Nothing ruins a Thanksgiving celebration faster than a severe injury. Yet, every year people are rushed to emergency rooms for carving, frying and lifting accidents associated with the holiday. Keep your Thanksgiving Day feast a little safer with these tips.
Use caution when cooking your bird.
Turkey fryers have become commonplace in many households as a “quick and easy” way to cook a whole turkey. Unfortunately, the process also has caused many serious injuries. Here are a few reminders to help you stay injury-free while deep frying your turkey this year.
- Read or review your deep fryer’s instruction manual to ensure proper use.
- Set the fryer on a firm, flat, fire-proof surface away from flammable buildings or materials.
- Wear long sleeves and pants to protect your skin from hot-oil burns.
- Invest in heat-resistant gloves, goggles and aprons for each cook.
- Only deep-fry turkeys that weigh less than 14 pounds.
- Remove all giblets from the bird.
- NEVER deep fry a frozen or stuffed turkey.
- Don’t overfill your pot with oil. The oil should be an inch above the turkey and three (3) to five (5) inches below the pot’s rim. (Each time you cook a turkey, find the proper oil level before cooking. Place the turkey in the empty pot and add water until it rises one inch above the bird. Remove the turkey and mark the water line. This line becomes the fill line for your oil. Pour out the water and dry the pot thoroughly. Remember, oil and water do not mix.)
- Keep your propane tank as far away from the burner as possible. Light the burner and bring your oil to temperature. Never leave your oil/burner unattended.
- Pat your turkey dry with paper towels before lowering the turkey into the hot oil.
- TURN OFF THE BURNER when the oil reaches 350 degrees and SLOWLY lower your turkey into the pot using the rod or hook that came with your fryer. Do not “drop” the turkey into the hot oil.
- Turn the burner back on, bring the oil back to temperature and cook for 3 to 5 minutes per pound. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey. When the turkey reaches an internal temperature 165 degrees, carefully remove the turkey from the fryer.
- For added safety, have a fire extinguisher near the fryer.
For more detailed information about turkey frying, consult your turkey frying manual or visit https://www.themanual.com/food-and-drink/how-to-deep-fry-turkey/.
Roasting your turkey increases the risk of back injury.
Washing, stuffing and placing a 15- to 20-pound bird into a hot oven or taking the hot roasting pan out of the oven causes many people to bend their backs abnormally. To minimize your risk of injury, remember to:
- Use non-slip potholders or oven mitts.
- Put the bird in the oven in steps instead of one motion. First, move the roasting pan from the counter to the open oven door. Set the pan on the door, reposition yourself, and then lift the bird into the oven. Reverse this process when taking the roaster out of the oven.
- If the pan is too heavy for you to lift comfortably, ask someone who is stronger or taller for help.
- Always use proper form when lifting the pan. Stand with your legs slightly apart and knees slightly bent. Keep your spine straight. Use the power of your legs to rise and lift. Do not lift by bending your spine.
Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes. Resting the turkey allows the meat to reabsorb the juices, moistening the meat and minimizing the amount of liquid that drains out of the bird while slicing.
Get a handle on safe turkey carving technique.
After your bird is cooked and the meat has rested, it’s time to slice and dice it for the serving platter.
To begin carving, place the turkey on a solid surface. (The turkey breast should be facing upward and the legs should be pointing away from you.) Many people find covering a cutting board with a towel holds the turkey in place and makes carving easier.
According to the American Society of Hand Surgeons, there are some basic rules to remember as you prepare to carve your turkey.
Choose the right utensils. An electric knife is best for slicing through a roasted turkey, but if one if not available, use a 7-inch or 9-inch carving knife. Make sure your knife is sharp before you begin. Consider using kitchen shears for hard to cut areas.
Carve with a hand towel nearby. As you carve the turkey, you’ll release juices, which can make the knife handle slippery. Use a towel or paper towel to keep the handle dry and your grip firm.
Cut and carve away from your body. If the blade faces away from you, you’re less likely to slice your skin. As you cut, be aware of the position of your supporting hand. Turkey carving instructions suggest you remove the legs and thighs first, then the wings, and finally, the breasts.
Turkey carving is not the only reason holiday hand injuries send people to the hospital.
After-dinner-clean-up also poses a hand-injury risk.
Thanksgiving often overloads the dishwasher or brings out the best china. Many of the serving dishes, plates, glassware and cups need to be washed by hand.
Use care when handwashing glassware. Hot soapy water can make glassware slippery. Dropping Gramma’s prized dinnerware in the sink increases your risk of cuts. Broken glass concealed by sudsy water can cause deep gashes or sever nerves and tendons. Take care if you are part of the dish crew.
What do you do if a hand injury occurs?
If you or a family member does experience a laceration during your Thanksgiving Day celebration, apply the basic principles of first-aid.
If your cut is minor:
- Apply pressure to stop the bleeding
- Wash the cut with warm, soapy water
- Apply a bandage
- Call your primary care physician to confirm the date of your last tetanus shot. You may need a booster.
Go to the emergency room or Walk-In Care clinic if:
- You cannot stop the bleeding after applying pressure for 10 to 15 minutes
- The cut is more than 1/4-inch deep, or you can see the bone
- The wound affects a joint
- Part of your finger was cut off
- You feel tingling or numbness immediately or within the first 72 hours
- You notice redness around the wound or discharge coming from the wound
According to Bone & Joint’s hand surgeon, Pamela Glennon, MD, even minor injuries have the potential to interrupt the hand’s complex movement. If you experience any decrease in hand function, you should be examined and treated as soon as possible to minimize the impact of the injury and preserve your future range of motion.