turkey to taste burnt. You should brine your turkey as well, helps out a lot. Make sure you dry your turkey out and off as much as possible, this step is important! Water and oil can also cause over boiling of your oil and cause a fire. You can use a dry rub, which I love, to season the bird safely for frying. If you do use a dry rub, a very light coating of olive oil will help your seasoning stick to the bird. Get everything you will need to cook, heat source and a 30 quart pot is best, and take it outside away from children pets and any structures. After you have the peanut oil and a great cooker ready, you should bring the oil to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, then turn off your heat source and lower the bird in. After about five minutes of safe cooking, turn your heat source back on. Keep your oil from 325 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. It will take at least an hour for most turkeys to cook. Happy Turkey Day!

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