Cooking Safety Tips To Know Before Starting Turkey Prep

a person begins to carve a chicken by its leg

Reading time: 3 minutes

It’s not surprising that most home cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving, followed closely by Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, and the day before Thanksgiving. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association found that fire departments responded to an estimated 1,570 home cooking fires in 2016 alone. Over a 10-year period (2009-2018), the U.S. Fire Administration found that cooking is the leading cause of residential building fires.

That’s why in honor of Fire Prevention Week and the upcoming winter holidays, we threw together these cooking safety tips to keep your holiday season fire-free.

Be alert or don’t exert

a home chef stirs a pot of soup
Be a safe home chef.

Perhaps this seems like a no-brainer, but it needs to be said. Tired chefs find their abilities impaired, reflexes slower, and mood short. While no one likes a hangry chef, a tired chef shouldn’t be in the kitchen. You might forget to set an oven timer, leading to potential fires, or even place your hand somewhere it shouldn’t be. When in doubt, leave the cooking to someone else.

Pay attention for ultimate prevention

a chef flambes shrimp in a frying pan
Stay in the cooking area when actively cooking.

Unattended cooking is the number one cause of cooking fires and fire deaths, but you can lower the risk drastically by remaining in the cooking area, at home, and awake when preparing food. (A quarter of all cooking fire deaths happen when people in the home were asleep.) By following these directions, you can see the signs of danger, such as smoking grease or a boiling pot, and take control before disaster strikes.

(If disaster does strike, simply get out and stay out.)

Three feet from the heat

a woman and her son look at a meal going into the oven
Create a safe perimeter in which to cook.

Create a safe space for cooking, meaning the little ones — kids and pets — should stay three feet away from the preparation zone. Limitless hazards await them in this area — knives, matches, even steam or hot splashes — so best to clear the area to avoid any injuries. Also, remove any obstacles, such as toys, bags, and messes, so you don’t trip while rushing about the kitchen.

A pan (or lid) in hand

a chef holding an oversized lid over a pan
Keep a lid handy to smother fires.

When working with so many pots, pans, and burners, small fires can start at a moment’s notice. If a small fire starts in a pan, simply turn off the burner and cover it with either a lid or baking sheet. Then wait for the pan to cool completely and clean up. Also, you might want to call a family member to bring over an extra side.

Distinguish between extinguish(ers)

a ABC fire extinguisher hangs on a wall
Learn how to use a fire extinguisher before you need it.

Not every fire extinguisher works on every type of fire, but we recommend homeowners have a fire extinguisher that is classified for A-B-C fires, which works on trash-wood-paper, “B” liquids (oil, gasoline, kerosene, or paint), and electrical equipment. These can be used to deal with those dangerous turkey fryer fires. Never use water to deal with a grease or oil fire.

Also, you should practice using a fire extinguisher and remember PASS –

P — Pull pin.

A — Aim at the base of the fire.

S — Squeeze the lever.

S — Sweep from side to side.

Many homeowners are injured each year fighting a fire in their home, so if the fire is too severe, get out quickly and call 911.

No joke — mind your smoke detectors

a homeowner replaces a battery in a smoke detector
Test your smoke detectors monthly!

Whether your home has wired smoke detectors or is still rocking the battery-powered ones, double-check to make sure they’re working properly before starting meal preparation. With family over and most likely occupied — cooking or otherwise — you’ll want everyone to be alerted if a fire starts. Properly functioning smoke detectors have been proven to save lives, so keep them working!

Watch for fires from turkey fryers

Turkey fryers deserve their own section. In fact, according to the New York Fire Department, deep fryer fires cause an average of five deaths, 60 injuries, and more than $15 million in property damage each year. There’s a laundry list of precautions to take, starting with not overfilling fryers, making sure the turkey is completely thawed, and using safety goggles and oven mitts. Read all the manufacturer’s directions before ever using a turkey fryer and always, always use with caution.

Don’t let your holiday – or home – go up in smoke

two cell phones in front of an affluent blue home with the vipHomeLink dashboard up on the screens
vipHomeLink can help!

Safety hazards abound in your home. From flammable items too close to your furnace to flickering lights and faulty wiring, you need to know how to home to protect your home. vipHomeLink can help. Our home management app delivers personalized reminders and tailored recommendations to help you know what to do and when to do it around the home. Our expert-backed vipTIPs give you home information at your fingertips, and our app is a perfect place to keep all your home’s documents – from your warranty to your insurance policy.

Gain peace of mind with vipHomeLink. Not a member? Subscribe today with a monthly or annual membership.

Originally posted Nov. 20, 2019; updated Nov. 25, 2020

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