Ahh, Thanksgiving. A time of food, family and football. What could possibly go wrong on this wonderful holiday? Well, for starters, how about house fires, food borne illness, intoxicated drivers, backyard injuries and more? The following are some tips that will help better protect you and your family this Thanksgiving.
Many people forget just how dangerous cooking can be, especially when additional “cooks” and adult beverages are thrown into the mix. Home fires on Thanksgiving nearly double from any other day of the year; and it’s no wonder. We all want to show off our culinary abilities, and often disregard common sense and normal safety precautions. Plus, your house is usually full of family and friends, which makes the potential of injury that much greater. Here are a few things to consider.
- Leave the frying to the pros. Deep-frying your turkey is one of the most hazardous things you can attempt to cook, and, yet, each year tens of thousands of Americans will attempt to do just that. Make sure you follow all of the instructions on your fryer, or consider an alternate method of cooking. None of the commercially available turkey fryers are listed as “safe” according to Underwriters Laboratories, an independent safety organization. Check this video for some examples of what these things are capable of.
- Check your smoke alarm’s batteries the day before to make sure they are functional.
- Cook as much as possible before Thanksgiving Day. That way, you won’t be overloading your oven. Many fires are the result of trying to cram too many things into one oven.
- Check your fire extinguisher. Make sure you know where it is, and that it’s functional. Also, make sure you have an appropriate extinguisher for the type of cooking you’ll be doing. Not all extinguishers are registered for grease fires and will do little to stop them.
Hopefully, you’ve decided that deep-fried turkey is better left for the local fire department to prepare. How then do you cook it? Roasted, brined, braised? Any way you decide to cook your turkey, you’ll need to know how to prevent food borne illness. Here are some tips:
- If you are brining your turkey (soaking it in a salt/sugar bath overnight), make sure it stays cold. The best way to brine a turkey is keeping it in the fridge while it is soaking. But the average turkey weighs 15 lbs., and most people brine in a Coleman cooler that is far too big for a home refrigerator. So, just make sure you keep it covered in ice water. Put more ice on it before bed and check it first thing in the morning. Don’t let the water temperature get above 40 degrees.
- Wash your turkey. Yes, wash it. So many people cook the turkey right out of the packaging. Much of the bacteria in a raw turkey can be simply washed away. Just make sure you pat it dry before cooking, so it will still brown.
- Pass the 409. Everything the raw turkey touches needs to be cleaned with an antibacterial cleaner. With the number of children and hungry guests in and out of the kitchen, you have to make sure that every contaminated area gets cleaned quickly.
- Use a digital thermometer. A thermometer needs to reach 170 before the turkey is safe to eat. This includes whatever you stuff in the cavity, which is not advised. A digital thermometer can be inserted prior to cooking in the thickest part of the bird. You’ll also be able to gauge how quickly the turkey is cooking and adjust the side dishes accordingly.
We all like to celebrate. Thanksgiving, like all holidays, is often an excuse to pour a little more wine, have a couple more beers or have that last glass of single malt scotch. But, don’t overdo it. There are more people traveling on Thanksgiving than most days, and you need to keep the roads safe. If a family member/guest has too many drinks, offer to call them a cab or provide a comfy couch for them to sleep on. There’s no excuse for letting a loved one get behind the wheel while drunk. They could get a DUI as the police are out in full force, or, worse, they could injure or kill someone. It’s just not worth the risk. Plan ahead.
- Have an exit strategy. How are people getting there and how are they leaving? Plan on designated drivers, cabs, or people crashing at your place for the night.
- Stock the medicine cabinet. If people do indulge (and they will), plan on having the essentials for a rough morning after. Aspirin, gatorade and coffee should be on hand. And make sure everyone drinks a large glass of water (or three) before bed.
Thanksgiving should be about fun with your family. Some simple preparations will ensure that it stays fun from start to finish. From all of us at JJ Wade Insurance, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!