Whether you are frying your turkey or cooking it in the oven, we have tips to help keep your family safe this Thanksgiving. Photo By: tuchodi via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Thanksgiving is the kickoff to the year-end holiday celebration season. Chicago becomes alive with festive cheer this time of year, from the Thanksgiving Parade downtown to the Great Tree at the State Street Macy’s (it will always be Marshall Field’s in my mind).

If it’s your turn to host for Thanksgiving dinner, you probably feel at least a little bit of pressure to make sure everybody is well-fed. A little planning and preparation can help make sure that nothing mars your festive meal.

Let’s Talk Turkey Fryer

Many people swear by the moist, tasty goodness that comes from deep-frying a turkey in oil. But the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) warns about the dangers that come with gas-fueled turkey fryers, such as burns from hot oil or fire damage.

Northbrook-based Underwriters Laboratories also warns of these dangers and does not certify any turkey fryers. The company offers the following safety tips, however, for those who prefer to cook their birds this way.

  • Always use turkey fryers outdoors, away from buildings, decks and anything else that can catch fire. Never use the turkey fryer in the garage or otherwise indoors. Additionally, the NFPA says to beware of precipitation, as falling rain and snow can lead to splattering of exposed oil or steam burns from contact with the hot cooker.
  • Keep the fryer on a level surface to avoid accidental tipping.
  • Keep kids and pets away.
  • Never leave a turkey fryer unattended.
  • Fully defrost the turkey (see tips below)—never put a partially frozen turkey into hot oil, as ice and water can cause the oil to spill over and catch fire.
  • Make sure to have an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water on a grease fire.

Safe Food, Happy Stomachs

Nobody wants to be the cook who sends the family and friends home with a bad case of food poisoning. And for many of us, Thanksgiving is the only day we cook a whole turkey. Here’s what you need 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 will take four to five days to thaw.
  • Cooking times vary. The bird is done when the internal temperature reaches at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a meat thermometer and check the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.
  • It’s safest to cook your stuffing outside the turkey. If you insist on cooking it inside the bird, make sure the stuffing is also 165 degrees.
  • Thoroughly disinfect any surfaces that have touched raw poultry to prevent possible salmonella contamination. Wash your hands. Often.

Keep the Kitchen Accident-Free

Some cooks don’t want anybody else in the kitchen, while some enjoy prepping the feast with family and friends around. Either way, keep your cooking space safe with these tips from the NFPA.

  • Unplug small appliances, such as food processors and blenders, when they’re not in use..
  • Don’t leave cords hanging for people to trip over.
  • Don’t leave the kitchen unattended if you have something cooking on the stove. Don’t leave the house unattended if the turkey, or any other side dishes, are cooking in the oven.
  • If somebody does get burned, and the skin is not broken, soak in cool (not cold) water and then cover the burn with a dry, sterile bandage. Rush University Medical Center has more details.

Following these suggestions should help keep the Thanksgiving meal more festive. Now if you can just avoid pulling a muscle during the family Turkey Bowl.


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