Stay safe this Thanksgiving

Published 10:23 pm Friday, November 22, 2019

Everybody celebrates Thanksgiving differently, with different traditions, different foods and different ways of doing things.

Two things that should never be on anybody’s agenda that day, though, is having a fire or going to the hospital with an illness or injury.

We want to help make sure the fire department and the hospital aren’t busy this Thursday, so courtesy of Suffolk Fire & Rescue and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, here are some tips for food safety and fire prevention as you celebrate.

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Harmful bacteria can grow rapidly in the danger zone between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F. Avoid this danger zone.

Make sure everything that contacts food is as clean as possible. Start with clean hands, because they are the most frequently used utensil in the kitchen and can spread bacteria very quickly.

Plan ahead so you will have adequate storage space in the refrigerator and freezer for all perishable items. Keep cold foods cold — 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less in the refrigerator and 0 degrees Fahrenheit or less in the freezer.

Cooking enhances the flavor of food, but its main function is to kill disease-causing microorganisms. The internal temperature of the food must reach the recommended level as shown on an instant-read thermometer: beef — at least 150 degrees F; pork — 160 degrees F; poultry — 165 degrees F. Cook ground meats until there is no pink left and the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. Reheat leftovers to at least 165 degrees F to kill bacteria that might have multiplied in the cooling process. Cook meat, poultry, fish, egg dishes and casseroles thoroughly in one operation.

Keep raw and cooked foods and their juices separate at all times. Be sure that raw meats do not drip on other foods. Do not reuse marinade from raw meat. Never use the same plate or utensil for cooked food that you used to prepare or transport the raw product.

Do not leave perishables at room temperature for more than two hours in cool weather or one hour when it is warmer.

Refrigerate leftovers as quickly as possible, discarding any that have been at room temperature for two hours or more. Reheat all leftovers to at least 165 degrees F and heat gravy to a rolling boil. Use cooked dishes within three days and stuffing and gravy within two days. When in doubt, throw it out.

Never leave cooking food unattended.

Keep combustibles such as pot holders and dish towels away from burners and heat sources.

Heat cooking oil slowly and watch it closely; it can ignite quickly.

Don’t wear loose sleeves while working over hot stove burners — they can melt, ignite or catch on handles of pots and pans.

Have a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot foods or drinks are prepared or carried.

Keep a lid nearby to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cool.

Don’t leave holiday candles unattended, and keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children.

Keep the floor clear so you don’t trip over kids, toys, pocketbooks or bags.

Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other flammable materials.

Never use turkey fryers in a garage or on a wooden deck.

Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.

Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you do not watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.

Never let children or pets near the fryer, even if it is not in use. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot hours after use.

To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.

Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.

Make sure the turkey is completely thawed, and be careful with marinades. Oil and water do not mix, and water causes oil to spill over, causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.

The National Turkey Federation recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator approximately 24 hours for every five pounds in weight.

Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. If the fire is manageable, use your all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call 911.