Holiday feast safety tips Published Nov. 17, 2011 By Staff Sgt. Miguel Lara III 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- It is that time of the year again! As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, many are looking forward to enjoying a delicious holiday feast. Most families have a tradition of cooking a turkey dinner with all of the fixings. A deep-fried turkey has become a favorite method, which derives from the southern part of the United States and has spread worldwide. Whether you cook your turkey traditionally or non-traditionally you may ask yourself, "what kind of turkey should I buy? Should I buy frozen or fresh? How do I store the turkey?" If you do have questions regarding turkeys hopefully they will be answered in this article. Here are a few simple food safety tips that will ensure a delicious and safe meal for you and your loved ones. Plan ahead: a 16-20 pound turkey can take two to three days to thaw in the refrigerator. · Never thaw a turkey by leaving it on the counter. · Wash your hands, utensils, and surfaces before and after food preparation. · Cook food to the proper internal temperature. Use a food thermometer. · Do not cross contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry, eggs and seafood away from ready-to-eat foods. The safest way to cook the stuffing is separate from the turkey. If you decide to stuff the turkey, mix the ingredients just prior to filling the cavity. Remember, the temperature of a whole turkey must reach 180 degrees in the innermost part of the thigh and the center of the stuffing must reach 165 degrees. If you absolutely have to have your delicious deep-fried turkey, here are some tips for safer cooking operations: · Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors at a safe distance from buildings and any other material that can burn. 354th Fighter Wing Instruction 32-2001 Fire Prevention and Protection states: "Camp or barbeque devices which employ the use of charcoal, flammable liquids or gases will not be used inside buildings or within 10 feet of any wall, roof or any other combustible materials." · Never use turkey fryers on wooden decks or in garages. · Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping. · Never leave the fryer unattended. · Never allow kids or pets near the fryer when in use and even after use. The oil inside the pot can remain dangerously hot hours after use. · To avoid spillovers, do not overfill the fryer. · Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching the pot, lid, and handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter. · Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water don't mix, and water causes oil to splatter and spill over, causing fire. · Keep an all purpose fire extinguisher nearby. If the fire is manageable, use the all purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call 9-1-1. · Remember to always read and follow all directions from your owner's manual. For more information or questions please contact the 354th FW Fire Prevention office at 377-1293.