Each Thanksgiving, in between loading plates with extra sweet potatoes and watching football, 46 million turkeys are eaten by families across the country. In 2012 alone, the average American ate 16 pounds of turkey. That’s a lot of turkey. We can only imagine how many naps were taken to counteract the bird-laced comas.
There’s a number of things that make Thanksgiving a favorite holiday for many Americans, but few know it’s also the likeliest day for cooking related fires. These fires include grill accidents, fast-moving fires, and fires caused by entire turkey’s igniting.
All Thanksgiving Day chefs know it can be hard to get the process of cooking a turkey just right, but they don’t all know that accidents can be more severe than just a burnt turkey. Since almost everyone is cooking on Thanksgiving, the additional chefs in the kitchen means more chances for a fire related incident. The NFPA says three times as many home fires happen on Thanksgiving as the average day. Here’s you can prepare for the holiday:
Keep the Kitchen Safe
Most cooking related fires happen due to unattended cooking, which is simply avoided by not leaving the kitchen while cooking and always keeping an eye on a meal. Additional safety tips include:
General Safety Tips
- Don’t wear loose fitting clothes.
- Always remove the plastic from a turkey before cooking it.
- Be careful with hot liquids that can cause serious burn and keep them away from children.
- Keep kids at least three feet away from stove, grill, or any other cooking area. (NFPA has this Kids in the Kitchen guide that can keep them busy while you cook.)
- Keep matches, lighters, and any flammable materials out of reach of kids
- Keep the floor clean so you don’t trip over anything while cooking.
- Keep things that burn away from the stove, including pot holders, oven mitts, food wrappers.
- If there’s a stovetop fire, put a lid over it and turn the stove off. If it grows, leave the house and call 911.
- Always make sure the fryer is stable and isn’t capable of tipping over.
- Don’t open the oven door if you see smoke, the oxygen will ignite a flame.
- Don’t throw water on a fire, water is heavier than the cooking oil and will send flames higher (which means, also don’t throw frozen food into burning oil.)
- Have pot handles facing toward the back of the stove so no one will bump into them
- Have smoke alarms on every floor, near sleeping rooms, in the kitchen, and have them tested once a week. Change the batteries once every year.
- Don’t store fire extinguishers under the kitchen sink, have it in plain sight and near an exit When using extinguisher, spray low and slow. Stand eight feet away from the flame. If there’s no results in 10 seconds then get out of the home. For more info:
Remember: Fire’s double every 5-10 seconds and can consume a room in just one minute, so get out of the home and call 9-11
No Grease Lightning
Grease fires are one of the common causes of turkey related incidents. Grease is used by people who are deep frying their turkeys and fully submerse them in grease or other hot oils. The NFPA discourages using any outdoor turkey fryers that immerse a turkey in hot oil, they even suggest that this method is not safe for the most informed chefs.
These fryers are dangerous because the burners use large amounts of cooking oil, and due to the high temperatures needed to fry the birds, the burners that heat the oil can spill over and ignite. Accidents also occur by placing turkeys that are still frozen or haven’t been properly thawed in oil.
It’s highly encouraged for people to seek out restaurants or other professional places for their fried turkey needs, like grocery stores, food retailers, or oil-free fryers. Fryers also need to be at least 10 feet away from the house or anything that is combustible. Don’t fry it on a wooden deck or other combustible surfaces.
Keep the Bird Outside
If you do decide to go ahead and fry your turkey, make sure you do so outside. Keep the fryer away from the home, and ten feet of space on each side will ensure that flammable materials aren’t close enough to cause an incident. In the event that something does happen, you will also have a better chance to respond quickly without risking your home or other valuables.
Put a Lid on Top of Fire
If there’s a grease fire on the stove, put a lid on top. Do not use water because that will spread the fire.
Don’t Overfill With Oils
Don’t overfill the cooking pot with oils. This includes any fryer you more use, or other foods that are being cooked.
Always Have Thermostats Nearby
Have a thermostat nearby to check on heat and control the temperature so oil does not overheat and start a fire.
Make sure that the fryer is stable and that it isn’t capable of tipping over.
Avoiding Grill Fires
Another main area of concern is the grill. Many fires start from a lack of knowledge about simple grill procol.
General Grill Safety Tips
- Never use a grill indoors and make sure it is away from siding or deck railings.
- Keep grills away from homes and decks.
- Remove overhead materials.
- Don’t ever leave grills, fire pits, or any outdoor flame source unattended.
- Clean the grill and get rid of grease and fat build-up after use.
- Keep grill a safe distance from trees, buildings, and anything that can burn.
- In charcoal grills, don’t add fluid after the coals are lit, and once they are cooled they should be placed in metal container with tight lid.
- In gas grills, make sure the hose connection is tight and check the hoses for leaks. Putting soapy water on hoses can reveal leaks. Once your meal is finished turn off grill and fuel cylinder.
- Roll up sleeves or wear short sleeve shirts while grilling.
If your grill doesn’t start or the flame goes out for any reason, wait at least 15 minutes for propane to dissipate. Propane is heavier than air and lighting the grill will light everything in proximity.
Gas grills contribute to higher number of house fires than charcoal.
NFPA says in 2014 over 16,600 people went to the hospital for grill related accidents.
10 Turkey Facts
Whether you spend the holiday with family, or friends, Thanksgiving is one of the most joyous times of the year. We leave you with ten of our favorite turkey facts to share across the dinner table, and add some trivia to your turkey intake.
- “Turkey Trotting,” is a dance that is named after the short, jerky steps that turkeys take.
- In 2012, the average American age 16 pounds of Turkey.
- On Thanksgiving alone, 46 million turkeys are eaten, and 22 million are eaten on Christmas, and 19 million on Easter.
- Since 1970, turkey consumption has increased by 104%.
- The average Thanksgiving turkey weighs 15 pounds.
- The heaviest turkey ever weighed in at 86 pounds, which is close to the size of a big dog.
- Male turkeys are called Toms, and females are called hens.
- Turkeys existed almost ten million years ago.
- Wild turkeys sleep in trees and prefer oak trees.
- Turkeys see in color.
All facts were provided by the University of Illinois Extension.