It’s time to cook a turkey, visit with friends and family, and reminisce. However, all too often Thanksgiving fun turns into a fiasco, due to unsafe food handling practices and fires. Here’s what you can do to ensure that everyone enjoys the holiday and stays safe.
Thaw Bird Properly
If you buy fresh turkey, buy it within two days of Thanksgiving. Most people buy frozen turkeys, because it’s convenient.
The best way to thaw your turkey is in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can defrost it in a cold water bath. Keep the water cold, by changing it every half hour.
Do not leave your turkey on the counter. After two hours, bacteria begin to grow and you could poison guests with Salmonella.
Handle With Care
Wash your hands before you handle the bird and handle the turkey separately from other food items.
Once you’ve dressed your turkey, wash your hands and utensils with warm, soapy water. Raw poultry can contaminate other foods if you transfer the bacteria.
Cooked stuffing tastes great, but cook it thoroughly. Use a meat thermometer and make sure that the internal temperature reaches at least 165°F to kill bacteria. Always let the bird stand for at least 20 minutes before you remove the stuffing.
Cooking The Turkey
The safest way to cook a turkey is in the oven and the time depends on the weight of the turkey. The estimated time at 325°F is 15 minutes per pound, but measure the internal temperature with a meat thermometer (165°F inserted into the center of the stuffing and the thickest part of the breast, and the innermost parts of the thigh and wing).
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, three times as many fires occur on Thanksgiving Day than normal. Most fires happen, because cooks leave their meals unattended. As well, many households do not have operating smoke detectors or a fire extinguisher nearby.
If your turkey ignites in the oven, shut the heat off and keep the door closed. The fire will likely self-extinguish. If you have a stovetop fire, don an oven mitt, douse it with baking soda, and cover the pot or pan with a heavy lid. If you can’t contain the fire quickly using this method or a fire extinguisher, call 9-1-1.
A recent cause of many fires is turkey fryers. The National Fire Protection Agency discourages their use for several reasons. First, they’re intended for outdoor use and rain or snow causes dangerous oil splatters. Second, some models do not support the oil and turkey weight well and easily topple over. Finally, the propane burners easily ignite spilled oil and cause millions of dollars in damages each year, along with serious injuries.
Store Leftovers Correctly
Bacteria grows quickly at room temperature, so it is very important you refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours to prevent food poisoning. Remove the stuffing from the turkey and store separately.
If you’re sending leftovers home with guests who live more than two hours away, pack the leftovers in a cooler with ice. Use shallow containers, so the food cools quickly. Otherwise, the edges will cool, but the center will breed bacteria. Don’t eat leftovers if they’ve been in the fridge more than three days.
Also, with all of the extra travel and festivities taking place in your home, the holidays are a great time to review your homeowners and auto insurance policies. Your independent insurance agent can ensure you have sufficient coverage so you’re protected if something goes awry. Enjoy your turkey and Happy Thanksgiving!