Since it became a national holiday in the U.S. in 1941, most people look forward to Thanksgiving as a time to see friends and family, watch some football, eat a whole lot of food, and not die. But accidents happen. Some are tragic, yet most are so easily avoidable, it's embarrassing. Wow your friends and save the day this Thanksgiving with your knowledge of how to avoid these amazingly deadly Thanksgiving pitfalls.
1. Don't set yourself on fire. Deep fried turkeys are delicious, I'm told, but in the hands of amateurs, they can be disastrous. William Shatner made a timely and somewhat amusing video about his love of, and subsequent abandonment of, this turkey-cooking trend. Main points to remember: Don't use too much oil, and don't dump the turkey into the hot oil with your bare hands. Some people are natural thrill-seekers, I guess, but having third-degree burns on my face is not on my life list.
2. Learn the Heimlich Maneuver. Here are some instructions if you've forgotten how.
3. Don't dump all your grease down the sink. The Roto-rooter company reports tens of thousands of service calls on Thanksgiving weekend from people who thought their waste lines could handle all that fat. Instead, the fat and grease harden like wax and plug up your pipes, leading to an extra $500,000-worth of emergency calls for plumbers nationwide. (This is not technically life-threatening, but it is expensive.)
4. Don't cook if you're sleepy, drunk, or holding a baby. I know, you only had one glass of wine, the yams were burning, and the baby started crying -- what else were you supposed to do? Ask for help? Well, yes. Do that. And if something is in danger of either burning or dying, ask yourself, Which one of these things is replaceable? Let me answer that for you: the yams. The yams are replaceable, the baby is not.
5. Let the turkey thaw without "help." The Center for Science in the Public Interest found that, depending on the testing year, between 28 percent and 90 percent of all raw turkeys tested positive for campylobacter, a common pathogen that is responsible for half of all reported cases of food poisoning. What's one way to serve up a stomachache to your guests? By popping your bird into the oven before it's fully thawed, resulting in undercooked portions that could sicken people from one to seven days later. There are only a couple of ways to safely thaw a turkey:
- In the refrigerator, between two and six days in advance.
- In a container of cold (40 degrees Fahrenheit) water, for six to 12 hours before cooking.
Ways you probably don't want to thaw your turkey:
- Under a heat lamp.
- In your car's trunk or engine compartment.
- In your college dorm-sized microwave (even if you have an industrial-sized microwave, or a college dorm-sized bird, it can start unevenly cooking your turkey and ruin the whole thing).
- Out on the porch in the sun.
6. Save the wishbone, but don't let your dog eat it. The superstition of getting "a lucky break" and having your wish come true after snapping off the larger portion of a bird's wishbone is an ancient one. Some believe in making their wish before snapping the bone with their pinkie fingers wrapped around each prong, some don't make their wish until they know who won. The Germans believed that a dark-colored wishbone predicted a hard winter and a light-colored wishbone a mild one. Just make sure no dogs get a hold of the wishbone, as poultry bones are likely to splinter and can puncture a dog's digestive tract.
7. If you really just want to power through your meal and get to the football, you can make a Thanksgiving Cake. That's right, your turkey, yams, stuffing, and marshmallows -- all your food groups layered into one compact slice and "iced" with mashed potatoes! It will kill you with deliciousness.
Image via Rene Schwietzke/Flickr