AgEBB-MU CAFNR Extension

David Burton
Civic Communications Specialist
2400 S. Scenic Ave.
Springfield, MO 65807

November 17, 2017

Thanksgiving: A Day to be
Thankful, Prepared, and Safe

LAMAR, Mo.-According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), cooking is the main cause of home fires, and the peak day for home cooking fires is Thanksgiving.

One of the most important reminders is to keep your eyes and mind on what you are doing in the kitchen according to Lindsey Stevenson, nutrition specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

"For example, stay in the kitchen when you are frying, boiling, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen, turn off the burner," said Stevenson. "It is equally important to remember safety tips for cooking to reduce foodborne illness."


The USFA and Stevenson offer some other basic safety tips to remember during the holidays.

  • Watch what you are cooking. Fires start when the heat is too high. "If you see any smoke or the grease starts to boil, turn the burner off," said Stevenson.

  • If you simmer, bake, or roast food, check it regularly and use a timer.

  • Keep a pan lid or baking sheet nearby. Use it to cover the pan if it catches fire. This will put the fire out.

  • In the event of an oven fire, turn off the oven and keep the door closed until it is cool.

  • Make sure your smoke alarms are working. Test them by pushing the test button.

If you plan to deep fry your turkey, download the Prevent a Turkey Fryer Fire tip sheet on the USFA's cooking fire safety website.


Fires are not the only thing that can ruin a Thanksgiving. Follow these 11 tips to reduce your risk of foodborne illness:

  1. Wash your hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds.

  2. Start with a clean surface. This includes cutting boards, counters, dishes, and utensils.

  3. Keep foods separate. Use separate cutting boards for raw meats and vegetables or fruits, or cut your vegetables and fruits first, and then cut your meat.

  4. Rinse your fresh fruits and vegetables

  5. Don't rinse the bird in the sink. It's not a necessary safety step, and doing so can spread germs around your kitchen.

  6. Keep your refrigerator below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The danger zone for bacterial growth is 40-140 degrees. Food kept in this temperature range for two or more hours is unsafe to eat. To make sure you can keep enjoying your turkey day leftovers, refrigerate your cooked foods after eating and don't let them go to waste.

  7. Read and follow package cooking instructions

  8. At the store, place raw meat in the plastic bags provided at the meat counter, and keep separate from other items in your cart

  9. Never thaw meat at room temperature. To thaw a whole turkey, put it in a pan on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. It will take 24 hours for every 5 lbs of turkey to thaw.

  10. Use a calibrated food thermometer. A turkey is not safe to eat until it has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit. You cannot tell by the color. It is important to check the temperature in three different places to be sure the bird is done: the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the wing and the innermost part of the thigh. When you remove the turkey from the oven, let it sit for 20 minutes before carving to allow the juices to settle.

  11. Clean out the refrigerator. Leftovers are no longer safe to eat after three or four days.

"Speaking of leftovers, you can add leftover turkey to a soup, salad, or sandwich to create a new meal. My favorite is my grandpa's turkey salad sandwich," said Stevenson.


In case the holiday meal becomes overwhelming, USDA has a toll-free hotline open on Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET, with live food safety experts available to help in English and Spanish. Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). The hotline is open regularly from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.

Source: Lindsey Stevenson, (417) 682-3579

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