The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Rob Langrell
Publisher of The Sidney Sun-Telegraph 

Safety in the kitchen will help assure a 'Happy Thanksgiving'


Most of America will spend a considerable amount of time in the kitchen this Thursday. Sadly though, cooking fires nearly double on Thanksgiving Day, according to data from the American Red Cross.

In fact, more than 4,000 fires occur nationwide on Thanksgiving Day, U.S. Fire Administration statistics show. One of the biggest culprits are deep-fried turkeys.

They cause approximately five deaths, 60 injuries, the destruction of 900 homes and more than $15 million in property damage each year, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Understandably, the Red Cross and many other groups across the U.S. are stressing the importance of safety when preparing that turkey – an estimated 51 million will be prepared on Thursday – and other side dishes.

"Cooking is the number one cause of home fires, so we also have information holiday chefs can follow to avoid a fire," said Jill Orton, a region executive for the Red Cross.

Orton reminds cooking experts and rookies that anything can catch fire in the kitchen – pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels and curtains. She stresses keeping those items away from the stove, oven or other heat-generating appliance.

She also suggests using a timer as a reminder that the stove or oven is on, and to always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving the house to make sure all appliances have been turned off.

A few other tips from the Red Cross for maintaining a safe holiday include:

• Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you must leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.

• If you're simmering, baking, boiling or roasting food, check it regularly and remain in the home while food is cooking.

• Avoid wearing loose clothing or dangling sleeves while cooking.

• Keep knives out of the reach of children.

• Keep kids away from cooking areas by enforcing a "kid-free zone" of three feet around the stove.

• If you must use a turkey fryer, make sure it is outdoors and in an open area away from all walls, fences or other structures that could catch on fire and away from moisture that can cause serious burns from steam or splattering hot oil.

When it comes to food preparation for Thanksgiving, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention places a heavy emphasis on keeping your guests from dangerous food-borne bacteria while juggling a variety of dishes. It offers suggest such as:

• DO ask all kitchen helpers to wash their hands using warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food.

• DO keep turkey in its original wrapping, refrigerated until ready to cook.

• DO defrost a frozen turkey by refrigeration or cold running water.

• DO allow one day for every five pounds to defrost in the refrigerator. In a cold water bath, change the water every 30 minutes. A 20-pound turkey will take 12 hours to defrost in cold water and should be cooked immediately after thawing.

• DO use a meat thermometer to check if turkey is done. The turkey should cook until the internal temperature reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Conversely, the CDC provides such "no-no" items as:

• DON'T defrost a turkey at room temperature. Bacteria can multiply to unsafe numbers on outer layers before inner layers have defrosted.

• DON'T leave an uncooked thawed turkey out of the refrigerator longer than two hours.

• DON'T partially cook the turkey one day and continue roasting the next day.

• DON'T leave leftovers out on the counter longer than 2 hours.

• DON'T store leftover stuffing in the turkey.

• DON'T stuff turkeys as it makes it difficult for the internal temperature to reach 165°F within a safe period of time. If you must stuff your turkey, stuff it lightly before cooking and leave room for the oven to cook the interior of the turkey and stuffing.


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