Turkey Traumas, Solved

Turkey Traumas, Solved

From thawing your bird to gobbling it down at the table, these tips will help you enjoy a safe and healthy Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is a time for gathering with family, reflecting on what’s important and of course, eating lots of turkey. But if you’re not careful, the star of your holiday dinner table could hurt your health.  

Follow these tips for preparing, cooking and enjoying your bird.

Thaw properly
One of the easiest ways to prevent a Thanksgiving mishap is to make sure your turkey is safely thawed. Not doing so could lead to bacteria that can cause a number of foodborne illnesses, including E.coli and salmonella. Choose one of these three methods:

  • Refrigerator: This method takes the most time, but many experts say it’s the safest. Make sure the fridge’s temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Keep the turkey in its original wrapper and place it in a container to prevent juices from leaking. You should allow 24 hours to thaw for every four to five pounds of weight. 
  • Cold-Water: Keep the turkey in its original packaging to help ensure that it doesn’t leak and to keep bacteria from spreading. Use cold water to submerge the bird, making sure to change the water every 30 minutes. Thawing time should take 30 minutes per pound.
  • Microwave: Follow the microwave’s defrosting instructions, and plan to cook the bird immediately, because some parts of the turkey may already begin to cook during the defrosting process. Waiting to cook may cause bacteria to spread, leading to food poisoning.

Remember: To keep potential bacteria away from other food and avoid cross contamination, make sure your turkey is placed in a pan or a leak-proof container.

Prevent grease burns
Deep-fried turkeys are becoming more and more popular. As tasty as they are, though, the contraptions they’re cooked in have caused hundreds of dangerous fires, burns and even explosions, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. ER doctor Mini DeLashaw, MD, PhD, of Medical City Dallas in Texas, says her hospital sees a lot of injuries due to turkey fryers every year – from mild burns caused by people dipping their fingers in the fryer to more severe and devastating burns if the fryer topples over.

If you do use a fryer, follow these tips:

  • Set up the fryer at least 10 feet away from your home (not on the porch or in the garage).
  • Keep children and pets away.
  • Make sure the turkey is dry and thawed.
  • Don’t overfill the fryer with oil.
  • Have a fire extinguisher ready.

Carve carefully
Carving up the main course is one of those great holiday traditions, but it doesn’t come without risks. Remember these carving tips to stay safe this Thanksgiving:

  • Never carve toward yourself.
  • Make sure your table or carving station is well-lit.
  • Only use sharp utensils.
  • Never place your hand under the blade.

Watch the sodium
Food is one of the best parts about Thanksgiving, but it’s also to blame for many heart-related hospital visits this time of year, thanks to super-rich meals loaded with sodium.  “I see a huge spike in admissions related to heart failure, says cardiologist Marc Krock, MD of Medical Center of McKinney in Texas.  “On these meal-based holidays, there’s a significant increase in sodium intake, and that has pretty significant ramifications for [heart health].” Stay heart healthy by practicing portion control and aiming for around 2.5 grams of sodium per day.  

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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