The holiday season brings food, fun and family as well as something you may not have considered — health and safety concerns. Stress, rich food and alcohol are examples of the types of things that can lead to an elevated risk of heart attack during the holidays. That’s why we pooches are always moving –to keep our tickers in shape. Since our primary concern is safety, (pork chops are secondary), we wanted to take this opportunity to offer our subscribers and friends some tips for Thanksgiving safety. Let’s get to the food!
Cooking Safely on Turkey Day
Thanksgiving means elaborate home-cooked meals – turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, cherry pie, and rhubarb, boysenberry, shepherd’s pie, bacon pie, ribs pie…to name a few of my holiday favorites. Cooking a big meal requires patience as well as careful attention to detail. Follow these safety tips to ensure your family and friends’ safety before, during and after Thanksgiving:
- Keep a fire extinguisher on hand. Grease fires can start quickly and can be difficult to contain. A properly-rated and current fire extinguisher is essential.
- Sharpen knives before cooking. While it sounds counterintuitive, sharp knives are safer than dull ones, the reason for this is that a clean slice is easier to repair than one created by jagged edges. Ouch. Sounds painful either way.
- Be sure to place your cooked turkey on the very edge of a low countertop, so I can reach it. Well, I guess it would actually be safer to keep food out of your pets’ reach. But that should be decided on a case-by-case basis.
- Watch hot liquids. From gravy boats to hot beverages, scalding risks abound during the holidays. So keep foot traffic in the kitchen to a minimum, especially by children. And if you decide to fry your turkey, use extreme caution. For more details about how to safely prepare and cook a Thanksgiving meal, check out this post about Thanksgiving safety.
- Keep little ones out of the kitchen. Kids carry germs (we dogs are much more fastidious) so they should be carefully supervised. Double-dipping isn’t just an annoying habit. It has the potential to quickly spread holiday germs.
Preparing the Bird
Since a turkey dinner is usually the centerpiece of any Thanksgiving meal, take into account these turkey-specific tips:
- Use the oven! While cooking the bird in a deep fryer outside might sound fun, this process is prone to accidents or even injuries…especially if there are a few cocktails involved. Sober or impaired cooks agree that oil and water do not mix. So using a frozen turkey in a fryer is a recipe for disaster.
- Regardless of your preparation method, make sure you properly thaw frozen turkeys to ward off germs. Most birds need to be refrigerated for several days, to ensure even cooking. Don’t thaw your turkey on the countertop, as this is a breeding ground for foodborne illnesses. I was stuck outside for four hours one time during Thanksgiving. I didn’t thaw out until early March!
- Heat the turkey thoroughly. The internal temperature of the gobbler must reach at least 165 degrees. So, to be safe, invest in a food thermometer.
- Carefully clean surfaces. Poultry-borne bacteria is a leading cause of food poisoning. Be sure you wash everything in hot water including your hands, utensils, plates, cutting boards, and anything else that comes into contact with the turkey.
- Cook stuffing outside of the bird! Stuffing cooks more uniformly and safely when placed in a casserole dish in the oven.
#BeSafe after the meal
- Pack leftovers quickly when Thanksgiving dinner is over. After the meal, you might want to stretch on the couch or watch football. But remember that food should not be left on the table for more than two hours. Freeze or refrigerate leftovers so you can enjoy turkey sandwiches for days!
- When in doubt, toss it out (or give Fido a treat!) If you aren’t able to pack up leftovers in a timely manner, toss them in the trash. Better to lose a few cents than to spend the rest of the holiday weekend in bed.
- If you are feeling especially lethargic after the meal, organize a family walk around the neighborhood to rev up your metabolism. I do this after every big meal. Oh wait, I just do circles on my bed and then plop down and sleep for nine hours. Be careful about strenuous activity immediately after your meal. Again, I recommend napping.
Remember that safety (and eating well) is a daily priority, so be sure to think about disaster planning all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.