How to Cook Thanksgiving Dinner Safely: Top 10 Tips

No one wants to spend Thanksgiving in the emergency room, but that’s where some cooks and diners end up when dinner isn’t cooked carefully. By following a few safety measures, you can make sure that your Thanksgiving dinner goes smoothly.

Check the batteries in your smoke detectors

A few days before Thanksgiving, make sure that all your smoke detectors are in working order. Press the test button on each smoke detector to see if the battery needs replacing. Kitchen fires are a common occurrence during the holidays, so you will want to be aware of any smoke as soon as possible.

Make sure you have a working fire extinguisher

To further prevent a kitchen fire disaster, check the expiration date on your fire extinguisher or acquire a fire extinguisher if you don’t have one. Also have a big box of baking soda handy to deal with any small grease fires.

Clean your kitchen ahead of time

Wipe surfaces clean of grease to prevent smoking and even fires. Also, make sure your kitchen is free of clutter and that all utensils are accessible. Put knives away safely. By keeping things organized and tidy, you’ll be more likely to avoid accidents while you’re cooking.

Keep a close eye on food that’s cooking

Of course, it’s better to prevent a fire than to actually have to put one out. Set a timer for anything you are cooking or baking. Stay in the kitchen or near by to watch over everything you have cooking. If you have to step away for more than a moment, ask a family member or friend to keep an eye on things for a few minutes.

Store precooked sides properly

Cooking side dishes ahead of time can be a great time saver, but make sure you do it safely. Put any cooked sides in the refrigerator after no longer than two hours. I like to put them in the refrigerator uncovered to cool quickly, and I cover them up once they are cooled.

Serve your pre-cooked sides at no more than three days after they were originally prepared. If you need to components them any earlier than a few days out, freeze them instead of refrigerating them. Side dishes can be frozen for up to three months ahead of time.

Defrost the turkey correctly

Avoid salmonella poisoning by defrosting your turkey at the proper temperature – no higher than 40F. The best choice is to defrost your turkey in the refrigerator; you’ll need about an hour per pound. You can also defrost your turkey in a cold water bath or in the microwave. Consult the directions that came with your turkey to make sure you defrost it appropriately.

Cook the turkey safely

Cook your turkey as immediately after defrosting it. Use a good meat thermometer to make sure your turkey is cooked through to at least 165F in several places like the thickest part of the breast and leg. Also make sure that the juices from the turkey are running clear when you take it out of the oven.

Avoid cross contamination with raw poultry

Handle raw turkey and other raw meat completely separately from the other components of your meal. Wash your hands thoroughly with hot water and soap before and after handling raw meat of any kind. Wash every utensil, cutting board, and surface that touches raw meat immediately and completely.

Fry safely

If you’re going to fry your turkey this Thanksgiving, be extra careful. Never fry a frozen turkey, and avoid using turkey fryers on wooden decks. Never leave the fryer unattended, and remember that the oil is hot hours after the turkey is done cooking.

Cut and carve carefully

Slice vegetables and carve your turkey with care. Use the proper knife for whatever you happen to be cutting, and make sure that it’s sharp. Don’t cut or carve when you are distracted and tired. It’s easy to slip and cut yourself after a long day of cooking. Ask someone else to pitch in and help with carving the turkey if you don’t feel up to it.

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