Add An Extra Helping Of Burn Safety, Fire Prevention To Your Thanksgiving Menu

Thanksgiving meal photo
Thanksgiving meal photo

Augusta, GA (WJBF) – Dr. Fred Mullins, of the Joseph M. Still (JMS) Burn Center at Doctors Hospital, is offering hopes for each Thanksgiving menu to have an extra helping of burn and fire prevention this year.

Statistics from the National Fire Protection Association show that a fire is three times more likely to occur on Thanksgiving Day.

“We treat burns every year that are the result of a moment of carelessness, distraction or clumsiness,” said Dr. Mullins, who is president of Joseph M. Still Burn Centers, Inc., and the medical director of the JMS Burn Center. “These burns are often painful, and usually could have been avoided,” he added.

For cooks in the kitchen, there are several simple steps to make sure the holidays remain festive:

  • Turn off all appliances if you leave the kitchen, even if you are leaving for just a few minutes.
  • Makes sure all appliances are being used appropriately.
  • Use timers to track cooking times.
  • Keep items like potholders and food containers away from stove eyes and other hot surfaces.
  • If you do have a grease fire, smother or cover it. DO NOT use water to try to put it out!
  • Never, ever try to carry or walk with a burning pot or pan!
  • Cook on back burners and make sure all pot handles are turned toward the inside of the stove.

It is especially important to watch out for little ones during the Thanksgiving preparations. Children often want to be helpful and are curious about what is going on in the kitchen. This can lead to accidents, ranging from touching extremely hot surfaces to pulling hot liquid off of countertops or stoves.

“It’s best to make the kitchen a no-child zone, if you can,” Dr. Mullins said. “We know that is not always possible or practical, so consider a three-foot safety zone around all cooking areas, and make sure that when children are in the kitchen, someone is keeping an eye on them at all times.”

However, with the popularity of deep-fried turkeys, the risk of getting burned extends beyond the kitchen. While Dr. Mullins recommends leaving turkey frying to the professionals, he said there are ways to ensure homegrown attempts do not go awry.

Most importantly, he said, is ensuring the pot does not overflow and create a large fire or explosion.  Start by placing the turkey in an empty pot. Then slowly fill the pot with water. When the water level reaches 2 inches above the turkey, pull the bird out and then measure the water level. Pour out the water, dry the pot and then fill to the measured level with oil.

“It seems like a simple process, but I have seen too many people try to ‘eyeball’ the level and end up spending their holiday in the burn unit,” he said.

If cooks still insist on deep-frying their own turkey, there are several precautions that can help make the process much safer:

  • Turkeys should be less than 12 lbs., and 8-10 lbs. turkeys are often the most appropriate size.
  • Check the turkey to make sure they are not partially frozen and do not have any excess water on them. The water can cause hot oil to splatter. It also helps to pat down the bird with a paper towel to remove excess moisture.
  • The fryer should be used on a well-ventilated, level, outdoor surface.
  • Make sure the pot is never left unattended, and children and pets are kept at a safe distance.
  • Use only peanut or canola oils in the fryer.
  • Use care when touching the handles of the pot.
  • Make sure the deep fryer has a thermostat to regulate the temperature of the oil.
  • Slowly lower the turkey into the pot to avoid spillage.
  • Make sure a fire extinguisher that can put out a grease fire is nearby, just in case an accident occurs. Water should never be used to try to extinguish a grease or oil fire. Always call 911 in the event of a fire.
  • Remember that it may take several hours for the oil in a deep fryer to cool.
  • Avoid excessive drinking when using a deep-fryer.

The Joseph M. Still Burn Center is the nation’s largest burn center.

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