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Stand by Your Pan: Protect Your Family from Cooking Fires and Food Poisoning this Thanksgiving Holiday

Release Date: November 25, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Need a recipe for the perfect Thanksgiving meal?  Start your  holiday meal off right with an ounce of fire prevention and add a pound of food safety.  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urge consumers to make sure that safety is on the Thanksgiving menu this year.

The threat of kitchen fires triples on Thanksgiving Day, according to CPSC.  From 2009 through 2011, there was an average of about 1,300 cooking fires on Thanksgiving Day. This is more than three times the average rate of 400 cooking fires a day from 2009 through 2011.

“Keep your eye on the bird, as unattended cooking is the top cause of fires in the home,” said CPSC Chairman Elliot F. Kaye. “Don’t let your time with family and friends during the holidays be ruined by a call to 911.”

There were nearly 150,000 cooking fires (more than 40 percent of all annual unintentional residential fires) each year from 2009 through 2011. Cooking fires also caused the most fire-related injuries at home, with an estimated average of 3,450 injuries each year.

Avoid wearing loose-fitting clothing with long sleeves near ranges or ovens; watch children closely so they don’t come into contact with cooking food or hot stovetops; and turn pan handles toward the back of the stove to prevent kids and others from spilling a pan’s scalding contents onto themselves.

In the event of a fire, call 911. Cover a pan with a lid to smother the flames. Never pour water or flour onto a fire – that can make the fire worse. Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.

To reduce unattended cooking fires, CPSC staff has been working with the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers to create ways to limit ignition temperatures on the stovetop and prevent fires. Work has already started on voluntary safety standards requirements for electric coil ranges in collaboration with Underwriters Laboratories.

Turkey fryers are another popular way to cook the Thanksgiving turkey.  USFA warns consumers that turkey fryers can be dangerous. “We know conclusively that our nation is entering the most dangerous period for fires, December, January and February,” said Glenn Gaines, Deputy U.S. Fire Administrator for the USFA. “Cooking and heating will be the greatest causes of fires during this time. This dangerous period always starts with Thanksgiving.  Fried turkey is a wonderful meal, but frying a turkey comes with a number of dangers during cooking.  I encourage everyone to review cooking safety tips prior to turning on their fryers,” Gaines said.

Turkey fryers should be used outside only and away from your home. Never use a turkey fryer in a garage or on a porch. Don’t overfill the oil in the turkey fryer or leave the turkey fryer unattended.

Since 2002, there have been more than 157 turkey fryer-related fire, burn, explosion or CO poisoning incidents reported to CPSC staff.  There were 68 injuries among these incidents. Fortunately,  none was fatal.  The total loss reported was over $8 million for incidents reporting a dollar value for the property loss.  Additional incidents involving turkey fryers may have occurred that were not reported to CPSC.

Food poisoning can be another holiday hazard. “Preventing food poisoning also should be an important part of your Thanksgiving festivities,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Brian Ronholm.  “To ensure your bountiful meal is a success, follow the four key food safety steps – Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.  Clean utensils and wash your hands before preparing foods, separate raw meats from other foods to avoid cross-contamination, cook your turkey to the right temperature of 165 degrees, and chill the leftovers within an hour so that you can have tasty meals and snacks for the rest of the weekend.”

To keep food poisoning from ruining your Thanksgiving, follow these safety tips from the USDA. Wash hands, surfaces, and cooking utensils, but do not wash a turkey—this spreads bacteria onto sinks and countertops. Cooking your Thanksgiving turkey to 165 °F is the only way to kill harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.

If you have additional questions about cooking a turkey, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety specialist at available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish. The hotline will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern Time on Thanksgiving Day. You can also ask questions of “Karen,” FSIS’ virtual representative, 24/7 at  Visit for questions in Spanish.

B-roll and Soundbites from the press conference are available in broadcast quality video at

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About the U.S. CPSC
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product-related incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of injuries associated with consumer products over the past 50 years. 

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