Pennsylvania officials offer tips for avoiding holiday cooking mishaps

Pennsylvania officials offer tips for avoiding holiday cooking mishaps

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Officials in Pennsylvania are urging residents to heed safety tips when it comes to Thanksgiving and other upcoming holidays.

“This holiday, as we gather to celebrate with our loved ones, the safety of you, your family and your home should be a top priority,” Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Michael Humphreys said. “In the event of an unfortunate accident, your homeowners insurance and renters insurance will cover some damage, but it is best to follow safety guidelines to ensure the worst does not happen in the first place. This holiday we urge you to be careful when cooking to avoid potentially dangerous situations, prevent costly repairs, and get Happy and safe Thanksgiving.

The U.S. Fire Administration reports that the average number of residential structure fires reported on Thanksgiving is more than twice the average number of fires on all other days. There are an average of 2,300 house fires that occur on Thanksgiving alone, causing $26 million in property damage as well as injuries and deaths.

Many house fires on Thanksgiving are caused by deep frying accidents. Pans provide a delicious alternative to traditional roasting a turkey. However, there are additional safety risks when it comes to deep frying.

“Every year, cooking fires remain a consistent cause of home fires, with their impact peaking around the Thanksgiving holiday,” state Fire Commissioner Thomas Cook said. “Turkey fryers and unintentional cooking are always listed as the leading causes of these fires, and the life-changing outcome of a house fire is all the more tragic knowing that it was completely avoidable. Taking the proper safety precautions can protect the life and property of you and your loved ones.”

As stated in the release, here are some tips to keep families, guests and property safe:

  • Read your turkey fryer owner’s manual carefully for proper setup and safety tips
  • Make sure the turkey is completely thawed before frying (hot oil and ice/water don’t mix)
  • Use the correct amount of oil; Overfilled pans increase the likelihood of oil spilling from the pan and hitting the burner, causing flames to engulf the entire unit.
  • Never leave the fryer unattended; Many fryers lack thermostats to prevent overheating
  • Don’t deep fry a turkey inside your garage, on your porch or deck, or inside your home
  • Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby; Never use water to extinguish an oil fire
  • Keep children and pets away from all cooking surfaces
  • Use appropriate hand protection; Cooking pot lids and handles become dangerously hot, posing a serious burn risk
  • Ensure full attention to cooking; Do not consume alcohol while cooking.

In addition to safe cooking tips, the Pennsylvania Department of Health also advises residents to use food safety best practices when handling raw ingredients while preparing holiday meals. Some best practices include the following, which are cited in the release:

  • Keep meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods at the grocery store and in the refrigerator. Prevent the juices of meat, chicken, turkey, and seafood from seeping out or seeping into other foods by keeping them in sealed plastic containers or bags. Store eggs in their original packaging in the main compartment of the refrigerator.
  • Cook foods thoroughly and use a food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature to kill germs.
  • Keep food out of the danger zone between 40°F and 140°F because bacteria can grow rapidly between these temperatures.
  • Use pasteurized eggs in dishes containing raw eggs.
  • Do not eat raw dough or dough, as they may contain harmful germs such as E. coli and salmonella.
  • Thaw the turkey safely in a tub of cold water or in the microwave. Avoid defrosting foods on the counter.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often.

“It is important to use proper food safety practices as people prepare their holiday meals. Unfortunately, foodborne illnesses are common around the holidays, but they are preventable,” said Dr. Debra L. Bugengen, Acting Secretary of Health. “I encourage residents to clean, separate, cook and refrigerate their food properly to prevent themselves and others from getting sick.”

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