Deep-frying turkey? Don’t get burned by lack of knowledge

You can’t open a magazine or web site this time of year without finding dozens of tips on how to create the perfect deep-fried turkey.

But do you know that Thanksgiving is the most dangerous day of the year in the kitchen? And do you know what to do if your deep-frying backfires, and burns you with boiling oil?

Here’s an easy reminder: Everything “common sense” tells you about caring for serious burns is probably wrong. You can trust grandma’s tips for deep-frying holiday treats such as Swedish rosettes… but when it comes to treating deep-fryer burns — which are among the most serious household burns — you need advice from experts.

Cooked deep fried turkey - Be careful about avoiding deep fried turkey burns“Deep-fryer burns are some of the most serious burns we treat, because the oil can be as much as 400 degrees, and can cling to clothing, making the burns even deeper,” says Dr Lee Faucher, director of the Burn Center at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics. “It is not uncommon for deep fryers to create third-degree burns that require skin grafts to heal.”

Caring for serious burns

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says that Thanksgiving is the most dangerous day of the entire year for home-cooking fires, so it’s a good time to bone up on burn-care facts.

Here are some common myths about caring for serious injuries caused by deep fried turkey burns.

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1) It looks bad but it doesn’t hurt, so it’s probably okay, right?

Wrong. Some burns, especially from burning fat, are so severe that they destroy nerves in the area of the burn, leading to a lack of sensation.

“A blistered burn without sensation means that you should seek medical attention immediately,” says Dr Faucher. “This is a sign of a deep injury that has damaged the superficial nerves of the skin and is a marker of a more serious burn.”

2) It really hurts, so I should take lots of painkillers, right?

Wrong. “Again, you need to be evaluated by a burn specialist, because if you are going to need skin-graft surgery, there are some painkillers that need to be avoided because they promote bleeding that could interfere with surgery,” Faucher says. “We prescribe medications such as ibuprofen when we know the wound will heal without surgery.”

3) A serious burn should be left open to the air so it can heal, right? Wrong.

“We usually want patients to keep burns covered with a light dressing to hold the antimicrobial cream. The burn needs to stay moist and not allowed to dry out to allow it to heal properly,” says Faucher. “In addition, we wrap more serious burns with ace wraps or compression gloves to reduce edema.”

4) A serious burn should be kept dry, right?

Wrong. Faucher says that the slime covering a healing third-degree burn is the perfect breeding ground for dangerous bacteria. “When patients have an open wound from a burn, they need to wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water at least once a day,” he says. “This can be terribly painful, so we often prescribe pain killers so they are able to complete this necessary washing.”

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Find out about the different types of burns: Hot stuff: Burn basics

Of course, the best treatment is to prevent deep-fryer burns in the first place. Faucher notes that the NFPA discourages the use of outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers. The association’s website has a list of other tips for making the kitchen safer on Thanksgiving.

“It would be a great holiday for everyone at the Burn Center if we didn’t see a single patient who was burned by holiday cooking,” Faucher says. “Be careful out there.”

Deep-fried turkey explosion (video)

Fire inspectors from the 1st Special Operations Civil Engineering Squadron drop a frozen turkey into a turkey fryer full of hot oil to demonstrate why it can be dangerous. Afterwards, they demonstrate the proper way to deep fry a turkey.

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