November 23, 2021
Englewood, CO —Thanksgiving is known for moist turkey, flavorful gravy and fluffy mashed potatoes. But for first responders across the nation, it also is known as the peak day for home cooking fires. Thanksgiving Day sees more than three-times the daily average for such emergency calls, and most often the fires are related to cooking food. “Most of the cooking-related accidents can be avoided by following a few guidelines in the kitchen and by the fryer,” Benson Pulikkottil, MD, a burn and reconstructive surgeon at the Level I Trauma Center at Swedish Medical Center explains. “Thanksgiving, of course, brings the added element of excitement, guests and family dynamics, so we like to provide these reminders to help keep everyone safe to celebrate this classically American holiday.”
Kids and Kitchen Safety
The kitchen is the heart of the home, especially on Thanksgiving. But it also can be a dangerous place for kids. Dr. Pulikkottil offers these tips for keeping kids safe while cooking your big meal:
- Establish a three-foot boundary from the stove or fryer that kids must stay behind. Marking off the boundary with painter’s tape on the floor can help provide the reminder.
- Keep knives out of reach of children and be sure that electrical cords from coffee makers, griddles or other appliances are not dangling.
- Use the back burners of your stove top and ensure that handles are turned toward the inside of the stove.
- Provide ways for kids to help outside the kitchen: coloring placemats or name cards for your guests, helping to set the table, helping to greet guests and take drink orders are all great options to keep them involved and safe.
General Cooking Safety
Most people cook safely in their kitchens every day, but the added stress and anticipation of a family holiday can make even the most seasoned chef forget simple safety rules. Dr. Pulikkottil reminds us of these important guidelines:
- Stay alert and present while cooking. Be sure not cook under the influence of medication or alcohol and never leave cooking food unattended. Use timers to remind yourself when your food will be done cooking.
- Keep items that can burn away from the stove, including kitchen towels, oven mitts, wooden utensils and the like. Also avoid wearing loose clothing and/or dangling sleeves while cooking.
- Keep a lid or a cookie sheet nearby to cover your pan if it starts on fire.
- Ensure your fire extinguisher is up-to-date and in the kitchen. It’s also wise to check your fire alarms/smoke detectors to be sure the batteries are working properly.
- Keep the floor clear of toys, bags, pets and children so you don’t trip when working in the kitchen.
- Check everything before going to bed or leaving your home. Ensure the oven, stove and small appliances are off.
Turkey Frying Safety
In recent years, frying turkeys has become a popular way to prepare the main dish for Thanksgiving. “Many fires, burns and injuries occur every year due to improper use of deep fryers, especially for Thanksgiving turkeys,” Dr. Pulikkottil explains. “To avoid injury and ensure a delicious outcome, be sure to follow these important recommendations.”
- Use the deep fryer outside and at least 10 feet away from any building. Keep children and pets away from the fryer and do not place it in a garage or on a wooden deck.
- Keep it flat. Find a surface that is flat and level so the oil can be even and steady throughout the cooking process.
- Use peanut or canola oil and monitor the temperature with a thermostat.
- Use the right turkey. Your turkey should be no more than 12 lbs. (8 to 10 lbs. is best), dry and completely thawed. Extra water may lead to oil bubbling and spilling over, which can cause a fire.
- Slowly place the turkey into the fryer so as not to create splatter or spilling.
- Use well insulated potholders to touch the handle or lid.
- Keep a fire extinguisher nearby and be sure to never leave the fryer unattended while cooking.
- Do not hesitate to call 911 in the event of a fire.
“We want everyone to enjoy a beautiful, joy-filled Thanksgiving meal,” Dr. Pulikkottil encourages. “Keeping these safety tips front of mind will help ensure it is not only delicious but safe for everyone at your Thanksgiving table.”
Swedish Medical Center is located in the south metro Denver area where it has been a proud member of the community for more than 110 years. An acute care hospital with 408 licensed beds, annually Swedish cares for more than 200,000 patients with a team of approximately 2,000 dedicated employees, 300 volunteers and 1,400 physicians.
With stroke door to treatment times averaging just 20 minutes, Swedish serves as the Rocky Mountain Region’s referral center for the most advanced stroke treatment and was the state’s first Joint Commission certified Comprehensive Stroke Center. Swedish also serves as the region’s neurotrauma and orthopedic trauma provider and is a level I trauma facility with a dedicated burn and reconstructive center. Over 150 facilities regularly transfer highly complex cases to Swedish.
Swedish Medical Center is proud to be a part of the HCA Healthcare’s Continental Division, which was named one of the top five large health systems in the country by IBM Watson Health. This division includes our local metro Denver system, HealthONE, which also received recognition as the top health system in the state by IBM Watson Health. Consistently among the Denver Business Journals’ list of top corporate philanthropists in the Denver-metro area, HealthONE provided $66M in uncompensated care, contributed more than $650,000 and supports over 150 organizations through cash and in-kind donations last year alone. Additional information is available at SwedishHospital.com.