The kitchen is where most Thanksgiving celebrations start. And, unfortunately, the same is true for house fires. During what, for many of us, will be a welcome return to holiday traditions, don't let unfamiliar recipes, the distraction of guests and the stress of hosting the "perfect" get-together heighten kitchen dangers. Even in a normal year, the National Fire Protection Association names Thanksgiving as the No. 1 day for cooking-equipment fires.
These 12 tips can help ensure you and your guests enjoy a worry less, live more get-together:
The Thanksgiving turkey
- Deep fry the turkey, not the deck. Set up the fryer on a flat surface outdoors, not in a garage or on the deck, and away from flammable materials. Don't overfill the fryer with oil, since the level will rise (a lot!) when you add the food. To prevent a fiery blowup, make sure the turkey is both thawed and thoroughly dry before lowering it into the oil. Never leave the fryer unattended, and keep a fire extinguisher nearby. Here's right way to deep fry a turkey, courtesy of our friends at Home Depot.
- Allow adequate thawing time. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends 24 hours of refrigerated thawing time for every four to five pounds of turkey. That means three or four days for even a modest 12-16 pound bird. Never try to speed things up by thawing on the counter, since dangerous bacteria begin to grow in two hours.
- Don't rinse the turkey before cooking. It's unnecessary and spreads bacteria around the sink and countertops. Clean food-prep surfaces with hot soapy water after exposing them to raw meat.
- Use a meat thermometer to ensure both the turkey and stuffing reach 165 degrees F. Don't rely on the pop-up thermometer that comes with the turkey.
- Clear the buffet table within two hours. Reheat refrigerated leftovers to 165 degrees F. before serving.
The hectic holiday kitchen
- Set up a kid-free zone. Thanksgiving meals mean pulling heavy, steaming dishes out of the oven and carrying boiling pots of water. A child darting around your feet can set the stage for burn injuries (or at minimum, a ruined dish and a mess on the floor). Appoint a teen or other relative to keep the little ones entertained in another room.
- Clean and store knives after use. It's easy to reach into a sink of soapy water and get jabbed by the blade of a sharp knife. If you're loading directly into the dishwasher, be sure to close the door to prevent people from stumbling over it.
- Keep oven mitts and towels away from burners. The same goes for paper towels and packaging. Point pot handles inward so they're less likely to get knocked off.
- Keep a lid or cookie sheet nearby. You can use it to smother a grease fire that breaks out on the stove. If that doesn't do it, reach for your fire extinguisher.
- Avoid distraction. It's easy for a stovetop fire to break out while you dash to the door to greet arriving guests. Delegate doorbell duty to someone else.
The holiday outfit (yes, really!)
- Avoid drapey sleeves and scarves. They may look festive, but they could catch fire if they come in contact with a heat source.
- Wear shoes. They'll protect your feet if you drop a knife or spill hot liquid. They'll also improve traction so you won't slip on a spill.
Check out more food-safety tips here. Wishing you and yours a joyous holiday!
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