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Cautionary turkey tale: Mount Prospect man deep fries own leg

Occupational Therapist Nina Hartman attaches a brace to Serafino Alfe's leg in the Burn Unit at Loyola Hospital, 2160 S. First Ave., Maywood,Il after he got third degree burns from a turkey fryer. Monday, November 21, 2011 | Brian Jackson~Chicago Sun-Times

Serafino Alfe meant to deep-fry 25 turkeys for Thanksgiving. Instead, he cooked his own leg.

Or as the 86-year-old Mount Prospect retiree called it Monday, his “drumstick.”

A boiling oil accident Saturday left Alfe with third-degree burns on his right leg and in need of a skin graft.

The spill dumped 30 quarts of hot oil on his leg and serves as a timely reminder of the danger of turkey fryers, his doctors at Loyola University Hospital said.

But the grisly wound couldn’t stop the irrepressible, bed-ridden Alfe from cracking a few jokes at his own expense.

“I haven’t tasted it yet – I’m not sure I want to,” Alfe said of his infected, crispy-fried limb.

An experienced fryer of turkeys, Alfe said he was stone-cold sober and preparing 25 birds for a Thanksgiving outing for 140 diners at the Old Orchard Golf Country Club in Mount Prospect when he tripped on a piece of cardboard and spilled the oil.

Like many cooks, he said he prefers the fried birds because they remain moister than a traditional roasted turkey. But his wife, Lucille, said his frying days are finished.

“They’re over definitely, absolutely,” she said. “It’s very dangerous.”

Dr. Thomas Esposito, who runs Loyola’s trauma, surgical critical care and burns division, said he’d seen 150 turkey-fryer burns in the last decade.

He urges Thanksgiving chefs to use fryers with sealed lids well away from any buildings, keep kids and pets away, keep bare skin and eyes covered, thaw the turkeys completely, keep an appropriate fire extinguisher handy and lower and raise the turkey slowly to avoid accidents.

Most importantly, he said, “Stay away from alcohol – it’s usually to blame.”