Thanksgiving Patents: Turkey Frying Safety

Yesterday President Barack Obama took part in what over the past several decades has become a traditional part of the Thanksgiving holiday in Washington, DC. This year the White House website took the tradition to a new height when it allowed the public to vote on which of two turkeys would receive the title of National Thanksgiving Turkey. The turkey named Popcorn edged out Caramel for the honor. The White House says both turkeys will be spared, receiving official Presidential turkey pardons.

At this festive time of  year we always profile a handful of turkey patents, because after all what better way is there to celebrate a holiday than to celebrate American ingenuity? Even the Wall Street Journal did a front page article on Wednesday, November 27, 2013, about turkey innovations and inventors, an article in which I was quoted.

Before proceeding with discussion of turkey frying patents, allow me to on this Thanksgiving day express my thanks. For the 5th consecutive years we have been selected one of the top 100 legal blogs by the American Bar Association, and this year we were added to the ABA Blawg Hall of Fame, which currently is a select group of only 20 legal blogs that have exhibited long term excellence. It is gratifying to receive such an honor, but without our wonderful guest contributors and regular columnists it wouldn’t be possible to publish on such diverse topics. So a special thank you to everyone who has contributed through the year! I also want to say a special thanks to those who have consulted with me on articles and stories, many times on background. You know who you are and your contributions are greatly appreciated. Finally, I want to thank our readers. Five years ago we averaged about 25,000 unique monthly visitors, and this year we are on pace to average close to 120,000 unique monthly visitors with traffic growing practically every month. Without our readers and the many who take time to leave comments there wouldn’t be much point in providing a pro-IP, pro-Patent point of view. Thank you all!

Now, onto the patents for this year. Interestingly, for years now I have used this yearly Thanksgiving column to remind readers about the dangers of deep frying a turkey. Two years ago I wrote:

[W]hatever you do, if you are going to deep fry your turkey remember 2 things (at least).  First, make sure the turkey is thawed, you don’t want to put something frozen into a pot of boiling oil!  Second, for goodness sakes don’t fill the turkey fryer to the top with oil and then put in the turkey!  Let Archimedes be your guide.  If you fill the fryer to the top with oil the boiling oil that overflows the cooking vessel will be equal in volume to that of the turkey you just dropped into the cooking vessel!

This year the first patent I profile, is U.S. Patent No. 8,256,130, which is titled An apparatus and method for pre-measuring turkey frying oil. Someone has finally patented a way to properly measure the amount of oil used when frying a turkey. We can only hope this saves a home or two from the inevitable Thanksgiving disaster caused by filling the turkey fryer to the top and then lowering the bird into the pot, which causes the oil to overflow and ignite thanks to the open flame.

The Background of the ‘130 patent explains:

The last 15 years has seen an explosion of frying turkeys in ones backyard. Fried turkeys cook quickly, yield an exceptionally crispy skin and remain juicy. Upon first frying a turkey, many say they will never cook a turkey any other way. The most common way to fry turkeys is outdoors, in a turkey frying pot… The oil is most commonly heated in the pot over a gas flame until the oil reaches a temperature of 350 degrees. Upon reaching this temperature the turkey is immersed in the hot oil, usually using a carrier of one kind or other so ones hands would not contact the hot oil. The turkey is then cooked for 3-4 minutes per pound, removed from the oil, drained and consumed.

The process of frying can be dangerous due to the presence of flames and a flammable liquid… Of particular hazard is placing too much oil in the pot, and, as the turkey is immersed in the oil the pot will overflow onto the burner causing a flash fire. This hazard has caused much concern about the safety of frying turkeys due to initial overfilling of the frying oil.

To solve the problems of overflowing oil, Edward Lee Jantz, the inventor of the invention embodied in the ‘130 patent, came up with a Turkey Oil Frying Gauge, which is placed in a turkeyfrying pot and frying oil and used to indicate the proper level of oil for the weight of the turkey being cooked and for the size pot being used.

In searching for Thanksgiving themed patents I also came across another turkey frying patent that deals with safety. U.S. Patent No. 8,375,847, titled Winch for turkey deep fryers, which issued in February 2013, covers a creation of William Anganes of Stockton, California. The invention disclosed in the ‘847 patent relates to a mechanical apparatus that lowers and raises a turkey into a large fry pot. The apparatus has a vertically-adjustable tripod stand that is positioned over the top center of a pot. A cranking mechanism, which can be either mechanical or electric, lowers and raises a steel cable having a grasping hook. When the food has finished cooking, the cranking mechanism is reversed to raise the food from the fryer.

Some familiar with patents and patent law might wonder how it is possible that a winch that lowers a turkey into a pot could be patentably new and unique enough to warrant the granting of exclusive rights. As with so many things, if you add enough qualifiers and limitations eventually you can overcome both novelty and obviousness rejections. That appears to be what happened here. Claim 1 of the ‘847 patent, which is rather long, covers:

An apparatus for providing a raising and lowering means for a load into a cooking vessel, further comprising: a vertically adjustable stand; a winch mechanism affixed thereto a upper portion thereof said stand; a cable comprising a lower end and an upper end affixed thereto said winch mechanism; and, a hook attached thereto said lower end thereof said cable; wherein said vertically adjustable stand defines a cylindrical inner space comprising a diameter being slightly larger than that of said cooking vessel, thereby providing containment and secure entrapment thereof said cooking vessel; wherein said vertically adjustable stand contacts a ground surface; wherein said winch mechanism provides said raising and lowering means therefor said load wherein said winch mechanism further comprises: a winch mounting plate mounted thereto a terminal upper end thereof said leg assemblies for supporting said winch mechanism, said winch mounting plate comprising a cable aperture for permitting the routing of a cable therethrough; a pulley comprising an attachment means therefor said upper end thereof said cable and positioned thereabove said cable aperture; a rotating bar affixed thereto said winch mounting plate thereby a first locking block and a second locking block on opposing sides thereof said cable aperture and further comprising a handle on a first end and a cranking member extending therefrom said handle and routed therethrough and mechanically engaging said pulley; and, a winch locking mechanism slidably mounted thereto said winch mounting plate wherein said second locking block is mounted thereon and further comprising a plate with a stop block mounted thereon a distal upper end and a grasping portion located at a proximal end thereof; wherein said rotating bar provides a rotating means thereto said pulley; wherein said pulley provides an incremental reeling means thereby reeling in and paying out said cable; wherein said reeling means provides said raising and lowering means; wherein said winch locking mechanism mechanically interferes therewith said pulley when said stop block is positioned thereagainst; wherein said winch locking mechanism provides an incremental vertical cable securing means, thereby providing a control of a vertical position thereof a load thereon said hook; and, wherein said grasping portion thereof said winch locking mechanism extends outwardly thereto a perimeter region of said winch mounting plate and angled downwardly to provide easy engagement thereof said vertical cable securing means.

For other turkey and Thanksgiving themed patents please see these other articles:

For more festive patents check out our Holiday Patents page too!



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Join the Discussion

3 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for Jonathan Stevens]
    Jonathan Stevens
    November 29, 2013 04:32 pm

    As part of a family that fries a turkey every year, you’ve got to make sure you know exactly what you’re doing. There’s too many opportunities for things to go wrong. Hot oil is ALWAYS dangerous!

  • [Avatar for Paul Cole]
    Paul Cole
    November 28, 2013 04:48 pm

    Over in the UK turkeys are all reprieved until shortly before 25 December.

    But if you like your social history, the Cratchit family had a Christmas goose. Turkeys were novel, more expensive and had more meat – hence Scrooge’s gift at the end of the book.

    With very best holiday wishes to all our colleagues in the US.

  • [Avatar for Benny]
    November 28, 2013 07:15 am

    I read claim 1 of the ‘847 patent carefully, 3 times, and couldn’t find anything novel in it compared to the winches I was familiar with many, many, years ago when I was young and wore a uniform (except that we didn’t use them for hauling turkeys). I think this is yet another example of the poor quality of the work of some of the examiners at the USPTO.

    I would have thought you would all be roasting your turkeys, not frying them.