The Dangers of Turkey Fryers and Rice Cookers

November 6th, 2017 by Guajardo & Marks, LLP

It’s that time of year to travel, to be with family and to gather around a large table and feast on all of our favorite holiday dishes.  No doubt, for many of you, the centerpiece of the table will involve a large golden-brown bird.  Many of you will have that beautiful fowl prepared via the timeless tradition of hours of roasting in an extra-large roasting pan, probably starting in the wee hours of the morning and having been carefully and lovingly basted throughout the morning and early afternoon by the “chef du jour” (hopefully someone who knows far more about cooking turkey than Greg and Mike do).  And then there are those of you who have come to enjoy the culinary delicacy known as “fried turkey.”  This creation is where you place the turkey on a “spit-like” rack and drop it into a vat of cooking oil, about 4 gallons or so, and deep fry it until the skin is golden and crispy and the inside is moist and tender.  Yes, it does sound good; and even more, it tastes amazing! But numerous hazards come along with turkey frying.

Every year deep-fryer fires are responsible for five deaths, 60 injuries, the destruction of 900 homes, and more than $15-million in property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association. What’s even more amazing is that for the last seven years, Texas has led the country in the most grease and cooking related insurance claims on Thanksgiving Day, at 38.  Illinois followed close behind with 27, and Pennsylvania and Ohio tied for third with 23.  New York ranked fourth, with South Carolina and Georgia tied for fifth.

Deep frying turkeys can be very dangerous as the fryers have a high risk of tipping over, overheating, or spilling hot oil. That could lead to fires, burns, or other injuries.

Below are the common dangers of frying a turkey:

  1. Fryers can easily tip over, spilling hot cooking oil over a large area.
  2. Putting a partially frozen turkey into an overfilled cooking pot will cause cooking oil to spill.
  3. Even a very small amount of cooking oil coming into contact with the burner can cause a large fire.
  4. Deep fryers have the potential to overheat the oil to the point of combustion (they don’t have thermostats).
  5. Because they get dangerously hot, the sides of the cooking pot, lid and pot handles can cause severe burns.

The Guajardo & Marks family would like for you and your family to enjoy a safe and happy Thanksgiving, so if you decide to deep-fry a turkey, read the following safety tips:

Before you ever get near the deep fryer, safety starts with proper thawing. Leaving a turkey out on a counter to thaw can cause Salmonella poisoning. Turkey (and really all meats) should be thawed in the refrigerator. Give yourself enough time to properly thaw your turkey. Below are the USDA guidelines for thawing a whole turkey in the refrigerator:

  • 4-12 pounds: one to three days
  • 12-16 pounds: three to four days
  • 16-20 pounds: four to five days
  • 20-24 pounds: five to six days

Next – here are the tips for frying the turkey safely:

  1. Fryers should always be used outdoors, on a level surface a safe distance from any buildings and all flammable materials.
  2. Never use a fryer on a wooden deck, under a patio cover or in a garage/enclosed space.
  3. Make sure not to overfill the fryer.
  4. Never leave the fryer unattended because, without thermostat controls, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
  5. Never let children or pets near the fryer when in use or after use (the oil can remain hot for hours).
  6. Use well-insulated potholders/oven mitts, wear long sleeves and safety goggles to protect from splatter.
  7. Make sure the turkey is completely thawed before it is placed in a fryer.
  8. Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby.
  9. If a turkey fryer fire occurs, call 911 IMMEDIATELY.

Many families enjoy a table full of side dishes to go along with their large golden-brown bird.  They usually include cranberry sauce, stuffing, dressing, green beans, sweet potatoes (especially if you’re from the south) and maybe rice (or mashed potatoes).  If your family likes rice on their table, the Guajardo & Marks family would like for you to know about the dangers of the latest “time savers” – rice cookers (a.k.a. pressure cookers).  The reason that “pressure cookers” are time savers is also the very reason that they can be so dangerous.  They cook foods through the production of high heat and pressure and therefore they can cook foods quickly, but they can also cause serious burns if defectively designed or manufactured. There are several brands under a recall notice by the Consumer Protection Safety Commission.  This list includes:

  • Tristar Products
  • Manttra
  • Pressure Cookers sold on QVC (Model PC501)
  • Ultrex-Brand
  • Double Insight
  • Breville

A pressure cooker works by creating high heat and an extreme buildup of steam pressure. Pressure cookers are usually equipped with a locking lid that should make it impossible for the cooker to open once it reaches the specified pressure level. The excess pressure is then released through a “rocker or gasket.” A spring-loaded valve usually serves as a regulator for the level of pressure building within the cooker. If there is a design or manufacturing flaw of this part of the cooker, it can cause a great risk for consumers.  So if the safety device for the steam release had a design defect or was manufactured incorrectly, the cooker will continue to build up the excess pressure, which will cause the pressure cooker to explode – causing injury to any nearby person.

Some of the design flaws have left consumers with serious, disfiguring burns or injuries.  The list below includes some of the design flaws:

  • Faulty seals
  • Defective safety pins
  • Failure to warn consumers of dangers
  • Defective steam venting, leading to explosion
  • Faulty gaskets
  • Defective safety valves

The injuries and burns resulting from the steam are very painful, can often be difficult to treat and repair and therefore may ultimately result in disfiguring scars. Usually the injuries involve burns which cover large areas of the upper body, arms, hands, neck, and face.  Scraping burned skin off is an extremely painful procedure, but it is the only treatment for this type of injury. In addition, these burns can affect deeper muscle layer tissue.  Not only will a burn victim have to undergo the serious painful treatments for their external injuries, they may require years of emotional and mental therapy in order to cope with the resulting lifetime scars.

Who should be held accountable?

The team at Guajardo & Marks believes it is the manufacturers and the retailers who made and sold the defective and dangerous products.  If you or your loved one has been seriously injured as a result of a faulty pressure cooker, please contact us for help, even if it isn’t a brand that is listed above.

As we reflect on all that we have to be “thankful” for this year, one of the things that comes to mind is the large number of wonderful clients and their families that we have had the privilege and honor of helping.  Thank you for all that you have brought to our lives.  We hope that we have helped make your lives a little better by our service.

The family here at Guajardo & Marks would like to wish you all a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.