Let's Talk Turkey

Tips For A Safe Thanksgiving

by Thomas Walters // October - November - December 2020

Thanksgiving is often the kickoff to the year-end holiday celebration season. If you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner – whether it’s just for your immediate family, or perhaps a few more – you may feel a little bit of pressure to deliver a meal where everybody is well fed. A little planning and preparation can help make sure that nothing potentially ruins your festive meal.

Reconsider Using a Turkey Fryer

Some people love the tasty goodness that can come from deep-frying a turkey in oil. But the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) advises against gas-fueled turkey fryers since they may pose a danger for burns from hot oil and may also be a fire hazard. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) also warns of the potential dangers and does not certify any turkey fryers. UL does offer the following safety tips, however, for those who may still prefer to cook their birds this way:

– Always use turkey fryers outdoors, away from buildings, decks, and anything else that may catch fire. Never use the turkey fryer in the garage or indoors.
– Stand the fryer on a level surface to avoid accidental tipping.
– Keep kids and pets away from the fryer.
– Never leave the fryer unattended. Bring everything you need for cooking outside with you before you begin cooking. And ask someone to retrieve anything you forgot.
– Make sure to fully defrost the turkey. Never put a partially frozen turkey into hot oil, as ice and water may cause the oil to spill over and catch fire.
– Have an all-purpose fire extinguisher within arm’s reach at all times. Never use water on a grease fire.

Prep Food Safely for Happy Stomachs

Nobody wants to be the cook who sends guests home with a case of food poisoning. And for some of us, Thanksgiving may be the only day we cook a whole turkey, so we may not know exactly what to do. Here are some cooking tips to remember, thanks to FoodSafety.gov:

– Defrosting a turkey in the refrigerator is best. But it also takes longer than you may think – 24 hours for every four to five pounds. That means a 20-pound bird may take roughly four to five days to thaw.
– Never thaw your turkey by leaving it out on the counter. A thawing turkey must defrost at a safe temperature. When the turkey is left out at room temperature for more than two hours, its temperature becomes unsafe. Bacteria can grow rapidly in the “danger zone” between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F.
– To cook, set your oven temperature to at least 325 degrees F, and cook the completely thawed turkey in a roasting pan that is two to two-and-a-half inches deep.
– Cooking times may vary. A turkey is generally done when the internal temperature reaches at least 165 degrees F. Use a meat thermometer and check the innermost part of the thigh and wing and also the thickest part of the breast.
– It’s usually safer to cook your stuffing separate from the turkey. But if you insist on cooking your stuffing inside the bird, make sure the temperature of it is also 165 degrees F.
– Remember to thoroughly disinfect any surfaces that may have touched raw poultry to help prevent possible salmonella contamination. Also, wash your hands often while cooking.

Prevent Kitchen Mishaps

Some Thanksgiving hosts don’t want anybody else in the kitchen, while others enjoy prepping the feast with others around. Either way, help keep your cooking space safe with these tips from the NFPA:

– Unplug small appliances, such as food processors, blenders, and coffee pots, when they’re not in use. And don’t leave cords hanging from counters where children can pull them or people may trip over them.
– Never leave the kitchen unattended if you have something cooking on the stove. It is important to note that according to the NFPA, Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, and the day before Thanksgiving. Unattended cooking was by far the leading contributing factor in cooking fires and deaths.
– Never leave the house unattended if the turkey, or any other side dishes, are cooking in the oven.
– Make sure your smoke alarms are working.
– Keep children away from the stove. The stove will be hot and kids should stay three feet away. Also make sure kids stay away from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, gravy, or coffee could cause serious burns.
– You should also keep knives out of the reach of children. And make sure matches and utility lighters are also out of their reach.
– If someone gets burned, but their skin is not broken, soak in cool (not cold) water and then cover with a dry, sterile bandage.

LEFTOVERS

Another wonderful aspect of the delicious Thanksgiving dinner is the delicious leftovers to be enjoyed for the days following. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the bacteria Clostridium perfringens grows in cooked foods left at room temperature. It is the second most common bacterial cause of food poisoning (the major symptoms are vomiting and abdominal cramps within six to 24 hours after eating). To ensure that you and your loved ones continue to stay safe and healthy when enjoying their follow-up feast, the CDC recommends that leftovers be refrigerated at 40 degrees F or colder as soon as possible and within two hours of preparation. Slice or divide big cuts of meat, such as a roast turkey, into small quantities for refrigeration so they will cool quickly. Reheat all leftovers to at least 165 degrees F before serving.

Following these suggestions may help keep the Thanksgiving meal more festive and safe for you and your loved ones.

Thomas Walters

Allstate agent and owner of Walters Insurance Agency, located at 3207 Rogers Rd. in Wake Forest.