With the Holiday Season upon us, On The Level Home Inspections wanted to share some basic Holiday tips. We have broken this into 2 articles. This one concerns cooking (including safety tips for deep frying that turkey), fireplace safety and security. The next article concerns tree, lighting, and decorations. We want to wish you all a Very Happy & Safe Holiday Season.
- Have a plan. Consider your refrigerator, freezer and oven space, and how you'll manage to keep hot foods at 140 degrees or higher and cold foods at 40 degrees or below. If you need to use coolers, make sure you have plenty of clean ice and check it frequently to be sure the ice hasn't melted. Don’t rely on the natural outdoor temperature on the porch to keep foods at proper temperature.
- Cook to proper temperature and use a thermometer. There is simply no other way to determine that food has been cooked enough to kill bacteria. Turkeys, stuffing, side dishes, and all leftovers should be cooked to at least 165 degrees and kept above 140 degrees during serving, to be sure that any potential bacteria is destroyed. Foods that require refrigeration should never be left at room temperature for more than two hours. Remember the golden rule: Keep hot food hot and cold food cold.
- Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of preparation. Leaving food out too long is one of the biggest holiday food safety problems. When food sits outs for more than two hours in the danger zone (above 40 degrees and below 140 degrees) it is prime for bacterial growth. Make sure the refrigerator is not over-packed and there is plenty of air circulating around the food so it can be properly cooled.
- Properly defrost your turkey, or buy a fresh one. If you choose a frozen turkey, allow 24 hours per 5 pounds to defrost in the refrigerator. Do not defrost the turkey on the kitchen counter. You can also defrost in a clean kitchen sink, as long as it is in a leak-proof package, changing the water every 30 minutes. Defrosting in the microwave, if it’s big enough, is also acceptable. Just follow the directions on the package.
- Wash your hands thoroughly and often -- before, during, and after food preparation.
- Wash all fresh produce. Wash even prepackaged greens, to minimize potential bacterial contamination. Make sure kitchen counters, sponges, cutting boards, and knives are all well scrubbed.
- Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees. Microwaves heat in an uneven manner. Let the covered food sit for a minute or two to let the heat destroy any bugs, then check the temperature all around the plate.
- Keep guests out of the kitchen (Good luck on that!). Holidays occur during cold and flu season. It is important to prevent anyone from picking at the food while it is being prepared. Recommend serving simple appetizers to give guest something to nibble on until the meal is ready.
- Never put a spoon used to taste food back into food without washing it.
- Always keep raw foods and cooked foods separately, and use separate utensils when preparing them.
- Be sure to keep hot liquids and foods away from the edges of counters and tables, where they can be easily knocked over by a young child. Be sure that young children cannot access microwave ovens.
- Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S. When cooking for holiday visitors, remember to keep an eye on the range.
Safety Tips for Deep Frying Turkeys
- Fryers should always be used outdoors, on a solid level surface, and a safe distance from buildings and flammable materials.
- Never use a fryer on a wooden deck, under a patio cover, in a garage or enclosed space.
- Do not overfill the fryer.
- Never leave the fryer unattended because, without thermostat controls, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
- Never let children or pets near the fryer when in use or after use, as the oil can remain hot for hours.
- Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts and wear long sleeves and safety goggles to protect from splatter.
- Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and dry before it is placed in a fryer.
- Keep an all-purpose fire extinguishers nearby.
- If a turkey fryer fire occurs, call 911 immediately.
- Before lighting any fire, remove all greens, boughs, papers, and other decorations from fireplace area.
- Check to see that the flue is open.
- Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
- Check smoke detectors
- Use this link for more detailed information regarding Fireplace Maintenance and Safety.
- Use your home burglar alarm system.
- If you plan to travel for the holidays don’t discuss your plans with strangers.
- Have a trusted friend or neighbor keep an eye on your home.
- Careful when using social media to discuss your travel plans.
Lastly, please drink in moderation. It is recommended to have a glass of water in between drinks, with plenty of food. This will help keep you hydrated, allowing you a more festive experience. Never, under any circumstance, let anyone drink and drive.
We hope that you found this information useful. Please feel free to share with your friends and families. If you have any questions regarding this article, please feel free to email On The Level Home Inspections or call 609-607-0485. If you have any suggestions for future articles, or you would like to comment on this one, please let us know. If you or anyone you know is in need of a home inspection, please keep us in mind.