My memories of Thanksgiving include family trips to Cashmere, Washington, to my great aunt Mable Kenyon’s home for a fabulous meal, how to go to both parents’ homes for the celebration after I was married, and my mom enjoying the Thanksgiving dinners I cooked after she was no longer able to make them.
Several times, I put a big turkey in a cooler to take it over the mountains to Wenatchee when I cooked for my mom. I finally figured out I could just go to the supermarket when I got there and see what it had the day before Thanksgiving: turkey, duck, or goose. One time I was making cranberries from scratch at midnight. I soon gave that up, relying instead on a store-bought version.
Thanksgiving is a great time to celebrate with family and friends. However, everyone needs to think safety to avoid problems and tragedies. For each year from 2017 to 2019, an estimated average of 2,300 residential building fires were reported to fire departments in the United States on Thanksgiving Day. These fires caused an estimated five deaths, 25 injuries, and $26 million in property loss a year.
Here are tips for a safe Thanksgiving day:
- Wash your hands before and during meal preparation.
- Thaw turkey in the refrigerator, allowing about 24 hours for every five pounds of turkey. After it’s thawed, it can will be safe in the refrigerator for one to two days. If you use the cold-water method, allow 30 minutes per pound, and submerge the turkey in its original wrapping to avoid cross-contamination. If defrosting in the microwave, follow the manufacturer's instructions.
- Avoid cross-contamination, the spread of bacteria from poultry to ready-to-eat food, surfaces, and utensils.
- Check the turkey frequently, but no more than every 40 minutes.
- Cook the turkey to an internal temperature of 165 F.
- Don’t stuff the turkey because it can lead to bacterial growth. However, if you do stuff it, don’t prepare the stuffing in advance, don’t stuff the turkey and leave it in the refrigerator, and cook the stuffing to a temperature of 165 F.
- Avoid being distracted when cooking. Never leave cooking food unattended on the stove or in the oven.
- Make sure smoke alarms are working properly.
- Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher near the kitchen, and don’t use water to put out a grease fire.
- Never use turkey fryers in the garage or on the porch. Only fry a turkey outside and away from the home.
- Don’t leave food sitting out for more than two hours.
- Store leftovers in small shallow containers and refrigerate. They’ll last for four days in the refrigerator, and they’re best quality if frozen from two to six months.
- Decide what you want to do about people wearing masks to prevent covid when they aren’t eating. If you have seniors in your gathering, protecting them is important.
- Have questions ready, such as “What’s something that’s changed this year that you’re thankful for?”, to change the subject if politics, religion, or some other topic is bringing stress and raising tensions.
- Don’t comment on what others are eating, ask students about school problems or college plans, or ask people about having kids or getting married.
Candles and fireplaces
- Make sure candles and fireplaces never unattended.
- Put out candles before leaving a room.
- Place candles out of reach of small children and pets.
- Keep flammable items at least three feet away from fires in a fireplace.
- Leave a light and a radio or television on to make it look like someone is home.
- Lock all windows and doors.
- Don’t post on social media that you will be or are on vacation. If you do write about being gone, go to your privacy settings and make your social media profiles as private as possible.
- Keep track of weather and road conditions through local radio, television, or social media.
- Drive at a safe speed and expect traffic delays.
- Wear seat belts and make sure safety restraints for children are right for their age.
- Make sure the car is ready for bad weather. Check tires, brakes, and fluid.
- Have an emergency vehicle kit in case the car breaks down.
- Report anything that appears suspicious to law enforcement immediately.
- Don’t drink alcohol and drive. Thanksgiving Eve is the deadliest time for alcohol-related fatal accidents.
- Pets should only have small, boneless portions of fully cooked turkey.
- Consider restricting room access to prevent stress-induced aggression if you have guests.
- Remind guests to not feed pets any table scraps because too much food can lead to stomach problems.
- Feed pets at the same time the Thanksgiving meal is eaten to discourage begging.
- Remove trash and the turkey carcass immediately to prevent pets from eating bones or other harmful foods.
I hope your Thanksgiving celebration goes well and you can avoid any safety issues.