Here's What Not to Do When Cooking Your Turkey This Thanksgiving, Fire Marshal Says

Thanksgiving is the leading day for home fires involving cooking equipment.

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Cooking, carving or frying a Thanksgiving turkey this year? Make sure your dinner (or your house) doesn’t wind up in flames. 

And while it may make for a delicious turkey, spilled oil from a turkey fryer can cause major burns, or even spark a fire.

Thanksgiving is the leading day for home fires involving cooking equipment, with four times the average number occurring, according to the Illinois State Fire Marshal. Ranges and cook-tops account for almost three out of every five home fires reported involving cooking, with ovens accounting for 13% of those fires. 

“The fire department doesn’t want to be called out… [you] don’t want to lose your home on Thanksgiving either,” said JC Fultz, public information officer with the state fire marshal.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, each year from 2017 to 2019, an estimated average of 2,300 residential building fires were reported to fire departments on Thanksgiving Day. On average, U.S. fire departments respond to 166,100 home fires per year involving cooking equipment.

Sharp knives are another holiday hazard. 

“There’s a huge influx [of accidents involving sharp knives], and the reality of that is everyone is distracted around the holidays,” said said Dr. Xavier Simcock, a hand surgeon with Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush.

Tips to keep in mind when cooking, carving or frying a turkey (or anything else) around the holidays:

  • If frying a turkey, do it outdoors only. Make sure the turkey is completely thawed before frying, and don't overfill oil in the fryer. Instead, fill the pot you plan to use to fry the turkey with water and place the turkey in. This will help to determine how much oil is needed without causing oil to spill out when you are ready to fry, which could lead to a fire
  • Never leave food that you are frying, boiling, grilling or broiling unattended
  • Keep the area around your stove clear of towels, papers, potholders or anything that can burn
  • If your oven catches fire, keep the door shut and turn off the heat
  • Smother small flames in a pan by sliding a lid over the pan. Turn off the burner and leave the lid over the pan while it cools
  • If you have any doubt fighting a small fire, call 911 from outside the home
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