With Holidays fast approaching, lets cover a few cooking, food, and personal safety tips to ensure that your holiday gatherings are enjoyable. Specifically, we’re going to talk about everyone’s favorite day in November: Thanksgiving! Why single out Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving is the #1 day of the year for home fires. 74% of these fires involve home cooking.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Unattended cooking is the main reason for these fires. While stove and oven fires contribute to these numbers, turkey fryer fires numbers are increasing yearly. Other safety concerns, related to Thanksgiving, involve protecting our children and pets, as well as Food Safety. These will be reviewed as well.
Thanksgiving Fire Basics
Fire needs: A fuel source, a heat source, and oxygen to burn. Removing any of the three will help extinguish the fire.
The fuel source most common in Thanksgiving related fires is oil (grease). Oil when it becomes very hot bubbles and spills out over the pan, pot, baking tray or fryer and will use dish towels, oven mitts, recipe books, paper etc... as a fuel source. Prevention in this instance is straight forward: Before you light your oven/stove/fryer remove all flammable objects. Do not over fill your cooking vessel with oil. The amount of oil can be estimated by filling the cold fryer with water and then placing the turkey in the fryer. If water spills out so will oil. Place your turkey fryer 10 feet from your house or any Never use a turkey fryer indoors, or on your patio, deck or in your garage. Make sure the turkey fryer is on a level and sturdy surface. Do not leave food that is cooking unattended.
In The Event Of A Fire
- Remove the heat source if safe to do so by turning off the oven, stove, or fryer. Use thick oven mitts and only if arms and hands are away from the fire to prevent burns. Use tongs to avoid being too near the flame.
- Deprive the fire of oxygen if safe to do so, by covering the pot, pan or fryer with a lid. NOTE: Lids and tongs must be metal. Class and ceramic lids can shatter in extreme heat. Extinguish the flame: NEVER USE WATER to extinguish a oil / grease fire. Water will land at the bottom of the burning grease, turn to steam and cause burning oil (or any grease) to rise out of the vessel. Burning grease outside of the vessel can quickly cause an out of control fire.
- Baking Soda is effective for depriving the fire of oxygen. Baking Soda must be used in very large quantities to be effective.
- Have a fire extinguisher nearby and know how to use it. (An“AB or ABC” fire extinguisher type). Always stay a safe distance away from the fire. Spray the fire extinguisher from side to side
Always call 911 even if the fire is small and you are unable to quickly extinguish it. Fire Departments always want to hear from you before a fire is out of control.
Protecting Children on Thanksgiving
Cooking your Thanksgiving meal safely carries a safety responsibility to children and pets. Specific recommendations listed below highlight common causes of injuries to children and pets, and to prevent unintentional harm.
The most effective way to prevent children and pets from injury is to keep them out of the kitchen. Plan for activities for kids that can be supervised by another adult, so that they do not need to be in the kitchen. Plan for where your pets will be most comfortable, so that they do not need to be in the kitchen.
Common concerns regarding pet safety at Thanksgiving
Almost everything commonly served at Thanksgiving dinner can present a risk to a cat or dog if ingested:
- Garlic, onions, herbs, and chives are common seasonings for stuffing, gravy, potatoes, and the turkey. These items can destroy red blood cells and should not be eaten by your pet.
- Dough containing yeast that is unbaked, such as ready to bake rolls, if swallowed can rise In the stomach and cause stomach blockage.
- Desserts that contain chocolate, raisin, currants, and sugar substitutes such as Xylitol are toxic to dogs and cats and should not be eaten.
- Turkey bones are present a dual whammy for pets. The bones are hollow and can splinter in the pet’s mouth causing chocking. If the splintered bones are swallowed, they can injure the esophagus, stomach and/or intestines.
- Don’t forget the trash. After carefully protecting your pet from toxic foods, be sure your dog is not checking out the trash for leftovers! Throw out your trash.
- Pets can also get into any bags that guests may bring. Pets may get into luggage, backpacks, and handbags and unintentionally ingest medication, gum, candy which is all dangerous items for your pet. Designate an area for these bags and keep the door closed.
Food Safety for Thanksgiving
Here is an article from the CDC about Thanksgiving Food Safety: https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/communication/holiday-turkey.html
Turkey and its juices contain bacteria that can cause illness. The CDC warns to not put your turkey in a location where the temperature cannot be monitored (i.e. a garage, car trunk, back porch or snow). If you have a fresh turkey, it can be stored for 1-2 days in the refrigerator.
3 Ways To Thaw Your Turkey
Refrigerator thawing: Thaw your frozen turkey in its original wrapper. Place the turkey in a container so that turkey juice will be contained and not leak in the refrigerator. Once thawed the turkey can be stored for 1-2 days in refrigerator prior to cooking.
Cold Water thawing: Place turkey in leak proof plastic bag in sink. The bag protects the juices from contaminating the kitchen. The bag also prevents turkey from absorbing water. Cover turkey in cold water. Change the water every 30 mins. Allow 30 minutes of thawing for each pound of turkey. Cook turkey thawed in cold water immediately.
Microwave thawing: Thaw as per directions on wrapper. Cook immediately after thawing.
NOTE: Never leave your turkey on a counter top to thaw. Turkey thawed on a counter not thawing evenly as the center remains frozen. As the temperature is fluctuating it is a breeding ground for germs.
- Before AND after handling turkey, hands should be washed for at least 20 secs with soap and
- Raw turkey should have its own separate cutting board. Never place any food on a plate, cutting board or surface that had raw turkey on it.
- Wash all cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops that held raw turkey with hot soapy water immediately after use and before preparing any other food.
- It is no longer recommended that raw turkey be This can make you, friends and family sick. Washing raw turkey spreads turkey juices in the kitchen.
Moving On To Stuffing
The CDC recommends cooking stuffing in a casserole dish instead of inside the turkey. If stuffing is to be cooked inside the turkey, stuffing should be put into turkey just prior to cooking. The stuffing should reach a temperature of 165 degrees. If stuffing is cooked inside the turkey, once it reaches 165 degrees, remove from oven, and let stuffing stay in turkey for 20 minutes before removing.
The turkey should be cooked at a minimum of 325 degrees. Follow the cooking time charts on the label. The temp should be taken from the thickest part of the breast and should reach 165 degrees. Turkey should stand for 20 minutes. Leftovers should be refrigerated within 2 hours of cooking. Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees before serving. If food is served outdoors or at a T of greater than 90 degrees, refrigerate within one hour.
Finally, as a fire safety reminder: Check your smoke alarms and batteries prior to the arrival of your guests. Keep an eye on your home, during the festivities. Make sure there are no lit candles next to anything flammable. Remove clutter from the floor to ensure an exit if needed. Remove flammable objects from around the fireplace. It’s hard but keep trip hazards off the floor. Think safety when you’re out and about. Prevention can help you avoid injury, trips to a hospital, and loss from a house fire.
Your fire district family wishes the whole community a very happy and safe Thanksgiving celebration and a wonderful holiday season ahead.