As cooks begin preparations for Thanksgiving meals, there’s one ingredient Dr. Fred Mullins hopes they won’t forget: a three-foot safe zone in the kitchen.

“While that will not prevent every burn, it will certainly help keep little ones away from hot surfaces, scalding foods and other dangerous items,” said Dr. Mullins, the president of Joseph M. Still Burn Centers, Inc., and the medical director of the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, GA. “Like seasonings, a little bit of preparation and prevention can go a long way.

In fact, if a child must be in the kitchen, make sure they are supervised at all times, and make sure the handles of all pots and pans are out of their reach. Other safe kitchen tips include:

  • Turn off all appliances if you leave the kitchen, even if you are leaving for just a few minutes.
  • Makes sure all appliances are being used appropriately.
  • Use timers to track cooking times.
  • Keep items like potholders and food containers away from stove eyes and other hot surfaces.
  • Appliances that get hot, like toaster ovens, should also be well out of a child’s reach.
  • Do not leave hot liquids or food unattended or at the edge of a table or counter where a child may be able to pull them down.

While home-cooked meals have long been a Thanksgiving tradition, Dr. Mullins recommends leaving the more modern delicacy of deep-fried turkey to the professionals. The problem with deep-frying a turkey, he said, usually begins with an overfilled pot. When the cook drops the turkey into the pot, the hot oil overflows into the flame – creating an explosion.

However, it is easy to avoid an overflowing pot, according to Dr. Mullins. Just start with water. Place the turkey in the empty pot. Then slowly fill the pot with water. When the water level reaches 2 inches above the turkey, pull the bird out and then measure the water level. Pour out the water, dry the pot and then fill to the measured level with oil.

“I know it adds a couple of extra steps to the cooking process, but those steps could be the difference between a safe, fun holiday and a trip to our burn center,” he said.

If cooks still insist on deep-frying their own turkey, there are several precautions that can help make the process much safer:

  • Turkeys should be less than 12 lbs., and 8-10 lbs. turkeys are often the most appropriate size.
  • Check the turkey to make sure they are not partially frozen and do not have any excess water on them. The water can cause hot oil to splatter. It also helps to pat down the bird with a paper towel to remove excess moisture.
  • The fryer should be used on a well-ventilated, level, outdoor surface.
  • Make sure the pot is never left unattended, and children and pets are kept at a safe distance.
  • Use only peanut, canola or safflower oils in the fryer.
  • Use care when touching the handles of the pot.
  • Make sure the deep fryer has a thermostat to regulate the temperature of the oil.
  • Slowly lower the turkey into the pot to avoid spillage.
  • Make sure a fire extinguisher that can put out a grease fire is nearby, just in case an accident occurs. Water should never be used to try to extinguish a grease or oil fire. Always call 911 in the event of a fire.
  • Remember that it may take several hours for the oil in a deep fryer to cool.
  • Avoid excessive drinking when using a deep-fryer.

About Doctors Hospital: Doctors Hospital is a full service acute-care hospital. Doctors Hospital specializes in Women’s Services, Orthopedics, and Cancer Care, and is home of the Joseph M. Still Burn Center, which cares for thousands of patients annually. The Joseph M. Still Burn Center is the largest burn center in the United States.  Community leader of quality care as evidenced by The Joint Commission’s recognition as a Top Performer in Key Quality Measures.