With lengthy to-do lists and two days to prepare a meal for the entire family, many people can expect to see the storm before the calm this Thanksgiving holiday.
While this may not be the first rodeo for many families, there are a few tips that can help ensure everyone can safely enjoy the holiday and the days of leftovers to follow.
Cooking mistakes can heat up to disaster
NFPA reports that Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by the day before Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.
In 2015, U.S. fire departments responded to more than 1,700 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving. Cooking equipment is involved in almost half of all reported home fires and home fire injuries and is the second-leading cause of home fire deaths.
Fire prevention tips:
Guidelines for preparing the turkey
Read temperature labels to find out if the bird is fresh or frozen. If you plan to serve a fresh turkey, purchase it no more than two days before Thanksgiving.
Use two thermometers: Use a refrigerator thermometer to ensure the turkey is stored at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or slightly below, and use a food thermometer to make sure the cooked turkey reaches a safe 165 degrees.
Thaw the turkey by using the microwave, cold water or the refrigerator.
Keep raw turkey separated from other foods at all times.
Do not wash the turkey; that will only spread pathogens onto kitchen surfaces. The only way to kill bacteria that causes food-borne illness is to fully cook the turkey.
Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before touching any food to prevent the spread of infection and illness.
Use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils when handling raw turkey to avoid cross-contamination. Wash items that have touched raw meat with warm soap and water, or place them in a dishwasher.
Cook the turkey until it reaches 165 degrees, as measured by a food thermometer. Check the turkey's temperature by inserting the thermometer in three places: the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh and the innermost part of the wing.
Refrigerate leftovers after two hours of cooking to prevent bacteria from growing on the food. Stuffing and turkey should be stored separately.
Store leftovers in shallow containers to decrease cooling time.
Avoid consuming leftovers that have been refrigerated for more than four days - next Tuesday to be exact. Use the freezer to store leftovers for longer periods of time.
Keep leftovers in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs if the food is traveling home with a guest who lives more than two hours away.
Frying the turkey
Take the wrapper off the thawed turkey, and remove the neck and giblets.
Add oil to the fryer, but do not exceed the maximum fill line. Preheat oil in the fryer to 400 degrees.
While the oil is heating, pat the turkey dry with paper towels and prepare the bird with seasonings, marinades or injected flavors.
Slowly lower the turkey into the fryer once the oil is heated. The turkey may not be totally immersed in the oil, causing the top part of the breast to remain white even though it is cooked to the proper end temperature.
Set a timer and cook the turkey about 3 to 4 minutes per pound.
Cook all dark meat to an internal temperature of 175 degrees to 180 degrees, and all white meat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees to 170 degrees.
When the turkey is done, slowly lift it from the fryer and place it in a pan or on paper towels to drain.
Let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before removing it from the rack or basket to carve.
Pet safety from ASPCA
Make sure pieces of turkey are boneless and well cooked before feeding pets because bones can be problematic for the digestive tract, and raw or undercooked turkey could contain salmonella bacteria.
Also steer away from raw yeast bread dough. Yeast will continue to convert sugars in the raw dough into carbon dioxide gas and alcohol which could result in bloated, drunken pets. This could become a life-threatening emergency.
Be sure your pets keep their noses out of batter, especially if it includes raw eggs, because it could contain salmonella bacteria.
While your family enjoys a special meal, offer animals made-for-pets chew bones. Or add tidbits of turkey, sweet potato or green beans, and a tiny bit of gravy inside a food puzzle toy.