Keeping It Safe on Turkey Day

My favorite part of Thanksgiving is the turkey. And the mashed potatoes. And the gravy. And the stuffing. And the pumpkin pie And the…well, you get the picture. There’s a lot of food to enjoy.

Of course, all this food doesn’t appear out of thin air. It must be bought, stored, prepped, and cooked. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Thanksgiving is the leading day of the year for home fires involving cooking equipment.

And while the Centers for Disease Control doesn’t have statistics on food poisoning during Thanksgiving, it’s safe to say that more than a handful of the 76 million American who suffer food poisoning each year probably do so after a Thanksgiving meal.

In other words, before we do all our cooking and eating on Thanksgiving, let’s make sure we take all the necessary precautions. Here are some good tips to follow: 

Fire Safety
♦ Never leave your food unattended, particularly while frying, grilling, or stovetop cooking. Unattended cooking is a contributing factor in 34 percent of home fires related to cooking, 50 percent of the associated deaths and 48 percent of the associated injuries (NFPA).
♦ Use a timer with a loud buzzer.
♦  Never use a glass casserole dish or lid on the stove or burner; it may explode from the heat.
♦ Avoid loose clothes that can easily catch fire.
♦ Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.
♦  Never douse a grease fire with water, as the fire can spread. Turn off the burner and smother the flames with a lid. If the fire gets out of control, put it out with baking soda or a fire extinguisher.
♦ Make sure your smoke alarms are working.
♦ Make sure to clean your oven. Failure to clean is a contributing factor in 17 percent of reported homes fires involving ovens or rotisseries (NFPA). 

Kids’ Safety
♦ Keep kids away from the stove, oven, hot food and liquids to avoid serious burns.
♦ Keep knives out of the reach of children.
♦ Be sure electric cords are not dangling off the counter within easy reach of a child.

Food Prep Safety
♦ When serving, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
♦ Buy your turkey at least 1-2 days before you cook it, and keep it in the fridge. Keep it in the freezer if you’ve bought it earlier and defrost properly.
♦  Avoid slow cooking or partially cooking the turkey. Use a thermometer on the innermost part of the thigh and wing, as well as the thickest portion of the breast, to ensure that the turkey is well cooked.
♦ Wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling food. Keep all surfaces and utensils clean. 
♦ Never handle cooked and raw food together, in order to avoid cross-contamination. Keep raw meat away from vegetables or other uncooked food.

Leftovers
♦ Refrigerate leftovers promptly, no more than two hours after food has been served.
♦ Leftovers are most safely eaten within three days. After three days, move your leftovers to the freezer to prevent the growth of bacteria.
♦ Reheated leftovers should be cooked to 165 degrees F. Sauces, soups, and gravy should be boiled.