For all of you who claim that no method of cooking a turkey even comes close to being as good as a deep-fried turkey, well, you'll get no argument from me. For me though, as Inspector Harry Callahan once observed, "a man's got to know his limitations." Risking incineration of my house for a delicious plate of turkey is beyond that limit.

Every year in the U.S., there are thousands of fires, along with scores of injuries (and even some deaths) directly attributable to the act of deep frying a turkey. That's not to say that every attempt winds up in disaster, but enough do that you really should take every precaution to make sure you don't wind up on a compilation of "fails" like these people:

I'm certainly not trying to talk you out of a deep fried bird if that's what you really want. As I said, I've had it before, and it really is spectacularly good. I just don't want you to become a statistic.

Here's a couple of tips for you first-time fryers out there, courtesy of PBS Food:

  1. Stay Away from The House – Set up the turkey fryer more than 10 feet away from your home and keep children and pets away. Never leave it unattended.
  2. Find Flat Ground – The oil must be even and steady at all times to ensure safety. Place the fryer on a flat, level surface and carefully gauge the amount of oil needed.
  3. Use a Thawed and Dry Turkey – Make sure your Thanksgiving turkey is completely thawed and dry. Extra water will cause the oil to bubble furiously and spill over. If oil spills from the fryer onto the burner, it can cause a fire.
  4. Monitor the Temp – Use caution when touching the turkey fryer. The lid and handle can become very hot and could cause burns. Also be sure to keep track of the oil’s temperature as many fryers do not have their own thermostats.
  5. Be Prepared – Have a fire extinguisher (multipurpose, dry-powder) ready at all times in the event that the oil ignites.

At our house, Amy started brining our Thanksgiving day birds a few years ago, and we've never gone back. It's a really easy method that she learned from Alton Brown's Good Eats on the Food Network. I can't find Alton's video, but this one shows you how to use his method: