It’s that time of the year again: turkey time. Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to get together with family and friends and share a delicious meal. But it’s also a holiday where food- and cooking-related accidents can happen. Protect yourself and those you’re feasting with by learning how to safely prepare and cook your holiday dinner.
Thanksgiving can turn disastrous, and we’re not talking about an overcooked turkey or burnt pumpkin pies. Foodborne illness, burns, and fryer accidents do happen, and you don’t want to fall victim to these calamities—or place your guests in harm’s way.
There are ways to prevent accidents and illness this holiday. Read on to discover eight valuable tips on how to safely prepare and cook your holiday dinner.
- Don’t thaw your turkey at room temperature
Cooking a turkey requires some advance preparation, so you’ll want to calculate in advance how long you’ll need to thaw a frozen turkey before the big day. Illness can happen when people are in a pinch and place their turkey on the counter to thaw.
Thawing a turkey at room temperature can allow foodborne bacteria to quickly multiply. Turkeys should be kept below 40 degrees Fahrenheit at all times before being placed in the oven. Sitting out on the counter, a turkey’s temperature can rise above 40 degrees, making it a breeding ground for bacteria.
Instead, thaw your turkey in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave oven. Don’t forget to plan in advance for the thawing time you’ll need, depending on bird size.
- Make sure your oven is clean and your stove is attended
Before the big day arrives, give your oven a good scrub. Any built up or burnt food lingering in the oven can cause smoke or fires.
Also, never leave your stove unattended while cooking. You never know when something could boil over, spill, or begin to burn. You don’t want to be in the living room socializing when any of these cooking mishaps happen.
- Don’t allow children in the kitchen
Kids are a whirlwind of activity, noise, and excitement, which can be dangerous when you’re cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Keeping kids out of the kitchen during holiday prep and cooking can prevent them from getting injured from cuts, burns, or spills.
Instruct your kids, and any guests that the kitchen is off limits to children. Make sure there are plenty of activities, toys, or games to occupy them elsewhere in the house, or even outdoors. Also enlist the help of another adult or two to monitor the children, and help enforce your no-kitchen rule.
- Turn pot handles in
It’s a good rule of thumb for any day of the year, but is especially important when you’ve got multiple dishes cooking at once: turn all pot handles in. Handles that are sticking out, or hanging over the edge of the stove can pose a safety risk. Accidently hit one, and a hot pot of gravy, vegetables, or stuffing can spill, possibly burning you or others.
- Avoid loose clothing and jewelry while cooking
Sure, that top with the flowy sleeves you just bought would look really cute to wear on Thanksgiving. But if you’ll be in the kitchen cooking, any baggy or loose sleeves or clothing items should be avoided. They can catch on fire, land in boiling water, or otherwise do you harm.
You’ll also want to watch out for dangling jewelry, such as necklaces, while cooking, which could fall into hot pots, or get caught on the stove or oven.
Instead, do the cooking, and then change into that drapey dress for the meal. You’ll also avoid spilling on or staining a favorite clothing item during cooking by wearing well-fitting cooking clothes.
- Keep a clean cooking space
Some people can cook multiple dishes at once without creating a mess. If you’re not the neatest cook, don’t worry, as long as you’re sanitary. A little mess isn’t a big deal. What is a big deal is not keeping your workstation clean.
Start by washing your hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds. Also wash counters, cutting boards, utensils, pots and pans, and knives, before using. As you cook, promptly wipe up any spills, and make sure to keep raw meat and poultry separate from other foods.
If you can, clean as you go, to prevent a messy kitchen and any food-handling mishaps.
- Be prepared for accidents
As steadfast as you are to prevent accidents, they can happen. Be prepared to deal with a variety of accidents, and know where to turn to find a fire extinguisher, bucket, or first aid kit.
Also make sure your first aid kit is well stocked. You’ll want to have different sized bandages and gauze, products to treat burns and cuts, and latex gloves. Find out other good items to have on hand by reading 8 safety must haves for every home.
- Beware turkey fryers
Frying turkeys on Thanksgiving has become more than just a passing fad. But if you’re firing up the fryer this year, it’s important to do it safely to prevent burns, explosions, and more.
Follow these safe turkey-frying tips:
- Always operate turkey fryers outdoors, at least 10 feet from your home or any structures
- Don’t overfill the pot
- Use a thermometer to monitor oil temperature
- Never fry a frozen or partially thawed turkey
- Cook stuffing separately
- Wear gloves while frying
However you like your turkey cooked, have a safe and festive holiday now that you’ve learned how to safely prepare and cook your holiday dinner.
And, now that the colder months are here, read how to take on winter with lifesaving tips.