Food

Follow these safety tips while cooking for the holidays

Thanksgiving Day is one of the top days of the year for home fires in the United States, according to the National Fire Protection Agency.

Blue flame on stovetop
Photo credit: Carlos Paes/Free Images
Blue flame ignited by gas stove.

As Houston-area residents begin prepping for the holiday season, those planning to cook should be aware of safety tips to prevent potential home fires.

Thanksgiving is one of the country's top days for home fires, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve, according to the National Fire Protection Agency. In 2021, about 1,160 home cooking fires were reported to U.S. fire departments on Thanksgiving day alone.

So many meals are being cooked in one day and a lack of attention to items on the stove could cause a fire. The Red Cross Texas Gulf Coast Region said during the holidays there’s a lot of gathering and multitasking, and it’s easy to get distracted from food that’s cooking.

"Home fires are a real threat over the holidays and represent most of our disaster responses in the Texas Gulf Coast Region," said Vanessa Valdez, regional communications manager for the local Red Cross.

Valdez said the holiday season is also a good time to have working smoke detectors and to keep a fire extinguisher close by.

"We always ask everybody in the community to make sure that their smoke alarms are working, make sure you test your smoke alarm," she said. "If you need smoke alarms, we are always available to install up to three smoke alarms per household for free."

Turkey is a popular dish during this time and anyone planning to deep fry turkey should follow proper procedures to keep everyone safe.

"If you have a driveway, maybe go closer to the middle of the driveway, make sure cars aren’t around or in your backyard, but not when you’re so close where the roof can catch on fire," Valdez said. "Don’t ever leave the pot unattended. Always, always, always stand by the pot because if something catches on fire, you have to be ready to put it out."

According to the Houston Fire Department, smaller birds work better for frying, and it's best to keep it under 15 pounds.

Other tips include.

  • Keeping the area around the stove clean by removing items such as mittens, towels, or other items that burn from the burners.
  • Avoid wearing loose clothing
  • Never leave food unattended
  • Keep a lid or cooking sheet nearby to cover a fire that might start
  • Never use turkey fryers on wooden decks or in garages
  • Never overfill turkeys and make sure they're completely thawed before cooking