Your kitchen can be the most dangerous room in your home, especially during the holidays when all the extra cooking can bring not only the risk of food poisoning from food mishandling and week-old leftovers, but also an increased risk of fire. With a few simple precautions, getting through to the new year can be as easy as pumpkin pie.

Food safety is something every cook thinks about, but when you’re cooking a meal for twenty, sometimes important steps can be missed. In general, be sure to:

  • Thaw your turkey in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Allow 24 hours in the fridge for every five pounds of bird.
  • Sanitize all surfaces that the raw turkey comes into contact with: counters, bowls, utensils, and especially hands.
  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature of the turkey is at least 180 degrees. Wash the meat thermometer each time you use it.
  • Keep things that touch meat and eggs away from anything that touches vegetables and fruit.
  • Replace dirty towels, sponges, and washcloths often.
  • Immediately clean up anything spilled on the floor.
  • Never keep any food at room temperature for more than two hours
  • Eat leftovers within three days. (This one should be easy!)

While food safety will prevent a nasty case of food poisoning, fire safety can save a life or a home. Statistics show that there are over 50,000 fires in kitchens and ovens every year, and Thanksgiving is the most dangerous day of the year.

  • First, and most important, keep a working fire extinguisher nearby that is rated for all types of kitchen fires. It won’t help you if it’s ten years old or in the garage.
  • Never leave the kitchen unattended. If you have to leave the room, get someone else to help out.
  • Keep children and pets out of the kitchen, or at least away from the stove.
  • Turn pot handles inward and nothing can tip the pot.
  • Keep flammable materials away from the stove: food packaging, oven mitts, towels.
  • Do not wear loose clothing, such as long sleeves or ties, that can brush a hot burner and catch fire.
  • For grease fires, put a lid on it and turn off heat source. Leave it there until it’s cool to the touch. Don’t use water, baking soda, or try to carry the pan outside.
  • For oven fires, keep the door closed to smother the oxygen supply and turn off the heat.
  • For microwave fires, turn off the microwave and keep the door closed. If you can reach the plug easily, unplug it.

Keep these tips in mind and have a Happy Thanksgiving!