Tips for a Happy and Safe Holiday Dinner - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on December 16, 2015

Tips for a Happy and Safe Holiday Dinner

Tips for a Happy and Safe Holiday Dinner

Burn prevention, food safety and knife safety
are all important considerations for a
safe and happy holiday dinner.

The holiday season is the perfect excuse to get family and friends together to not only celebrate, but to reconnect, reminisce and socialize around a dinner table. Getting everyone together amidst busy holiday schedules isn’t the hard part – cooking the meal to share together is.

The desire to prepare the “perfect” meal for your guests can be a bit stressful – you want everything to taste delicious and be hot and ready at the same time. The work you do in the kitchen, however, can lead to accidents and serious injuries that could land you or one of your kitchen helpers in the hospital.

If you’re hosting or helping prepare a holiday meal this season, here are tips to avoid any catastrophes that can put a damper on your gathering.

Kitchen Burns and Fires

Cooking a holiday meal can be a bit hectic. You have a lot of dishes cooking at the same time, you’re setting multiple timers to ensure everything is cooked properly and ready at the same time, you’re shuffling hot pans and dishes around to make room for everything on the stove and in the oven, and there are likely a few extra people in the kitchen with you “helping.” There’s a lot going on that can create a perfect storm for a spill or accidental grab of a hot handle.

Reduce the likelihood of this happening by making sure there aren’t any extra people in the kitchen – anyone that isn’t helping cook, especially children, should get the boot from the kitchen. Additionally, preventing burns requires you to be alert. Although you may enjoy a glass of wine while cooking, drinking alcohol may make you less alert and slow your reaction time.

A burn in the kitchen is painful and may require medical treatment. Those burns can be exponentially worse if you’re deep frying your turkey – the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that there have been more than 140 serious fires and hot-oil burns related to deep-frying turkeys over the last 10 years.

Deep-frying turkey-related burns and fires are most often caused by placing a turkey that hasn’t thawed into the fryer as well as overfilling the fryer with oil. In both cases, the oil can bubble and spill over onto the heat source when the turkey gets placed in it.

Food Poisoning

Unfortunately, foodborne illness is a very real possibility during holiday meals. Similar to burns in the kitchen, the frantic shuffling of dishes and feeling rushed to get things into the oven to be ready in time can make it easy for cross-contamination to occur. The single best way to prevent cross-contamination of bacteria is to keep everything in the kitchen clean, including your hands. Bacteria from raw meat can contaminate your hands, utensils and cooking surfaces and get transferred to other food by not keeping it all clean, which means you’ll likely be washing them many times over to be on the safe side.

The temperature of your food is just as important. If your main course is frozen, whether it’s beef or poultry, it will take a few days to thaw. The safest way to thaw is in the fridge – it keeps the temperature of the meat within a safe range that prevents bacteria from multiplying.

When your main dish seems close to being done, refer to a meat thermometer to be sure. Check the temperature in the in the meatiest or thickest part.

Knife Safety

When it comes time to carve your turkey or roast, it could spell danger for your hands and fingers. Before you start carving and slicing, make sure your knife and surface area are clean and dry to prevent any slipping. Also, make sure the utensils you use are sharp so you won’t have to force them to cut or slice – a dull knife won’t cut as easily, causing you to force it. Unfortunately, a dull knife is still sharp enough to hurt you.

Avoid cutting yourself by making sure you’re carving away from yourself. Place your free hand on the opposite side that you’re slicing toward. Do not place your hand under the blade in an effort to catch the slice of meat.

If you have an electric knife, use that to carve – it will make it easier for you and help you keep your hands and fingers away from the sharp blade.

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