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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Turkey Day Tips

 By Catherine Powell

I don’t know about you, but I love Thanksgiving Day.  The parades, the football games, the big dinner with family and friends.  It’s one tradition that makes me eager to pull out all the stops to make the day a success.  With the exception of cleaning up when the day is done, I find Thanksgiving to be one of the most memorable days of the year. To make sure that nothing disturbs the peace and tranquility of this annual American tradition, I thought I’d give you a few pointers that should be just as handy as an electric carving knife.

Don’t be a turkey. – When it comes to Thanksgiving Day ER visits, burns lead the list.  That’s because cooking such an elaborate meal usually requires every burner on the stove along with the oven and perhaps a toaster oven as well.  Orchestrating meal prep on Turkey Day requires the patience of a saint comingled with the tactical knowledge of a general.  At least is does if you want everything to come out hot and perfectly done.  Trying to martial your culinary skills while family, friends, kids and pets are running around and through the kitchen is like trying to choreograph a riot.  Take your eyes off a pot for more than a few seconds and you could wind up seeing smoke pouring out of it.  If that should happen, don’t panic.  Simply cover the pot and turn off the stove.  Whatever you do, don’t pick up a burning pot or you risk setting the kitchen on fire.

Another burn risk can be caused by someone or something knocking a pot off the stove.  When I cook Thanksgiving Dinner, I restrict access to the kitchen to only those people who are helping to prepare the meal.  No kids or pets allowed.  To restrict access, I deploy a pet gate between the kitchen and the living room.  To make sure that all the guests have everything they need, I array snacks and beverages in the living and dining room.  This keeps the kitchen clear of distractions and interlopers.

If you’re one of those who use a turkey fryer to deep fry the bird, the National Fire Protection Association wants you to know a few things:

1.      Only use the fryer outdoors, on level ground, away from structures, decks and bushes.

2.      Before you fire up the fryer, make sure that the lines leading to it aren’t leaking.  Lighting a propane burner near a gas leak and you could wind up with a fire or an explosion.

3.      Always keep a fire extinguisher nearby.

4.      Never leave a fryer unattended.

5.      Never place a frozen or partially frozen turkey in boiling oil.

6.      Always keep kids and pets far away.

1.    Food Fight – Another all-too-common medical complaint on Thanksgiving Day is tummy trouble.  (And I’m not talking about the queasy feeling you get just looking at your Aunt Mary’s broccoli casserole.)  Everything from under-cooked turkey to cross-contamination can leave you and/or your guests with a case of food poisoning.  Here are 5 food safety tips: 1. 

      Thawing a turkey takes longer than you’d guess.  If you think you can completely defrost a 20-lb bird in a day or two, think again.  The rule of thumb is it takes one day for every 4-5 pounds.  That means you need to give a twenty pounder at least 4-5 days to completely thaw.  If the bird is still frozen inside, steep it in cold water for an hour or so, or better yet, do what I do by brining the bird.  The night before Thanksgiving, I take a stock pot and fill it with 8-cups of water, 1-cup of salt, 1-cup of brown sugar, along with herbs like thyme and rosemary.  Put the pot on the stove and heat the water until the sugar and the salt melts.  Then allow it to cool to room temperature.  Submerge the turkey in the brine before popping it in the fridge overnight.  The next morning simply rinse the turkey off before popping it in the oven.  Not only will this guarantee that your turkey is completely thawed, but it will also make the meat juicy and tender.

2.      Preparing a turkey can be a hazardous experience if you aren’t careful.  That’s because improperly handled poultry can lead to salmonella poisoning.  To avoid contamination, make sure you remove the giblets from inside the bird, then rinse the turkey inside and out.  If you trim fat from the bird, make sure you wash the knife with soap and water before you use it to slice and dice anything else.  That goes for the platter that you use to rest the bird prior to popping it in the turkey roaster.

3.      Cooking a turkey takes a long time too.  Begin by setting the oven temperature at 425-degrees for 45-minutes.  Then reduce the oven temp to 350.  It should take approximately 4-4.5 hours to cook a 20-lb turkey (longer if the bird is stuffed).  The bird isn’t fully cooked until the internal temperature is at least 165-degrees.  You need to use a meat thermometer to make sure of this fact.  Don’t rely on the little pop-up temperature indicator that comes with the turkey.   

4.      Pets and food do not coexist well.  Cross contamination, spills and stolen food are the usual result. 

Speaking of pets – If you value their safety, as well as those of your guests, make sure that cats and dogs are kept safely out of the way.  While your dog may have never hurt a fly, with so many strangers around, there’s always a possibility that Fido may wind up playing out a territorial imperative that could result in someone getting bitten.  Cats and dogs can also be put in harm’s way by being stepped on or run over by guests or rough-housing kids.  When the big day arrives, I put my dogs in a back room away from the guests.  I make sure they have plenty of water, toys and treats to keep them occupied.  It’s a better deal all around than letting them roam free to get under foot or snatch food from the table.  Cat’s too can pose a hazard to you and themselves by climbing onto kitchen counters or a lit stove.  Better to sequester kitty in a bedroom for the duration than run the risk of a cat-tastrophe.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more ways to save on flood insurance, check out her website at


  1. I once had a friend whose black lab opened the oven to pull the turkey out of it onto the floor. Bad dog!

  2. Its always best to follow saftey rule when frying a turkey! ;D


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