What's Your Kitchen Kryptonite?

Woman checking temperature of deep fried turkey that has been lifted out of pot of boiling oil.

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

This is a picture of me. It's 2014 and I'm in my backyard to check the internal temperature of a deep-fried turkey while Daniel dangles it over a giant vat of boiling oil with what looks like (but is presumably sturdier than) a cheap coat hanger. What you don't see is that as soon as the shot was captured, I high-tailed it straight outta there and slammed the door behind me. Not because, as my attire might suggest, it was a chilly November day. It was, instead, my overwhelming conviction that I faced imminent incineration.

At the time, I chalked my cowardly retreat up to the fact that it was actually pretty rational, given just how many tales of deep-fried turkey gone awry seem to circulate each Thanksgiving. Anyone was fallible, I thought—even the experienced chef/recipe developer/kitchen safety expert who was manning our rig.

But in the years since, my backyard has become the primary destination for any and all outdoor cooking experiments we conduct at Serious Eats. The result is that I'm also the official Holder of Outdoor Equipment—at this point, I have two charcoal grills, a fancy wifi-enabled smoker, an Uuni pizza oven, and a handful of gas-powered appliances. I love hosting these warm(er) weather cooking bonanzas...and the freezer full of leftovers I wind up with when we're done. But they've also taught me something about myself that I'm not particularly proud of: The sight of a propane tank scares the living crap out of me.

Demonstration of safe distance between propane gas tank and turkey fryer set up

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Oil or no oil, when you throw a propane tank into the mix, I spend the entire time envisioning the impending explosion. Not only do I now essentially own a number of rather nice, useful pieces of equipment that I simply won't touch, but each and every time someone else ignites one, I'm reminded just how quickly I'll abandon colleagues, friends, and loved ones to the inferno so that I can cower indoors, as far from the windows as I can get, suppressing my fear by gobbling up the fruits of their labors.

But hey—just because I'm a lost cause doesn't mean you have to be. Have an aversion to pressure cookers? Think mandolines are out to get you? Terrified of the blistering splatters, large and small, that all too often accompany a foray into deep-frying? What, dear readers, is your culinary kryptonite? Share your thoughts in the comments below—we may even build some fun new content to help sort you out.