Fire, cooking and food disposal safety tips for Thanksgiving 2021

Many people stayed home for Thanksgiving in 2020, but now families are getting ready to celebrate with one another this year. 

If you are planning to get together with family or friends, here are some tips to keep safe: 

Fire safety tips (from Port of Seattle): 

  • Stay in the kitchen while frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you have to leave the kitchen even for a few minutes, turn off the stove.
  • When cooking your turkey, check on it frequently and never leave the house.
  • Use a cooking timer to remind you when it’s time to turn off the stove or oven (or to switch the pans).
  • Keep flammable things, such as oven mitts, wooden utensils, your clothing, or food packaging, away from the stovetop.
  • When cooking, keep a lid nearby to smother small grease fires. Put it out by sliding the lid over the pan and then turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled. Never throw water onto a grease fire!
  • Have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen for extra prevention.
  • Keep children and pets at least three feet away from a hot stove, hot food, and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, gravy, or coffee can cause serious burns.
  • Make sure electric cords aren’t dangling off the counter within easy reach of children or pets.
  • Ensure your smoke alarms are working by testing them at least once a month and replacing batteries once a year.

In the event of a cooking fire:

  • If it’s an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
  • For a stovetop fire, put a lid on it and turn off the elements.
  • If the fire is out of control, get everyone out of the house and close the door behind you to help contain it.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number from outside the home.
  • If you try using the fire extinguisher, make sure others are getting out and that you have a clear path out of the home. Have someone call the fire department at the same time.

In 2019, fire departments across the country responded to an estimated 1,40 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving, according to the National Fire Protection Association

Unattended cooking is the leading contributing factor in cooking fires and fire deaths, with cooking causing nearly half (49%) of all reported home fires. 

The NFPA strongly discourages using a turkey fryer. The organization believes the fryers that use cooking oil are not suitable for use at home, no matter how well-informed or careful the consumer may be. The turkey fryers use a substantial quality of oil at high temperatures. 

If you choose to use a turkey fryer, there are important steps to take to ensure safety, according to Butterball:

Deep-frying turkey indoors

  • Completely thaw your turkey, or use a fresh turkey.
  • Take the wrapper off of the turkey, and remove and discard the neck and giblets. Pat dry.
  • Add oil to the fryer, but do not exceed the maximum fill line. Preheat oil in the fryer to 375° F.
  • While the oil is heating, prepare your turkey with any seasonings, marinades, or injected flavors. Tuck legs.
  • Once the oil is heated, place the basket in the fryer for 30 seconds. Remove basket from oil, place turkey in basket. Slowly lower the turkey into the fryer. The turkey may not be totally immersed in the oil. This may cause the top part of the breast to remain white even though it is cooked to the proper end temperature.
  • Set the timer and cook the turkey about 3 to 4 minutes per pound.
  • Cook all dark meat to an internal temperature of 175° F to 180° F, and all white meat to an internal temperature of 165° F to 170° F. Here’s some help on how to check your turkey’s temperature for doneness.
  • When the turkey is done, slowly lift it from the pot 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.

Deep-frying turkey outdoors

  • To start, take the wrapper off of the turkey, and remove and discard the neck and giblets.
  • Deep-fry your turkey outside on a flat surface, far away from homes, garages, wooden decks, etc.
  • To determine how much oil is needed for frying, place the thawed turkey in the fryer basket and place it in the fryer. Add water until the top of the turkey is barely covered. Remove the turkey, allowing the water to drain from the turkey back into the fryer. Measure and mark the water line, and use that line as a guide when adding oil to the propane fryer.
  • There should be at least 3 to 5 inches from the fill line to the top of the pot so oil doesn’t boil over.
  • While the oil is heating, prepare your turkey with any seasonings, marinades, or injected flavor that you desire.
  • When the oil is hot, turn the burner off and slowly lower the turkey into the hot oil. Slowly lowering the basket helps prevent the oil from bubbling over. Turn the burner back on.
  • Cook the turkey about 3 to 4 minutes per pound.
  • The turkey is done when the dark meat is at an internal temperature of 175° F to 180° F and all white meat is at an internal temperature of 165° F to 170° F.
  • When the turkey is done, slowly lift it from the pot 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.

Disposing of grease

Did you know plumbers refer to the day after Thanksgiving as “Brown Friday” because of the uptick in business they get from feast-clogged pipes and sewer lines?

Fats, oils and grease (also known as “FOG”) can cause major home plumbing issues – as well as problems in the sewer system. Just as fatty foods clog arteries, FOG sticks to the inside of pipes causing blockages and backups of raw sewage, that can put your family’s health and the environment at risk.

FOG gets into the sewer most commonly through sinks, dishwashers, and floor drains. Common cooking FOG includes:

  • Any type of cooking oil (extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, etc.)
  • Salad dressings
  • Bacon grease
  • Meat fat
  • Shortening
  • Butter
  • Sauces
  • Dairy products

The last thing you’re going to want to deal with during the holidays is a sewer overflow, so put cooking oil and grease where they belong: in your garbage, in a tightly-sealed container. Here are some more tips from King County Wastewater Treatment

  • Put baskets and strainers in sinks to catch food scraps and metal from scrub pads.
  • Don’t put greasy food or meat in garbage disposals.
  • Before washing dishes, use a spatula to scrape batter and food residue from bowls and plates.
  • Never pour oil or grease into a storm drain, which can harm wildlife.

FOX 13 Tampa contributed to this story.

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