Understanding America Through Deep-Fried Turkey Accidents

A new test to see if your state qualifies for "Heartland" status: Where does it rank on the deep-frier accident list on Thanksgiving?

Today, deep-fried food is almost as American as apple pie—which, incidentally, can be dunked into a vat of oil and emerge with a greasy, crunchy coating, along with almost any kind of food. So it's no surprise that, for some, deep-frying a turkey is a Thanksgiving tradition.

That tradition can be a risky one. Each year, deep-frying large birds backfires for dozens of Americans.

For the last seven years, Texas has led the country in most grease- and cooking-related insurance claims on Thanksgiving Day, with 38,according to insurance company State Farm. The runner-up is Illinois, with 27 reports. Pennsylvania and Ohio are tied for third with 23, while New York trails them with 22 claims. South Carolina and Georgia tallied 16 claims each.

More cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving Day than any other day of the year, according to State Farm data. More than a third start in a garage or patio. Each year, fire departments respond to more than 1,000 fires related to deep fryers. These blazes cause more than $15 million in property damage annually, not to mention serious burn injuries.

Most deep-frying mishaps are preventable. This year, State Farm enlisted Duck Dynasty's heavily bearded Si and Jase Robertson, experienced duck hunters, to outline in a video some safety tips for properly cooking turkeys in tubs of oil (last year, the honor went to William Shatner). "Hang on a minute and think before you fry," goes the motto. The tenets of deep frying: Thaw the bird completely, cook outdoors and away from anything flammable, and don't leave the appliance unattended while the turkey is frying.

Thankfully, the rate of frying accidents is cooling down. Cooking-fire claims declined from 66 in 2010 to 29 in 2012, which State Farm says is the lowest number of claims in a decade. The list of ingredients and foods that can be deep-fried, however, is only growing.

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Marina Koren is a correspondent at National Journal

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