I love Thanksgiving!
It’s a uniquely American holiday, and it’s all about Food, Fellowship, Family, and Football. My late father always called it his favorite holiday, because there were no presents to buy, no hustling and bustling like during Christmas, and lots of good, stick-to-your ribs food. I suspect that he also liked it because his birthday sometimes fell on Thanksgiving, so it was a special day for him. We were never quite sure which day was his actual birthday, so we just celebrated him on Thanksgiving. And, to this day, although he’s been gone 15 years now, I always think about him on Thanksgiving Day, and am grateful to have had such a wonderful father.
Thanksgiving can also be a hectic time, with more people in the kitchen helping to prepare the holiday meal (or just watching, with a hungry, maniacal gleam in their eyes), children running around, and household pets trying to make sense of the extra humans, commotion, sounds and smells.
With all of the guests, all of the activity, and all there is to do, it’s not surprising that, according to the National Fire Prevention Organization, more cooking-related fires happen on Thanksgiving than on any other day of the year.
But a few simple tips will keep the holiday joyous, and your friends and loved-ones safe.
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In the Thanksgiving Kitchen:
- Stay in the kitchen while you are cooking on the stovetop. That way you can keep an eye on the food, as well as the people and pets who might want to see what’s cooking.
- Make sure all pan handles are turned away from the edge of the stove, so small hands won’t be tempted to grab them. Steam or the splash from vegetables, gravy, or coffee could cause serious burns.
- Have activities that keep kids out of the kitchen during this busy time. Games, puzzles, books, or a backyard football game allow kids to blow-off some steam and work up an appetite.
- While you’re at it, make sure to keep electrical cords, matches and lighters, knives, and sharp utensils out-of-reach of kids and pets.
- While cooking your turkey, stay in the home and check on it often.
- Never wear flowing or loose-fitting clothing while cooking. Long, open sleeves are more likely to catch fire from a gas flame or a hot burner. Short, tight-fitting or rolled-up sleeves are a better choice while preparing food.
- Keep children away from the stove. It will be hot, so keep kids at least three feet away.
- Keep the kitchen floor clear of bags, purses, boxes, and toys — so nobody trips.
- Keep a fire extinguisher handy, near, but not above, the oven or stove. And know how to use it. By the way, just a tablespoon of Baking Soda also works very well to smother a grease-fire. You can also use a pot lid to cover a small stovetop blaze.
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- Use kitchen timers or the timer on your cellphone to remind you when to check on things or when they’re supposed to be done.
- Battery operated candles are a great alternative to a real-flame candle, but if you insist on a real candle, never leave children unattended in a room with a lit candle.
- And, before any of the holiday hubbub begins, test your smoke alarm by pushing the test button. Working smoke alarms are your most important home fire safety tool.
Deep-fried turkey has become very popular in recent years because it’s fast and – if done properly – produces a deep-brown, delectable, and juicy bird in less time than roasting in a conventional oven. But that popularity means more opportunity for trouble. Turkey fryers have the potential to cause fire and serious injury. That’s why organizations like Underwriters Laboratory (UL) and the NFPA advise us not to use turkey fryers. However, if you must try a deep-fried turkey, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Turkey fryers should be used outside, but off decks, out of garages, and a safe distance from trees and other structures.
- Get a fryer with temperature controls, and watch the oil temperature carefully. Cooking oil heated beyond its smoke point can catch fire. If you notice the oil is smoking, turn the fryer off.
- Place the fryer on a level surface, and avoid moving it once it’s in use.
- Keep an eye on the weather. Never use a fryer in the rain or snow, which can cause flare-ups if they get in the hot oil.
- Maintain at least a two foot distance between the tank and the fryer when using a propane-powered unit.
- Keep children and pets away from the fryer at all times.
- Choose a smaller turkey for frying. Eight to 10 pounds is best. Pass on turkeys that weigh more than 12 pounds.
- Make sure your turkey is thawed completely and dried thoroughly before cooking. Ice or water that mixes with the hot oil can cause flare-ups.
- Skip the stuffing when deep-frying a turkey, and avoid water-based marinades.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter to avoid overfilling the fryer pot with oil. Overflowing oil can ignite when it makes contact with the burner.
- Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from spatters, oven mitts to protect your hands and arms, and keep a grease-rated fire extinguisher close by.
- Turn off the burner before lowering the the turkey into the hot oil. Once the turkey is submerged, turn the burner back on.
- Once finished, and the turkey carefully removed from the oil, take the pot from the burner and place it on a level surface and cover to let the oil cool overnight before disposing.
Pets are part of our families, and it’s important to consider them when planning our Thanksgiving festivities. Veterinarians offer a few tips to keep our four-legged friends happy and safe this holiday season.
- Don’t give your pets ham or more than a small amount of turkey. They can be especially rich in fat, which can trigger a life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas.
- Avoid giving your pets chocolate because it contains Theobromine, which can harm a dog’s heart and nervous system, or even cause death.
- Don’t give your pets bones, especially poultry bones, which can shatter and lodge in an animal’s throat or puncture their esophagus, stomach, or intestines.
- Be sensitive that Thanksgiving can be stressful to your pet with all of the strange (and wonderful) smells, and all of the extra people in the house. Try to stick to your pet’s routine as much as possible.
- Keep alcoholic drinks out of your pet’s reach. If ingested, alcohol could leave your pet weak or ill, and may result in a coma, possibly resulting in death from respiratory failure.
- Take some time to prepare healthy, pet-friendly treats so your pet doesn’t get left out of the festivities, and is less tempted to snatch a potentially dangerous human treat.
- Give your pet the option of a quiet space, away from the commotion that has fresh water and a place to snuggle.
On behalf of MySafe:LA and the Safe Community Project, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!