Staying Safe at Your Thanksgiving Gathering

For many, Thanksgiving is the best holiday of the year. The focus is on food, family, friends and officially welcoming the holiday season. Prior to bustling through the anxious shoppers and long lines of Black Friday, Thanksgiving offers a nearly worry- and stress-free holiday for all to enjoy the company of one another among the savory and sweet concoctions of a big holiday meal. However, before sitting down to the feast, there are safety considerations we need to heed to ensure a happy and healthy holiday.

Fire Safety

Did you know cooking fires are three times more likely to occur on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year? Amid the managed chaos of preparing a holiday meal, accidents are more likely to happen. Follow these tips to help prevent a cooking fire this Thanksgiving.

Clear the Clutter – Keep the pots and pans on the cooktop at a minimum. Cooking with available burners is more likely to present an opportunity for a grease fire. Plan ahead which dishes you need to start preparing first and leave other dishes requiring less cooking for later in the day.

Don’t Multitask – Whether you are trying to hold a child while cooking or looking up the recipe on your phone or iPad while juggling other recipes, try to save multitasking for another day when there is less activity in the kitchen.
No Glass on the Burners – Do not rest a glass dish on a hot burner. The glass can heat up and explode, sending shards of glass all over the kitchen.

Water Will Not Knock Out a Blaze – If you do happen to have a grease fire break out on the stove, put on an oven mitt and carefully place a lid over the pot, smothering the flames. Keep the lid on until the pot has cooled.

Watch Your Sleeves – Cooking with long sleeves or draping clothing can present opportunities for a fire. Roll up your sleeves and be aware of any loose clothing that could accidently catch fire over an open flame.

Don’t Leave the Kitchen – Although there is a lot to do to prepare a big Thanksgiving meal, do not leave a busy cooktop to step out of the kitchen. Either put someone in charge of watching the pots and pans, or delegate other tasks to guests to make sure the cooktop is always under supervision.

Keep Children Busy Elsewhere – There are too many opportunities for accidents when children are in the kitchen while you are cooking several dishes. Keep them busy in another room with other family or guests. Also, make sure to keep panhandles turned in and not sticking out over the stove, where little hands could reach up and grab them.

Watch the Kitchen Towels and Potholders – When it gets busy in the kitchen, we may not pay attention to where we set down kitchen towels and potholders, but be especially careful when placing those next to the cook top to make sure they do not come in contact with an open flame.

Carefully Fry the Turkey – If you are frying a turkey, make sure the turkey is completely thawed before placing in hot oil, which could cause the oil to overflow and cause a fire. Also, keep dogs, cats and children away from the hot turkey fryer. For complete safety tips on frying a turkey, please review this information from the National Fire Protection Association.

Food Safety

Did you know you might be doing more harm than good if you wash your turkey before cooking? According to a British study, placing raw poultry in your sink can spread bacteria up to 3 feet away. The USDA estimates one in fifty turkeys is contaminated with salmonella. It is especially important to make sure no juices from the turkey are near any foods that are not going to be cooked to at least 165 degrees or more.  In the past, cooks were instructed to wash their birds before cooking due to pinfeathers left behind. But today’s turkeys are prepped and ready to cook without a need to wash.

Depending on the size of your turkey, you may have already begun to thaw the meat. Frozen turkey can take up to six days to thaw if you are using your refrigerator. Other safe ways to thaw a turkey include placing in cool water or using the microwave oven. For a complete guideline for safely thawing your turkey, refer to the USDA’s fact sheet. It is important to note you should never set a frozen turkey on the counter to thaw. Once meat reaches 41 degrees, salmonella and other bacteria can begin to grow.

Before and after handling any raw poultry, the USDA recommends washing your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Wipe down all surfaces which may have come in contact with juices from the turkey with hot, soapy water. Cleansing wipes containing bleach are also a good option.  Also, be very careful when transferring poultry from one serving platter to another. Never re-use a platter that has come in contact with raw poultry or meat.

Carving Safety

As with cooking fires, Thanksgiving is a time known for avoidable hand injuries, and according to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH), most of those injuries are the result of carving turkeys, hams and roasts. Now that your turkey is out of the oven and ready to carve, make sure you follow the best practices for handling a knife to keep your hands protected.  The ASSH offers these tips to get the turkey ready without a trip to the emergency room.
Follow these safety tips to kick off the holiday season with a healthy start!

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