Thanksgiving Safety Tips for Your Holiday Dinner

The year has flown by, and somehow we’ve already stored our skeletons and pumpkins, and we’re ready for Thanksgiving. Time to order those stretchy pants as you bring together family and friends over one table.

But with every large event, there are safety issues that occur as you cook a big feast in your kitchen.

Did you know Thanksgiving is the No. 1 day for home cooking fires in the country, followed by Christmas? Yes, that’s more than three times as many as a regular day. Unattended cooking is the culprit for the rise in kitchen fires.

Sure, smart stove apps can help keep an eye on things and alert you, but not everyone has those on hand.

If you’re thinking of hosting this year, read on for Thanksgiving safety tips for this holiday season.

Before dinner

turkey in the oven

Preparing a large feast for your family and friends isn’t an easy feat, but it can be enjoyed with some pre-planning to save money and time. Check your smoke detectors, switch out the batteries if needed and make your grocery list.

1. Turkey safety

Timing is everything when purchasing the best turkey and the ingredients for all of your sides. If you’re buying a fresh turkey, wait until two days before Thanksgiving. We know it’s not ideal for your busy schedule, but this helps keep it fresh for your meal.

Move your frozen turkey to the refrigerator prior to the big day. The general rule of thumb is to give it about 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey to thaw it completely. Place a tray under it to catch any juices and never let the turkey thaw out on the kitchen counter — frozen meat can start to grow bacteria after only two hours outside.

2. At the grocery

Start filling your shopping cart with grocery shelf items before reaching for the refrigerated perishables and frozen foods. After you’ve picked out your groceries, make sure to come straight home to make sure nothing thaws out.

As you go down your grocery list, keep all of your guests’ dietary restrictions in mind. For example, pre-basted or self-basting turkeys often contain soy, wheat or dairy, so be sure to read the labels.

3. Keep an eye for cross-contamination

Use different utensils and cutting boards when preparing meat and produce and thoroughly wash them between each use. We know it’s an extra step, but it keeps all bacteria off your prep area. Skip rinsing the turkey — it’s not necessary.

Be sure to keep the meat thermometer out to check that the turkey reaches a safe internal temperature of 164 degrees Fahrenheit. With a different thermometer, check that all hot side items reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit or above.

4. Don’t forget about the stove

With everyone catching up about this year’s work and life milestones, you can quickly get distracted and walk away from the kitchen. A fire can start in the blink of an eye.

Set a timer on your home assistant like the Amazon Echo, your smartphone or walk away with a potholder. Any of these will jolt you right out of conversation and back to the kitchen.

5. Set the table

So, it’s time to dig in — do you set up the table with name tags and formal place settings or a casual buffet? We think both a formal table and buffet are good options.

If you have room for a buffet, make sure that you set out the cold food first, so it’s the right temperature when the guests grab it. Also, set up sauces and gravy near their corresponding dishes for easy access.

If you have a formal setup, designate your turkey carver and set all sides on easy to grab platters with serving spoons.

While you eat

turkey being served on thanksgiving

First things first — as you start plating sides for the table and putting the turkey on a platter, make sure that you check every stove burner and the oven. Turn everything off.

Move all things away from the burners to make sure nothing catches on fire, and check that the oven is empty. Don’t leave anything still cooking, simmering or boiling.

After the feast

Leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving. But every year, one in six people get sick from contaminated food. Bacteria grow fast. But if you don’t want your Thanksgiving feast to become the infamous story told again and again at parties, make sure to keep an eye on your food preparation and storage.

As people start to slow down over their meals, start wrapping all leftovers, taking them to the kitchen and placing them in the refrigerator. While a few of you clean, have someone in your family be in charge of entertaining the kids so everything will go faster.

Avoid storing the stuffing inside the turkey. They should remain separate. No food should stay out for more than two hours. Skip any leftovers on plates touched by your guests.

Once everyone is headed home, pack up the leftovers in small, shallow containers. Let them know to refrigerate them as soon as they get back. Store the turkey in the freezer.

You have up to four days to make all the turkey sandwiches and fried mashed potatoes you want, then you have to toss them.

turkey safety infographic

Source: Fightbac.org

Enjoy your Thanksgiving day

Thanksgiving kicks off the ever-tiring holiday season, but with good food and people to surround you, you’ll have a good time. Cook everything at the right temperature, keep your kitchen clean, be careful when handling produce and store leftovers within two hours.

Don’t miss a good meal due to a dangerous kitchen fire. Stay safe in the kitchen this coming season.

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