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Experts share food and kitchen safety measures for Thanksgiving

Local experts are sharing their best tips for cooks to avoid foodborne illnesses and kitchen fires this Thanksgiving.

“Holidays are a time of celebration and joy, but holiday feasts can be tricky; home chefs are often preparing a meal they don’t normally cook, and they’re preparing it for a larger group than usual,” said Dr. Michael Wahl of the Illinois Poison Center.

The IPC recommends cooks use a thermometer to make sure that meats are properly cooked. Proper cooking temperatures are listed at

Keep preparation areas, storage areas and countertops clean. Wash hands with soap and warm water before preparing any foods and after handling raw meat, poultry, fish or eggs, the IPC said.

“One of the biggest sources of foodborne illness during the holidays is salmonella from handling turkey and other poultry,” Wahl said. “Salmonella bacteria can result from raw or undercooked poultry, and may be particularly harmful to people in poor health, young children and the elderly.”

The IPC also recommends washing utensils between uses and thawing meat and poultry in the fridge or microwave instead of at room temperature. Using separate cutting boards for meats, poultry and fish.

Store raw food below cooked food in the refrigerator so it cannot drip onto and contaminate cooked food, the IPC said. Make sure all leftovers are properly sealed and put away in the fridge, and throw out anything that has been left out to avoid the risk of food poisoning.

The Chicago office of the American Red Cross also recommends holiday cooks take special care this Thanksgiving, since cooking fires are a leading cause of house fires in the city and suburbs.

Avoid wearing loose clothing or dangling sleeves while cooking and never leave the stove unattended, even for a brief time, the Red Cross recommends. Experts also recommend keeping anything that can catch fire away from the stove, and cleaning cooking surfaces to prevent grease buildup.

Homeowners should also consider purchasing a fire extinguisher to keep in the kitchen, the Red Cross said.