Setting The Table for Thanksgiving Safety
Tips for Before, During, and After Your Turkey Day Feast
With nearly 119 million homes in the United States, there are 119 million potential places that will be enjoying a Thanksgiving celebration this year. On a day full of preparation and celebration for so many, it can be easy to get caught up in everyone and everything going on around you. To help you stay on track, we’ve cooked-up this list of Thanksgiving safety tips that will come in handy before, during, and after you gather around your table to enjoy one of the most-loved days (and meals!) of the year.
There’s already plenty to do the day of Thanksgiving, so why not take care of some tasks ahead of time? There are a few Thanksgiving safety tips you can – and should – do beforehand to keep the day running smoothly.
Test smoke detectors & check fire extinguishers. Refresh your knowledge of extinguisher storage & use.
Smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are your first line of defense in the event a fire flares up when you’re cooking. If you haven’t yet done your monthly smoke alarm test for November, the days before Thanksgiving are absolutely the time to do so.
Make sure you also have the proper types of fire extinguishers nearby. A multi-purpose fire extinguisher can be used on all types of home fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, you should remember the word “PASS” to use a fire extinguisher properly:
- Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you, and release the locking mechanism.
- Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
- Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
- Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.
- (Quoted from: nfpa.org)
Clean your oven according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Excess buildup in your oven from past meals continues to burn every time you cook, which can not only impact the taste of your dish, but also poses a fire hazard. Clean your oven before you put it through a full day of cooking on Thanksgiving. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for proper cleaning so you don’t ruin your oven or create an additional fire hazard.
Thaw your turkey safely. Refrigerator thawing is the USDA-recommended method of defrosting.
Refrigerator, cold water, and microwave thawing are all recognized as safe ways to defrost your frozen turkey, but foodsafety.gov recommends using the refrigerator thawing method because it is the safest in terms of preventing foodborne illness. Slowly defrosting in the fridge in the days leading up to Thanksgiving keeps your turkey cold enough to prevent the growth and spread of bacteria likely to cause foodborne illnesses.
When thawing in the fridge, allow 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of turkey. (Source: FoodSafety.gov)
Don’t just plan out your meal prep, get a head start! Consider preparing sides or desserts the day before so all you have to do is pop them in the oven or pull them out of the fridge on Thanksgiving.
Parades, cooking, family, friends, and more cooking are in store for once Turkey Day arrives. Distractions are inevitable, but don’t let them ruin your celebration. Even amidst the busy day, remember these key facts and pointers about Thanksgiving safety:
If frying your turkey at home*, KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING. Follow all cooking and fire safety guidelines set forth by the USDAand NFPA.
While deep frying your turkey is a popular method and much-loved tradition for many, it’s also extremely dangerous and one of the reasons home cooking fires peak on Thanksgiving. Though it is not recommended, if you’re planning on frying your turkey at home, remember to account for the amount of oil that will be displaced when the whole turkey is submerged in order to avoid it spilling over and being ignited by the heat source. Plan 3-5 minutes of cooking time for every pound of turkey.
*The National Fire Protection Association discourages this. They suggest having a professional establishment do the frying, or using an “oil-less” frying method at home.
Use sturdy candle holders that don’t tip over easily. Make sure they’re on an even, stable surface. Keep them out of the food-passing path!
A common accompaniment on the dining table for special occasions, candles are also a common cause of home fires. With all the dishes being passed around on Thanksgiving, it’s especially important to be mindful of candles and their placement. Candles should be at least 12 inches away from anything flammable, and they should not be left burning if no one is in the room. Consider using decorative flame less candles to eliminate the fire hazard all together.
Don’t leave stove top cooking unattended, make sure no handles hang over the edge, and keep children at least 3 feet away.
Even with all the activity and company that may be at your house on Thanksgiving, it’s important to stay in the kitchen whenever anything is cooking on the stove. Leaving the stove unattended when in use is a serious fire hazard because it only takes a second for something to boil over or burn. Keeping cookware handles away from the edge of the stove, and trying to limit the traffic in the kitchen can also help minimize the likelihood of anyone getting burned.
Use separate cutting boards & utensils for raw meat. Wash hands, utensils, and surfaces throughout the cooking process.
Simply rinsing with hot water is not enough to kill bacteria from raw poultry. To prevent cross-contamination, keep your raw turkey separate from all other foods and wash anything that comes in contact with it – especially your hands – with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds.
DID YOU KNOW?
Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires. (Source: nfpa.org)
DID YOU KNOW?
33% of all cooking equipment fires from 2011-2015 resulted from leaving cooking unattended.(Source: nfpa.org
We know the Turkey Day food coma is real. Even though everything is more difficult when your belly is full and your brain is tired, there are still a few post-Thanksgiving tips you’ll want to follow after your meal if you don’t want Friday and the following days to be difficult as well:
DO NOT pour cooking grease down the drain. Pour into disposable containers, allow to cool, then discard with the regular garbage. (Source: NYC.gov).
Cooled or not, the grease and fat from cooking clogs your drain and the entire piping system attached to it. Clogged pipes will eventually start backing up or they’ll burst from the pressure buildup from water and waste that can’t move through them. Save yourself or your public sewer system the potential sewage backup or water damage and throw out leftover cooking fat, oil, and/or grease with the regular garbage once it has cooled.
Don’t forget! Before heading to bed, double-check to make sure all cooking equipment is off and all candles are blown out
Refrigerate all food within 2 hours; freeze any leftovers that won’t be consumed within 4 days.
Make sure you put away the leftovers before the food coma kicks in! Food can sit out for two hours before potentially harmful bacteria begins to grow. Timing for storage after & expiration; don’t do multiple reheats; date all leftovers; freeze what you can.
For spillage and spots, the first step is to lift & blot! Before using any spot-removing tricks, lift away or soak-up any excess mess, and blot the remaining spot with cold water.
When you’ve got gravy, sweet potatoes, red wine, any number of casseroles, and more involved in one meal, spills and resulting spots are pretty much inevitable. For most food or beverage spills on absorbent surfaces, before using any special spot-removing techniques or “hacks,” you can usually minimize the spill’s impact with two steps:
- Lift away excess solids with a clean, dull knife. Soak up excess liquids with a dry, white cloth. Do not rub!
- Blot the affected area with a white cloth dipped in cold water (more than dampened).