A decade ago when deep frying the annual holiday turkey became a fad, few considered the potential hazards associated with a holiday meal. However, each year reports of fires caused by deep frying the holiday bird continue to be reported.

Yet, there’s another hazard that most don’t consider when setting up the deep fryer in the garage or yard. Just what are you going to do with the more than 5 gallons of oil required to cook the turkey?

Though we’ve all heard of restaurants being cited for improper disposal of french fry grease, we’ve probably not considered that with deep frying a turkey, you’re now facing the same disposal issues facing your favorite eatery.

Fats, oils and grease, are considered by some to be a monster that lurks in water pipes or the sewer system. That might sound a little far-fetched, but it’s not. Buildup of greases and oil could cause damage and disruptions that can become a costly problem.

Besides potentially wreaking havoc on your homes’ infrastructure, pouring fats, oils and grease down the drain can also cause major disruptions in municipal wastewater treatment systems and could potentially harm storm drains and waterways. This in turn can have a negative effect on water quality.

Holiday hubbub

Nationwide, the busiest day of the year for plumbers is the day after Thanksgiving, according to statistics from Roto-Rooter and Mr. Rooter, two of the nation’s largest plumbing companies. The primary reason is the amount of fats, oils and grease that is poured down kitchen drains.

Incoming calls to Roto-Rooter for kitchen jobs alone will jump 50 percent above the average Friday. The four-day Thanksgiving weekend averages a 21 percent increase over any other Thursday through Sunday period during the year. Keeping this in mind, plumbers often prepare with additional staff to address the increase in calls and jobs.

If you do have to call a plumber during this busy time, expect to pay more. It costs a premium for these services on holidays, weekends and after hours. But it is also best to have the job done as soon as you notice an emergency. Putting the service off can result in more damage to plumbing, which will result in substantially higher costs than if the problem is addressed as soon as possible.

The effect of clogging oils may not be immediate. Oil buildup along with a large use of kitchen garbage disposals adds to the holiday risk. Household kitchen garbage disposals, which are not designed for high volume, many times add to potential clogs hastening the holiday backup experience. Plumbers recommend leftover food that isn’t saved to be eaten later should be placed in the trash instead of down the kitchen sink.

Meal preparation and clean-up are just one of the concerns people face during the holidays. Those hosting family or friends experience more water usage from toilet flushing, showering and sometimes clothes washing.

The plumbing business recommends that people hosting guests ask them to wait about 10 minutes between shower uses so that slow drains have time to do their job.

Exercising caution can help you avoid drainage system disasters and help protect your home, neighborhood and community. Following these tips can also help you save a significant amount of money that would otherwise be spent on costly repairs.

Stop the problem before it starts

Here are some tips in dealing with fats, oils and grease:

  • Don’t strain the drain. Even if you use a detergent that claims to dissolve grease, it can still build up in the system and cause problems later.

  • Pour oil and grease into a container that can be closed with a lid, such as a coffee can, or if it is not too hot, a sealable plastic bag or container.

  • Wipe greasy pots, pans, dishes and utensils with a paper towel before putting them in the dishwasher or rinsing them in the sink.

  • Place any leftover greasy food items in the trash instead of putting them down the waste disposal in the kitchen sink.

Frying turkeys can be dangerous

The National Fire Protection Association encourages people to consider purchasing an outdoor turkey cooker that does not use oil. The NFPA discourages the use of outdoor turkey fryers that use hot oil because they can lead to devastating burns and property destruction. Reports of fires and injuries caused by deep frying turkeys are unfortunately all too common in news reports.

The NFPA reports that each year, deep turkey frying accidents causes an average of five deaths, 60 injuries and astoundingly, more than $15 million in property damage.

When it comes to these fires, Texas leads the way nationally with 38 percent of State Farm’s insurance claims throughout the United States.

If you plan to deep fry a turkey, use extreme caution

  • Locate your deep fryer outside in an area away from buildings.

  • Use a thawed and dry turkey as extra water will cause the oil to boil over the container.

  • Monitor the temperature of the oil and the fryer to avoid burn accidents.

  • Be prepared with a fire extinguisher and never leave the fryer unattended.

Afterward, when the oil has cooled, you may strain it and save it in the refrigerator for another use or you can recycle the used oil. This will protect your home’s and community’s pipes and the environment

If you are cooking a turkey or ham the traditional way, you can still collect the grease and recycle it or dispose of it in the trash. Stop and think – don’t clog your sink.

What to do next

Once you’ve collected grease in containers, you can take it to a place that will recycle it. Search the Internet for grease recycling stations near you. If you can’t find any online, contact the city hall in your community or county government offices to see if any there are any cooking grease and oil recycling programs in your area. 

At the very least, if cooking oils and grease cannot be easily and conveniently recycled, they can be disposed of in the trash.

It’s definitely worth thinking and planning ahead to prevent disasters that can strike during holidays. The benefits to those you care about, to your home and to the environment are well worth the effort.